After US president-elect Donald Trump’s stunning victory at the polls, Taiwan faces the question of what it means for US foreign policy and how Taipei should respond to a post-US President Barack Obama world.
Taiwan has long maintained a relatively close relationship with the US Republican Party due to the party’s anti-communist stance, not to mention that in July, the Republican National Convention included, for the first time, the “six assurances” — given to Taiwan by then-US president Ronald Reagan in 1982 — in its official platform.
However, given the glaring divide between Trump and the Republican Party establishment during his presidential campaign, it is an open question whether Trump will follow the party line on various issues, including foreign policy.
From what he has said about Asia, Trump wishes to punish China, which he has described as a “grand master” of currency manipulation, vowing to impose tariffs of up to 45 percent on Chinese products and initiate unfair trade lawsuits. While this might be an economic blow to China if he follows through on his rhetoric, Trump’s complaint about the US having to defend Japan and South Korea might be music to Beijing’s ears, because it suggests a reversal of Obama’s “pivot to Asia” policy. Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to maintain the pivot if elected, as she was a major architect of the strategic shift during her stint as US secretary of state.
This so-called “rebalancing” has been regarded by Beijing as an attempt to contain Chinese interests, while highlighting Taiwan’s geostrategic value. A withdrawal from Asia as Trump has suggested would accelerate the realigning of some Asian countries with China, with the Philippines and Malaysia having started to warm to Beijing, and potentially marginalize Taiwan. Considering how ASEAN members rely on China for trade, Beijing having more say and sway in the region would undoubtedly undercut President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “new southbound policy.”
Trump’s opposition to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership is also likely to hurt Taiwan’s prospects of joining a trade agreement that would help it bypass efforts by Beijing to hinder Taipei’s formation of economic ties with the global community.
Ironically, Trump’s isolationist stance could mean he would be more willing than previous US administrations to sell arms to Taiwan, as a Taiwanese academic said before election day when asked to imagine a Trump presidency.
The weapons Trump might be prepared to sell to Taiwan could include those the US had not considered before, such as stealth fighters, AEGIS-equipped guided missile destroyers or the latest missile defense systems, the academic said.
However, there is also the possibility that “president Trump” will be a different proposition from “presidential candidate Trump,” as he will have to learn how to form an effective team and work with other Republican, if not Democratic, politicians.
The makeup of Trump’s foreign policy team will have to be closely examined, before Taiwan works out measures it needs to prepare itself for the change in US administration. Trump will have to rely on veteran Republican politicians and existing institutions to make significant decisions and formulate effective policies. In that sense, his foreign policy stance, at least in regard to Taiwan, might not be too remote from what is expected of a Republican US administration.
Late last month, Beijing introduced changes to school curricula in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, requiring certain subjects to be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. What is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeking to gain from sending this message of pernicious intent? It is possible that he is attempting cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, but does Xi also have the same plan for the democratic, independent nation of Mongolia? The controversy emerged with the announcement by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau on Aug. 26 that first-grade elementary-school and junior-high students would in certain subjects start learning with Chinese-language textbooks, as
There are worrying signs that China is on the brink of a major food shortage, which might trigger a strategic contest over food security and push Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), already under intense pressure, toward drastic measures, potentially spelling trouble for Taiwan and the rest of the world. China has encountered a perfect storm of disasters this year. On top of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, torrential rains have caused catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze River basin, China’s largest agricultural region. Floodwaters are estimated to have already destroyed the crops on 6 million hectares of farmland. The situation has been
In 1955, US general Benjamin Davis Jr, then-commander of the US’ 13th Air Force, drew a maritime demarcation line in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, known as the median line. Under pressure from the US, Taiwan and China entered into a tacit agreement not to cross the line. On July 9, 1999, then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) described cross-strait relations as a “special state-to-state” relationship. In response, Beijing dispatched People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft into the Taiwan Strait, crossing the median line for the first time since 1955. The PLA has begun to regularly traverse the line. On Sept. 18 and 19, it
On Sept. 8, at the high-profile Ketagalan security forum, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged countries to deal with the China challenge. She said: “It is time for like-minded countries, and democratic friends in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, to discuss a framework to generate sustained and concerted efforts to maintain a strategic order that deters unilateral aggressive actions.” The “Taiwan model” to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic provides an alternative to China’s authoritarian way of handling it. Taiwan’s response to the health crisis has made it evident that countries across the world have much to learn from Taiwan’s best practices and if