Phone-call freak-out


Nearly everyone struggles to get their heads around Donald Trump’s unlawful telephonic intercourse with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

Beijing is projecting its own wishful thinking by publicly dismissing the call as a trick by the Taiwanese spinster/cat-lover and fellow splittists, with Trump as the naïve victim. The Communist regime thus assures itself that its ‘one China’ formula remains intact as the international consensus that downgrades Taiwan to a region (at least if you interpret it that way).

The really telling reaction, however, is from US/Western (liberal/‘elite’) mainstream or establishment or whatever commentators. To them, it seems to be a mark of insider-ish sophistication to accept Beijing’s definitions and preconceptions as reasonable. It’s an Orientalist ‘inscrutable-Chinese’ thing. Hence the unquestioned assumption among Western media and officials that Taiwan somehow causes the cross-Straits problem and disturbs US-China relations by being democratic and free. (For more on this, see here and here.)

Since Trump is flaky and unpredictable, it is natural for the Western-based chattering classes to see his conversation with Tsai as a stupid error. Their immediate reaction was essentially their own version of Beijing’s – that the call was a trick by Trump’s extremist advisors who are too dimwitted to understand the importance of mollycoddling the Panda and never hurting its feelings. The latest from cutting-edge trendy insider-ish sophistication is now that the Trump-Tsai call was a calculated move.

wp-trumpscasllThings are perhaps clearer to those of us who live up-close to Beijing’s klepto-thugocracy and see the insecurity, paranoia and economic vulnerability behind the mighty, confident emerging-superpower act. It is not too worrying or far-fetched that a Trump administration might start calling China out on its mercantilism, protectionism and use of overseas corporate acquisitions as extension of state power. (Perhaps the insider-ish sophistication types will revisit their bizarre vision of China miraculously assuming the US’s role in promoting a free-trade, rules-based international economic order.) But the idea that the US will start pushing Beijing around for its regional bullying and aggression, let alone viciousness towards domestic dissent, is: unlikely; or perhaps too good to be true; or simply too flaky-and-unpredictable scary to think about.

One helpful lesson from this, however, is how much Beijing relies on people overseas not questioning its (self-centred, arrogant, entitled, We-decide-who-meets-the-Dalai Lama) worldview. As Hong Kong’s localists have found out, it’s surprisingly easy to mess with the supposedly fearsome and confident Communist leaders’ minds. Since Trump does it somehow or other to everyone else, he probably won’t spare them.


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15 Responses to Phone-call freak-out

  1. HillnotPeak says:

    Already Trump is a great president.

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    I am SOOOOO looking forward to the next four years!!!

  3. PCC says:

    The Taiwanese Animators take on the Trump-Tsai phone call offers a chuckle:

  4. WTF says:

    This will be great, the battle of two huuugggeee egos, Xi and Trump. Trumps already warming up his thumbs for a Twitter storm, and Xi’s WuMao (short for RMB 0.50 per troll) will just increase Donald’s frenzy.

  5. Joe Blow says:

    Since Trump has no defined policies, moral guidelines or, indeed, any idea what he is doing, everything he says or does can be interpreted as either ‘shrewd and calculated’ or ‘uniformed and completely clueless’. Take your pick.

  6. Revolution says:

    @Joe Blow – agree 100%, but it might actually be an advantage when dealing with Xi. Normally the PRC Government have some idea how far they can go with sabre rattling. With Trump in charge, they haven’t a clue (and neither does anyone else). I’m probably wrong, but it’s possible that the result could be a more cautious PRC foreign policy.

  7. Red Dragon says:

    Trump scares the shit out of me for many reasons. But on this, I’m with him all the way.

    The Panda is ripe for winding up, and Taiwan needs all the help which the rest of the world can offer.

    I’m really hoping that Trump’s move was both calculated and witting. High time the west put its finger up to the Chinese commies.

  8. Reader says:

    In yesterday’s edition, the Sickly Empty supercharged a momentarily noticeable tidbit into a full-width headline “Tsai initiated Trump Phone Call”. Confirmation of the sad demise of a once-significant newspaper.

    National tantrums only work when you are much the stronger party, eg. China on most countries when everyone else turns away. But what if Trump leads the world to face down China on its isolate-and-bully tactic? What in the economic-diplomatic-military arsenal would prevent it from simply diminishing itself?

  9. STK says:

    Two ways to read the PIMP headline: TITs are PC, or, in the French translation, where of course everything is inside-out, Le Parti Communiste, c’est des TITs.

    Trump has landed an iconoclastic coup. It’s puzzling why the strongest nation on earth has allowed itself to be bullied and humiliated for so long on this issue.

    Let’s just hope he’s determined enough to withstand all the sabotage, nasty tricks and implicit or explicit racism that will be hurled at him.

  10. Jason says:

    I fully agree with Red Dragon and STK. It’s the first time I see me on the same side as Trump.
    I talk with whom I want to talk, the same should be allowed for the President/President- elect of the USA.

  11. Knownot says:

    [The United Nations has 193 members.]

    According to the UN’s list
    A country that does not exist.

    The island marked on all the maps
    A figment of the mind, perhaps.

    The Nations solemnly declare
    That Taiwan isn’t really there.
    – – – – –
    For years the USA had said
    It would not speak to China Red.

    Now, compliant, it agrees
    The rebel province is Chinese.

    But Donald Trump, untaught and crude,
    Might show the Chinese Emperor ‑ nude.

  12. Cassowary says:

    The trouble isn’t just that Trump didn’t suck up to China, it’s that he disregarded a standing diplomatic agreement that the US had signed and is therefore responsible for adhering to whatever anyone might think of it now. If he is going to ditch treaties he shouldn’t be doing it on a whim.

  13. steve says:

    Change of policy, sure. Do it over fcking Twitter? Um, no.

    Thing is, this whole thing was pushed on the vulgar talking yam by the bright-eyed world war three fans who are advising him. (He couldn’t find Taiwan on a map.) What they want at best is Cold War 2.0, and if that leads to the yam’s finger on the nuclear button, well, sure, we’ll get our hair mussed. Combine that with the equally unhinged PLA generals just aching for a chance to avenge the hundred years of yadda yadda yadda, and presto, we have a burning cinder where the earth used to be.

    Again: Social media as an instrument of diplomacy? Are we truly that mad?

  14. PD says:

    Cassowary, Was that one of the Unequal Treaties we hear so much about?

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