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Trump shows thin grasp of global issues

US president-elect’s decision to receive a call from Taiwan’s president is proof that he faces a steep learning curve 

When it comes to the One-China Policy, nations all around the world know that they can expect a vicious and nasty reaction from Beijing for breaking this long-standing diplomatic protocol. Even if one is committed to the One China Policy, like Singapore deputy premier  Lee Hsien Loong, who visited Taiwan in July 2004 just before he became the prime minister of Singapore.
But Lee’s visit, regardless of whether it was personal, did not come out of a vacuum. There was hope in the international community that Singapore, with its strong ties to the United States, could help improve relations between Beijing and Washington to ease regional tension, as well as try to boost relations between China and Taiwan. While no one doubts Lee’s visit to Taiwan was not thoroughly thought through, their leaders ended up embarrassing themselves and the countries they represented. 
For Thailand, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra comes to mind. During his first term in office, the then Thai leader openly welcomed Hu Jintao in 2003 as the next leader of China and told him that his appointment as the country’s president was more important than the head of the Communist Party. Nobody told him that Hu’s appointment was considered a state secret until the party officially announced it. Perhaps he was trying to show off that he had good ‘intelligence’ or that he had been reading newspapers. Regardless, Beijing let it go and pretended that they didn’t hear it. That was because Thaksin didn’t know any better. 
No matter how hard one would like to use the same argument – that one didn’t know any better – it wasn’t quite the same when US President-elect Donald Trump decided to receive a call from Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing Wen recently. 
As the incoming head of the world superpower, and a country that has backed this “renegade province” with military hardware since 1979, when Washington and the island cut their diplomatic ties, the “dumb Donald” excuse doesn’t cut it. 
“It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement over the weekend. 
Trump’s response reflects his lack of understanding of international relations and the current world order that his country helped shape. “Interesting how the US sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call,” Trump tweeted. Or perhaps he is really trying to change things. Either way, it was extremely reckless. 
Trump didn’t consult with the Obama administration or the people at the State Department about such a course of action if that was indeed the real intention. 
The US is legally obligated to help Taiwan defend itself if the island goes to war with China. But because of the “One China” policy, the leaders of the United States and Taiwan must avoid direct communication. 
As expected, Beijing responded swiftly to the phone conversation, lodging an official protest through the proper channel. 
The fact that Beijing decided to put the blame on Tsai suggested that they might be willing to let Trump off the hook this time. 
A range of regional and global issues depends on sound cooperation between Beijing and Washington. From North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme to the dispute over navigation through the contested South China Sea, and the world’s economy to global warming, a strained working relationship between Beijing and Washington could become even more complicated if there is a policy shift. The phone conversation between Tsai and Trump came days after China backed new UN sanctions on North Korea. Trump can’t expect China to push North Korea while he meddles with China’s core interest in Taiwan. 

Published : December 04, 2016

By : The Nation