Amid an outpouring of condemnation over US president-elect Donald Trump’s telephone conversation with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), some prominent US conservatives are commending his decision to take her call.
Trump’s conversation with Tsai on Friday broke decades of US diplomatic policy, risking a serious rift with China by calling into question one of Beijing’s self-described “core interests” — the “one China” policy, to which then-US president Richard Nixon agreed in 1978.
“I would much rather have Donald Trump talking to President Tsai than to Cuba’s Raul Castro or Iran’s Hasan Rouhani,” US Senator Ted Cruz — Trump’s main challenger and a fierce critic during this year’s US Republican primary race — said on Twitter on Saturday. “This is an improvement.”
US President Barack Obama has spoken with Rouhani by telephone and met Castro on a trip to Cuba.
Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman under former US president George W. Bush, did not think that accepting the call was a bad idea.
“China has been increasingly aggressive with us because they know we won’t do anything meaningful about it,” Fleischer said on Twitter. “I don’t mind Trump pushing back.”
Any US move implying support for Taiwanese independence — even calling Tsai “president,” as Trump did in a tweet announcing the call — prompts grave offense in China.
However, some critics thought that Trump had crossed a dangerous line.
“What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift. These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That’s how wars start,” US Senator Chris Murphy said on Twitter.
Senior Trump aide Kellyanne Conway brushed aside the criticism, insisting that the call did not necessarily indicate a change of policy.
“Senator Murphy’s tweet is pretty incendiary,” she told CNN late on Friday. “This is how wars are starting and it is a major policy shift because you get a phone call? That is pretty negative.”
Asked whether Trump’s decision to take Tsai’s call was the result of a mistake by an inexperienced staff, she said the real-estate billionaire was fully aware of the implications.
Trump’s other defenders included US Senator Tom Cotton.
“I commend president-elect Trump for his conversation with President Tsai Ing-wen, which reaffirms our commitment to the only democracy on Chinese soil,” Cotton said in a statement.
“Obama breaks w/decades of US policy on Cuba & gets endless fawning coverage,” conservative journalist Stephen Hayes said on Twitter. “Trump breaks w/US policy by phoning Taiwan & he’s reckless?”
Trump received criticism on another matter from an unexpected source on Friday: outspoken former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who strongly supported him during his campaign.
A favorite of the powerful far-right Tea Party movement, Palin condemned Trump’s deal with the air conditioner maker Carrier Corp this week to keep 1,100 jobs in Indiana instead of shipping hundreds to Mexico, in return for what the company said would be a US$7 million tax break from the state.