LISTEN LIVE KPR - On Air: Listen Live to classical, jazz and NPR news Schedule LATEST
NEWSCAST
KPR 2 - On Air: Listen live to KPR's all talk-radio service, KPR2 Recordings

Share this page              

In Trump's Taiwan Kerfuffle, Beijing Has Been Uncharacteristically Measured

Copies of local Chinese magazines at a news stand in Shanghai on Nov. 14, almost a week after Donald Trump was elected president.

President-elect Donald Trump's unprecedented call to Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen has brought all varieties of foreign policy wonks out of the woodwork. Most are critical — some are mocking — of the president-elect's break with four decades of diplomatic protocol.

Yet compared to some of the heated responses to Trump's phone conversation, China's response actually seems quite measured. After waiting nearly a full day, Beijing lodged a formal complaint — something it really had to do. It reiterated the importance of the "One China" policy, stating it hoped Trump would come to an understanding of this.

The response from Beijing was characterized by patience and understanding, and written in a statesmanlike manner — a departure from a government that is known to launch acerbic verbal attacks at those who it feels have "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people." China's government seemed to understand the president-elect is facing a steep learning curve, and it hasn't given up hope.

What is perhaps clear to the Chinese leadership is that a businessman is soon to be president of the United States. And Trump is very much acting like one. He was making a call to a loyal customer, as he pointed out in his second tweet about the matter, following a firestorm of criticism from Beltway pundits. Trump was, of course, ignoring decades of diplomatic protocol, but given the way his mind seems to work, should anyone really be surprised by this?

I spent time this weekend with several Western friends who have operated businesses in China for more than a decade. All of them speak Chinese and travel throughout the region, which includes Taiwan. Their consensus: Whether Trump's phone conversation with Taiwan's president was a diplomatic blunder or not, it broke new ground, because by doing so, Trump was — wittingly or not — putting China's government on the defensive, throwing it off balance for a change.

For years, China's government has been engaging in the same behavior with the United States, the European Union and with nearly every foreign business inside of China. My friends groused that China's government always seems to get a free pass for what many see as bullying and discriminatory behavior.

Perhaps this kind of hawkish treatment of China's government (if that's what this was) is overdue, but when countries put one another on the defensive like this, it can have dangerous consequences.

For now, China's leadership doesn't seem to want to escalate this matter. But the question is: Will Trump behave this way once he's in the White House? And how long will China – and other countries – continue to give Trump the benefit of the doubt before their patience runs out?

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Tower Frequencies

91.5 FM KANU Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City
96.1 FM K241AR Lawrence (KPR2)
89.7 FM KANH Emporia
99.5 FM K258BT Manhattan
97.9 FM K250AY Manhattan (KPR2)
91.3 FM  KANV Junction City, Olsburg
89.9 FM K210CR Atchison
90.3 FM KANQ Chanute

See the Coverage Map for more details

Contact Us

Kansas Public Radio
1120 West 11th Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Download Map
785-864-4530 (Main Line)
888-577-5268 (Toll Free)
contact@kansaspublicradio.org