President-elect Donald Trump spoke with the leader of Taiwan, marking the first time in more than three decades the two heads of state have directly talked — a move sure to infuriate and provoke China in the latest display of his disruptive governing style, analysts told the Herald.
“It’s a big story,” said Adil Najam, the dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. “In China, it’s clearly crossing a line. … There will be reaction and it will not be positive.”
China’s response could take the form of a diplomatic reprimand via a strongly worded statement, Najam said.
It was the first time since 1979 the two heads of state spoke, although the U.S. and Taiwan have kept unofficial ties.
The U.S. created a “one China” policy in 1979 when it shifted recognition of the Chinese government from Taiwan — viewed by the communists as a runaway province — to Beijing.
Najam said such a policy shift, if that’s what Trump is signaling, would be on the same lines as the U.S. opening relations with Iran or Cuba and would warrant a national conversation, not a single phone call.
But Thomas Cushman, a Wellesley College sociology professor who is studying Trump’s political style, said the call is indicative of the president-elect’s unusual and sometimes mystifying approach to governing.
“Anything that’s stable, anything that’s solid, he is going to try to disrupt and keep people guessing about what the next move will be,” said Cushman. “I think this is just another example of Trump doing that.”
This would mark the first time his style — deployed mostly in corporate (and reality TV) boardrooms and on the campaign trail — is being used in diplomacy, he added.
“Trump’s M.O. in negotiations is just go for the most extreme thing and then start bartering or negotiating after that,” said Cushman. “He operates a very aggressive, offensive warlike style of negotiating. He hasn’t really tested that in a foreign policy realm.”
Trump, meanwhile, sought to point out it was Taiwan, not the U.S., that initiated the conversation.
“The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!” Trump tweeted last night.
Republican U.S. Rep. Peter King praised the development on Twitter: “Strong message to China. New day in Asia.”
In a statement, Trump’s transition team said: “President-elect Trump spoke with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, who offered her congratulations. During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year.”
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