Tag Archives: Kuomintang

Phone call to Taiwan may signal huge rift


Do you want yet another example of Donald J. Trump’s ignorance about geopolitics and the relationships between governments?

Try this one: The president-elect today called the president of Taiwan in what’s believed to the first head of state discussion between leaders of the nations since 1979. Big deal? It sure is. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.


I believe we have the makings of a potentially huge rift between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

So, what’s the PRC’s stake in this?

Well, Taiwan was created after a bloody civil war in China after World War II. The Kuomintang nationalist government that used to rule China fled to Taiwan after being defeated by the communists led by Mao Tse-Tung. The commies have been saying since 1949 that Taiwan is a “renegade province” and have vowed to take it back — with brute force, if need be.

The United States recognized the Taiwan government until 1979, when we decided to recognize the PRC. Given the communists’ “one-China policy,” the United States had to sever its ties with Taiwan; U.S. policy could not accommodate a second “China.”

Therein lies the crux of the issue here. Trump might not understand fully the highly complicated PRC-Taiwan relationship and how that plays into U.S. policy regarding the PRC and Taiwan.

“The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,” said Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House national security council.

I don’t profess to be an expert on this relationship, but I have made five visits to Taiwan over many years. The first visit was in 1989; I returned in 1994, 1999, 2007 and 2010.

Taiwan has evolved into a modern, sophisticated, technically advanced country in the 66 years since the Kuomintang fled the mainland. It is virtually “independent” as it is, but the government dare not declare its independence openly out of concern that the PRC would retaliate with an armed invasion of the island nation.

Doesn’t the U.S. president-elect understand the ramifications of a simple phone call to Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ying-wen?

Sure, Trump savaged the Chinese during his campaign over the jobs it has taken from American workers. Therefore, the PRC leadership might feel threatened by the prospect of a Trump presidency.

This phone call, though, to the leader of a nation with which the United States has zero diplomatic relationship ratchets up concerns on the Asia mainland about whether the new U.S. president understands the meaning of diplomatic protocol.

Believe this, Mr. President-elect, geopolitical protocol matters … a lot!

Complicated relationship may get really testy


The world is full of complicated bilateral relationships: Greece and Turkey, India and Pakistan, Israel and Egypt.

A pair of nations, though, may have witnessed an event that makes their stunningly complex relationship even more so.

Taiwan has just elected its first female president, Tsai Ing-wen. It’s not her gender that complicates matters. It’s her longstanding support for something that sends government officials in the People’s Republic of China into orbit: Taiwanese independence.

Tsai leads the Democratic Peoples Party, which long has advocated that Taiwan declare its independence from the PRC.

However, there’s this tiny problem (actually, it’s huge). China considers Taiwan to be a “renegade province” that belongs to the mainland government, the communists who took over the country in a bloody civil war right after World War II.

The Kuomintang, which governed China, fled to Taiwan in 1949 and set up a new government.

For more than six decades, China has declared it wanted Taiwan back. Meanwhile, Taiwan grew into a powerhouse nation all on its own, independent of China.

Tsai’s victory isn’t likely to produce a declaration of independence in the next week, month or perhaps even a year from now.

However, it strains to the max a relationship that had been showing signs of thawing in recent years.

Allow me a bit of personal privilege here.

I’ve visited Taiwan five times as a journalist, dating back to 1989. I returned in 1994, 1999, 2007 and 2010. I have seen a country that has grown tremendously just since my first visit.

Taiwan had functioned under martial law until 1989. The ruling party felt it necessary to impose strict curfews and restrictions on its citizens, given the tremendous threat of violence posed by the giant neighbor on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

The island has functioned famously since martial law was lifted.

But the threat of military action persists. The Taiwanese officials I have visited over many years have told me they take those threats seriously and have built a muscular military apparatus quite capable of inflicting damage on any nation in the world. The Taiwanese also have a defense pact with another significant nation: the United States of America, which has pledged to come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of war with, um, the PRC.

President-elect Tsai isn’t likely to do anything rash. At least that’s my hope.

Taiwan already is shut out of virtually all international associations: the United Nations evicted Taiwan in 1971 when it admitted the PRC; the United States severed official diplomatic relations with Taiwan when it recognized the PRC; the World Health Organization bans Taiwan’s participation.

The international community follows what’s called a “one-China policy,” meaning that the only “China” it recognizes is the big one, the PRC.

That’s all fine, except that Taiwan is, well, Taiwan. Most of its 24 million residents were born on the island and they have diminishing links with the mainland.

Yes, Taiwanese still speak Chinese. Their names look and sound Chinese. However, the country has developed into an entity that — for all intents — is independent already from China.

The problem remains, though, that it cannot declare officially its independence as long as those big, bad commies on the mainland keep threatening military action.

As China has shown over many years, it doesn’t like being lectured by other nations about how to conduct its affairs.

You want complicated? This Taiwan-China thing goes beyond my understanding of the word.