For years, I have wished for the US to take concrete strmeps to recognize Taiwan formally (as Taiwan) - and tell China that if they didn't like it, they could eat a big one. Well, I woke up this morning to find that *tiny mouth barf* President-elect Trump had broken with decades of US policy and spoken to President Tsai.
Before coffee, I was amazed. In part because Trump managed to do something I agreed with, and in part because I didn't expect he'd know what "Taiwan" was (after all his products are no longer made here).
I really do want to agree with it. I want to be over the moon. Make no mistake, I am completely in favor of such calls and think US-Taiwan policy is a joke.
My problem is not the call - it's that Trump made (or answered) it.
In fact, I'm only 1/3 through my coffee so this is a good time to just give myself a minute to be happy about this. In fact, let's all just go ahead and wait to put our Serious People hats on for a second and just allow ourselves a moment of joy that a US president finally did the right thing vis-a-vis the Taiwanese president, and that Tsai was smart enough to seize this opportunity (I read that she called him). Let's just let ourselves have a moment of worry-free glee, shall we? We've earned it.
*happy happy happy*
*so much fun thinking of China crapping their pants, ha ha, suck it China*
*drink some more coffee*
OK, now it's time to be sad.
I really want this to be something. I've always said that Taiwan, as a successful and sovereign nation, deserves international recognition and that ought to begin with the US - they need to back up their words about supporting democracy abroad and standing against human rights violations with the deed of calling out China and recognizing liberal democratic Taiwan (no need to switch diplomatic recognitions - just recognize Taiwan as "Taiwan", not China, because it's not China. Never was. Recognize both and when China complains, tell them to choke on it.)
I wanted this to be done - by a leader who fully knew what she was getting into, who understood the consequences and was prepared to stand by her choice. Trump is not that leader. Trump is not the person to be doing this - he doesn't seem to fully grasp what this means, and therefore is not a leader we can trust to stand by Taiwan as China rattles its tiny little saber. I want that hypothetical better leader to have answered that call. I have, for a long while, been disappointed in the Democratic party's boot-licking of China, and their willingness to play along with a stupid fiction to avoid angering a power that perhaps needs to be angered a bit. I have been angered by the hypocrisy of my fellow liberals on the Taiwan issue - so that the only welcoming arms the Taiwanese and Hong Kong independence advocates find in the US are on the hard right (more on that later).
I absolutely want the US to bring Taiwan out from the cold. I do not trust Trump to fully understand or follow through, though. It is possible to be in favor of the phone call, but not be happy Trump made it, and feeling that way doesn't make one anti-phone-call.
I feel like I just got my wish, but it was a monkey's paw wish. I feel like some imaginary ex I've been hypothetically pining over, but who was a terrible person, called me and I was both excited and very worried because I know he's awful and I really shouldn't. I feel like I've been tricked by a cranky genie.
I really want this to be a coherent policy initiative with an ethical grounding. Finally a leader seeing the truth and doing what is right. I want to believe that the words he exchanged with Tsai will translate into deeds: backing up Taiwan against an angry China.
But let's be honest. We all know it's not.
My friends have speculated: "probably he thought she was the president of Thailand", or "they probably spoke for a few minutes before he asked her to put her boss on the phone". I do give him an eensy bit more credit than that, but not much. Maybe he does know Taiwan is a place that exists and has a president which is not the same person as the dictator they have over in China.
More likely is that he doesn't fully understand cross-Strait (I never did figure out how to capitalize that and I am only halfway done with my coffee) relations, and is completely, bumblingly, unaware of what he's just done. Most likely, he won't fully understand why when China starts fulminating. Or he will, at least in a simplified way, but not realize he ought to do something about it.
In short, when China gets pissed and maybe makes some moves to threaten Taiwan, it won't even occur to Trump to have Taiwan's back. This truly needed to be a part of that coherent, ethical policy initiative that I've always said the US needs to pursue, but the ugly truth is that it's not, and it could ultimately do more harm to Taiwan than good.
Yes, I realize I've just basically said "Trump does bad things and I hate him; Trump does good things and he's too stupid to follow through, I will never like him no matter what he does." This is true. I will never like him, no matter what he does. He has no chances with me and I will never accept him as a competent leader. Why? Well, because of everything he's been, said, or stood for in his life leading up to the election, and plenty after too. I refuse to give him credit because that's what he's earned - no chances and no credit.
Michael Turton thinks this - or an attitude like this - is a part of "media bias against Trump". While I agree with most of the rest of this post, especially calling out progressives for their hypocrisy on Taiwan (except I am not quite as willing to just be happy about this phone call), I don't agree with that particular notion: media bias against Trump exists because that is what Trump has earned. It is entirely right to paint him in this light because he has shown it is the correct light to paint him in: he's practically chosen the colors himself. It is an entirely justified judge of his character.
Anyway, I just spent a whole blog post worrying about China, but legitimately this time. Nevertheless, I'm now 2/3 done with my coffee, and I would like to end by calling out the shitty, shitty news media for casting this in a completely bad light - they didn't even give themselves a few minutes to be happy, because they don't care about Taiwan - because what China wants, to them, trumps what's good for Taiwan. Pun intended. CNN even mentioned China before Taiwan in their headline and doesn't have a lot to say about the consequences for Taiwan, only for the US. Screw you, CNN. Sure, you have to discuss the cross-Strait ramifications of this, but could you at least give Taiwan top billing this one fucking time? Like, just once? Maybe talk more about US-Taiwan policy and what this means for Taiwan rather than China China China? Even a word as to Tsai's maneuver to call Trump, or anything Taiwan stands to gain from this domestically (in Taiwan itself I suspect Tsai's action will be met with a fair amount of approval, and may even increase Trump's popularity here)? Anything? No? Ugh.
I do see one tiny light in the darkness. If this call was made by Tsai, then she probably knows what she's doing. She is smart, cautious, a policy wonk, yet she took this step (this is true even if she didn't make the call, but answered his). I trust her to have a plan, or at least to know what the consequences are and have an idea of how to deal with them. I trust her in a way I will never trust Trump. So it could be okay? Maybe?
That said, I really hope that Tsai and other pro-independence and pro-localist leaders in Hong Kong and Taiwan know what they are doing when they get into bed with hard right American conservatives (ignore the ridiculous bias of that article please). It is not exactly a bed of roses. I have long expressed dismay that the side with the Taiwan policy I actually agree with the most is the side I can never vote for for other reasons.
Anyway, I will think of this as a good thing when words are backed up with deeds and the US tells China to lay off Taiwan militarily, recognizes Taiwan officially and pressures other nations to do the same. Somehow, I doubt that will happen.
So, will there be a war? Will China invade Taiwan over this, or in part over this?
Will the US come to Taiwan's aid then?
Probably not. If they do I'll eat my hat (I'm safe in saying this because I don't think I own any hats).