The world is still trying to make sense out of president-elect Trump´s Taiwan call, and what it means for the future. China veteran Kaiser Kuo argues that the US should rethink its now 40-year relationship with the island, but certainly does not think Trump picked the best way and time to do so, he writes at SupChina.
When Donald Trump threw a spanner into the delicate diplomatic machinery of Taiwan policy on Friday by taking a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, the problem was not that he dared to challenge the long-standing policy of “strategic ambiguity,” and not that he had dared to poke Beijing in the eye. The problem was how he did it, and when.
Strategic ambiguity has served the U.S. well in the region for nearly 40 years. In walking the fine line between the competing commitments of our “One China Policy” and our obligation to safeguard Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. has been able to play a constructive role in maintaining regional security without wholly abandoning Taiwan, has allowed Taiwan to enjoy de facto autonomy, and has created conditions for deepening cross-strait ties, even for increased trust between once-implacable foes. Measured in investment, trade, cultural exchange, tourism and, most significantly, the reduction of military tension, strategic ambiguity — both as an American policy and as the policy of both Beijing and Taipei — has been a success.
But let me be clear: The U.S. should revisit its long-standing “One China” stance. We should find a way to move away from strategic ambiguity and drop the fiction it rests upon. Taiwan, after all, is a healthy and vibrant democracy that’s seen three peaceful transitions of power between the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive Party since the end of martial law. Taiwan has never been under Beijing’s control. Its political institutions stand as a rebuke to the insultingly essentialist notion, still espoused in some quarters, that Chinese people are somehow culturally incapable of democratic government.
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