Tag Archives: People’s Republic of China

Study up on U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, Mr. President-elect


Donald J. Trump has committed one of two egregious errors by conversing on the telephone with the leader of a country with which the United States has no diplomatic relations.

The president-elect either doesn’t know about the “one-China policy” to which the United States has adhered since the end of World War II, or he does know about it and decided to flout it willfully.

Trump spoke on the telephone this week with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. It was the first time a U.S. president-elect has spoken to the leader of Taiwan since the two countries severed diplomatic relations in 1979. The conversation has resulted in a formal complaint from the People’s Republic of China, which considers Taiwan to be a “renegade province” and has vowed to take it back, by force if necessary.

The PRC-Taiwan relationship is amazingly complicated. It also sits at the heart of U.S.-China relations, given that this country has entered into a defense pact to protect Taiwan in the event of an attack by the PRC.

So, the president-elect — who is still about seven weeks away from taking office — has decided to step into the middle of this mess. Either he made the call to Taipei or received a call from the island nation. Whichever happened, Trump shouldn’t have made the call, nor should he have received it.

And that brings me to my point. The man has made a serious error.

Trump’s ignorance about geopolitical relationships manifested itself repeatedly during the presidential campaign. He said it would be OK for Japan and South Korea to have nuclear weapons; he said the same thing about Saudi Arabia; he once said NATO nations should have to pay for U.S. protection in case Russia attacked the alliance; he has vowed to force Mexico to pay for the “beautiful wall” he intends to build along our southern border.

He was elected anyway.

The New York Times has done a good job of explaining the Taiwan-China controversy. Here’s the link to the Times’ explainer:


Trump has got to wrap his arms around a lot of nuanced relationships that involve the country he is about to govern and its myriad friends and foes around the globe. The PRC-Taiwan relationship is among the most sensitive, complicated and fragile any world leader can imagine.

Having been to Taiwan five times since 1989, I’ve developed a pretty good understanding of the country and its place in the world. It is a vibrant economic powerhouse. Its military machine is pretty stout, as well, thanks in large measure to the weapons it buys from the United States and other nations willing to sell to the Taiwanese.

More than six decades after the nationalist government fled the mainland to the island, most of Taiwan’s residents today were born on the island; many of them still have family on the mainland but they are Taiwanese first. Much has changed as Taiwan has evolved into a de facto independent nation.

One fundamental aspect, though, remains the same. China will not recognize Taiwan as an independent nation. Moreover,¬†the United States maintains an embassy in China — and does not have one in Taiwan.

The president-elect needs to tread extra carefully here. The consequences of further mistakes are too grave to even contemplate.

Some pictures have this way of becoming iconic

baton rouge

Take a gander at this picture. It is rapidly becoming an iconic image of protest.

Police in Baton Rouge, La., were all suited up for the worst when demonstrators marched to protest the shooting death of a young black man by a police officer.

Why has this photo gone viral? Beats me. Perhaps it speaks to the fragile line between civil disobedience and armed conflict.

Yes, it does remind me of a couple of other historic images:

guy and tanks

We have this one, shot in 1989 as demonstrators marched through Tiananmen Square in Beijing to protest the dictatorial rule of the People’s Republic of China.

The man standing in front of the row of tanks would move back and forth, blocking the tanks’ progress.

I’ve heard reports over the years that the protester was arrested and has since died.

Then there’s this one:


Those of us of a certain age and older remember this image and what it represents.

The Vietnam War was raging and it wasn’t going too well for us politically. Marchers took to the streets and at times confronted armed troops. Some of the marchers reacted badly. Others reacted the way this young man did.

Photojournalists were able to capture this — and many other — images. They are saved for posterity.

It does us well to look back at them to remind ourselves of how we arrived at the present day.

North Koreans ask for peace treaty?


There might not a more untrustworthy nation on Planet Earth than the one that occupies the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea says it will end its nuclear testing if two things happen: it gets a peace treaty with South Korea, and the South Koreans and the United States end their joint military exercises.

OK, let’s do it. Right now.

Well, that won’t happen. Nor should it, not without a¬†bucket load of assurance from North Korea that it not only would end its nuclear testing, but that it would dispose of the nukes it has in its arsenal.

How does that occur when we’re dealing with someone as unpredictable, vain and utterly contemptible as Kim Jong Un, the guy who runs the world’s most secretive nation?

Kim Jong Un kills those who disagree with him. The people who live in his country are starving to death and yet he continues to pour money that North Korea doesn’t have into a nuclear arms program. He blusters about going to war with the United States of America.

North Korea has long wanted a peace treaty with South Korea. The Korean War, you’ll recall, ended in 1953 with a mere cease-fire. The two sides never formalized the end of the war that cost about 50,000 American lives. It was a brutal conflict involving many nations that came to South Korea’s defense after the Marxist North Koreans invaded the south in 1950.

China joined the fight and fought head-to-head with Americans on some of the most barren and desolate battlefields of the 20th century.

However, more than 60 years after most of the shooting stopped, the two nations — South and North Korea — remain technically “at war.”

Do we  relent and sign that treaty and pull back our military preparedness in South Korea? Not a chance.

If the North Koreans really mean what they say about ending their nuclear testing program, they need to go a lot farther than merely saying they’ll stop exploding nukes. Their record is replete with examples of how their words cannot be trusted.


State visit in peril? So what?


Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to pay a state visit to President Obama.

He might back out if the United States punishes China over its computer hacking of U.S. companies.

My reaction? Big deal.

The possible cancellation of the state visit, that is.

Chinese hackers¬†have been bedeviling U.S. government and business interests for too long already. The Obama administration is considering leveling some economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in retaliation for the hacking.

It creates “bad optics” for President Xi to visit at a time when the United States is lowering the boom on the world’s No. 2 economic power.

‚ÄúThe Chinese right now are getting very concerned because they understand this will create embarrassing optics around the visit for them,‚ÄĚ said Samm Sacks, China analyst at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm, who has advised government agencies on Chinese tech policy.

While I don’t care particularly if China’s head of state cancels his visit over possible punishment, a private meeting between the Chinese leader and President Obama might be fruitful if the two leaders can have — as it’s called in diplomatic parlance — a “frank discussion” about why this hacking behavior cannot be tolerated.

Perhaps the president could ask his Chinese counterpart: What would your government’s response if the roles were reversed?


Taiwan flag causes strange U.S. protest

There may be no stranger geopolitical relationship in the world than the one with Taiwan and, well, virtually the rest of the planet.

Consider what happened recently in Washington, D.C.

Some individuals at Taiwan’s unofficial “embassy” complex raised the Taiwanese flag over the building, causing the State Department to complain that the flag violates a long-standing U.S.-Taiwan agreement against the display of the flag.


This is a big deal? Well, yes — for reasons that drive me nuts.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Taiwan five times dating back to the late fall of 1989. It is without question one of the world’s most vibrant countries. Its economy flourishes. Its culture is rich and vibrant. It has a military that pound-for-pound is one of the stoutest in the world.

But the country has diplomatic relations with virtually no one on Earth. Why? Because most countries — such as the United States — recognize only one “China,” and that would be the People’s Republic of China, which since 1949 has claimed Taiwan as a “renegade province.”

Taiwan’s government fled to the island off the mainland coast when the communists won a bloody civil war. Mao Tse-Tung took power in Beijing; Chiang Kai-Shek did the same in Taipei.

For decades, the world recognized the Taipei government. Then in 1971, the United Nations voted to admit the PRC into its body; it expelled Taiwan. In 1978, the United States offered diplomatic recognition to Beijing and kicked Taipei out of its embassy.

The nations have had a vigorous cultural and economic relationship ever since. Taiwan’s “embassy” is in a luxury estate, but the inhabitants are prohibited from flying the Taiwanese flag in public.

Thus, the State Department has become angry.

Well, the folks at State should get over it. The presence of the flag will do nothing by itself to change the relationship between the nations. As for how China would react, well, the Chinese aren’t going to invade Taiwan or attack the United States of America.

It’s still a vital one at every level except the one that counts.

I should note that almost no one in Taiwan considers himself or herself to be “Chinese.” Virtually the entire population today was born on the island. They consider themselves to be Taiwanese. Yes, they are ethnic Chinese, but the nation state has forged an identity all its own.

The task for them and for others around the world is to persuade the communists who run the mainland to recognize Taiwan for what it has become: a flourishing independent nation.


Memo to China: Butt out!

China has told President Obama that he should forgo a meeting today with the Dalai Lama, saying such a meeting with the spiritual leader would “impair” U.S.-China relations.

Hmmm. I think the president should ignore the Chinese.


China has been subjugating the Tibetans for decades. The Dalai Lama represents Tibetans’ hopes for a free society. The People’s Republic believes the Dalai Lama is a “traitor” to the cause of whatever control the PRC wants to exert on the Tibetans.

Perhaps the president can remind the Chinese government that as the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, he is free to meet with whomever he wishes. And, perhaps, he can turn the tables on the Chinese despots by reminding them of their reaction to demands that they stop the repression Tibet and that they cease trying to bully Taiwan into coming back into the Chinese fold.

What do the Chinese say to these demands? These are internal matters and that the world should mind its own business. Never mind, of course, that Taiwan has flourished as an independent nation since its government were chased off the mainland by communists who fought with Nationalist forces in a bloody civil war.

Have your meeting with the Dalai Lama, Mr. President.

N. Korean leader redefines ‘hideous’

There is hideous conduct.

And then there is the kind of act being reported out of North Korea involving the late uncle of dictator Kim Jong Un.

If it’s true, then we have seen a new standard for barbarism.


The report says the despot’s uncle was stripped naked and thrown into a cage where he was eaten by 120 starving dogs. That’s how the kid executed the husband of his aunt, reportedly for crimes against the state.

Jang Song Thaek had been taken into custody reportedly for plotting against Kim Jong Un. He was killed apparently days after his arrest. Reports didn’t confirm a trial of any consequence, merely a death sentence carried out with extreme dispatch.

U.S. officials haven’t confirmed the reports through any independent sources. However, NBC.com says the reports are coming from sources with close ties to China’s ruling communist party, which apparently is about the only friendly government left on the planet for North Korea.

To think we actually want to start talking to this animal.

I don’t want to jump to any conclusions until the world knows the facts — if they can be ascertained in that super-secret society.

This, however, falls into that category of despicable act that somehow shouldn’t totally surprise anyone.