Sebastian W. James | Read This Article and You’ll Know More About China and Taiwan than Trump Does
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Read This Article and You’ll Know More About China and Taiwan than Trump Does

Good article on the background of the relationship between China, Taiwan, and the US in today’s New York Times:

“…The disagreement dates to 1927, when civil war broke out in the Republic of China. The war culminated in Communist revolutionaries, led by Mao Zedong, mostly defeating China’s Nationalist government in 1949.

But the Nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan, at that time a region of China, which their forces still controlled. Though fighting eventually stopped, both sides continued to claim all of China. The Taiwan-based government considered mainland China to be controlled by illegitimate Communist rebels. The Beijing-based government considered Taiwan a breakaway province.

 

In this sense, the civil war was never fully resolved. Thus, Taiwan’s formal name is still the Republic of China. Mainland China — controlled by the Communist government in Beijing — is called the People’s Republic of China…”

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There is a lot more; enough for even me to understand why Trump should have deferred the phone call to the State Department.  Or even have taken State Department and intelligence briefings altogether.  It is one thing to not know you’re making a mistake, especially when starting a new job.  It is reckless to refuse all of the resources available to learn the situation; only to ignore them.

Something else.  Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has a bit on one of the behind-the-curtain players in this mess, a Republican foreign policy bigwig named Stephen Yates. Apparently Yates was behind the idea for Trump to take the call, poking his finger in the collective eye of Chinese government.

Back in 1999, conservatives and the incoming Bushies labeled the anti-nuclear treaty between North Korea and the rest of the world “appeasement”. What were their problems with exchanging aid for shutting down a rogue nuclear program?  Basically take the same set of complaints conservatives and Trump have with the current Iranian nuclear treaty and go back 17 years. Stephen Yates (along with his boss, VP Dick Cheney) was instrumental in creating the political ground to abandon the treaty.  They were successful, and not long after the West stopped sending food and fuel oil, North Korea restarted and completed their nuclear weapons program.  Clearly, Yates is a bomb-thrower when it comes to East Asian foreign policy.

As far as yesterday’s call, Yates now says he was not a part. But he is in favor of challenging the Chinese, this time using Taiwan as a proxy.  I’ll let Josh take it home from here:

“…That is where I fear and believe we are with Trump. Not everything in foreign policy is sacred. But here we have an impulsive and ignorant man whose comfort zone is aggression surrounded by advisors with dangerous ideas. His instinctive aggression makes many of their most dangerous ideas possible; and their ideological formulations give his actions a rationale and logic that transcends psychological impulses and the anger of the moment. Even President Bush had a coterie of more Realist-minded and cautious advisors to balance out the hotheads. They lost most of the key debates – especially in the first term. But they provided a restraining counter-balance in numerous debates.
 
At present there is no one like that around Trump at all.”

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