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Trump Uses Twitter to Defend Call with Taiwan President

President-elect Donald Trump comes to the lobby to speak to members of the media at Trump Tower in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Trump Uses Twitter to Defend Call with Taiwan President
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Some people in China welcomed the election of businessman Donald Trump as president of the United States. They believed he would negotiate deals helpful to both countries.

But President-elect Trump’s decision to speak directly with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen led the Chinese government to protest to the U.S. ambassador in Beijing.

Some Chinese officials said the telephone call between Trump and Tsai violated America’s 1979 pledge of support for a one-China policy. Since then, the U.S. has not had official contact with Taiwan’s government.

Tsai told a small group of U.S. reporters Tuesday that she did not sense a major change in U.S. policies toward Taiwan. "One phone call does not mean a policy shift," Tsai said.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump through a speaker phone in Taipei, Taiwan. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump through a speaker phone in Taipei, Taiwan. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

Trump has used social media to defend his decision to speak with Taiwan’s president.

On Twitter, the president-elect criticized some of China's policies. He wrote that China devalued its money to make it harder for American businesses to sell goods in the country. He said the Chinese government continues to heavily tax U.S. exports to China. And he said the Chinese military is expanding its presence in the South China Sea, all without asking the United States, in his words, “if it was OK.”

Mark Toner is a spokesman for the U.S. State Department. He said the Chinese government called the U.S. ambassador to China on Saturday to protest Trump’s contact with Taiwan’s president.

Toner also defended America’s “one China policy,” which has been in effect for 37 years.

“It’s allowed us to develop relations – frankly, closer relations with Beijing and also to deepen our unofficial ties with Taipei,” Toner said.

The policy also provides economic and security benefits to the United States, he said.

Wang Dong is a political science professor at Peking University. He said Trump’s tweets may be all about improving his negotiating position with the Chinese government. Trump has said he sometimes uses strong words to help him negotiate better deals later.

But Wang said Trump may also be following the opinions of some Republican Party activists who want the U.S. government to take a harder position with China. The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal both reported that the telephone call between Trump and Tsai was planned weeks ago by Trump aides.

“And I think that gives us reason to be worried about U.S.-China relations going forward,” Wang said. “There (has) been too much wishful thinking and overly optimistic expectations about Donald Trump and China and I think now, people have to come back to reality.”

John Bolton served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush. Bolton said the United States needs to deal with what he called China’s “aggressive and belligerent claims” in the South China Sea. He is reportedly under consideration for a diplomatic position with the Trump administration.

John Bolton
John Bolton

On Tuesday, a Republican Party official arrived in Taiwan for a week-long visit. The official, Stephan Yates, is the party’s chairman in the state of Idaho.

Yates said he is not carrying any messages from Trump to Tsai. But he said that China should respect the “political reform and democratization of Taiwan,” as President-elect Trump has.

Jeffrey Bader was the lead adviser on China for President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011. He now works at the John L. Thornton China Center, part of the Brookings Institution research group.

Bader said Trump’s phone call with the Taiwan leader raises concerns about his foreign policy skills.

“There are serious risks posed by his failure to take briefings by government professionals,” Bader said. He added that Trump “appears to have little respect” for the possible damage to longtime U.S. security interests.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

And I'm Caty Weaver.

William Ide and Nike Ching reported on this story for Bruce Alpert adapted their reports for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

pledge – n. promise

shift - n. to move to a different position

frankly - adv. speaking candidly

optimistic - adj. expecting good things to happen

belligerent - adj. angry and aggressive

pose - v. to create a possible problem

briefing - n. people with expertise providing information to someone