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February, 26, 2017

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Trump makes U-turn; Tsai unable to do the same

U.S. President Donald Trump made an about-face demarche last Thursday as we had predicted on this page many a time long before his inauguration. After bashing China and insisting on negotiating Washington's "one China" policy, he talked with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping over the phone and agreed to not negotiate it just so Xi could heave a sigh of relief. The Chinese president insisted that his "one China" principle, as stated in the "1992 Consensus," was absolutely non-negotiable. The "1992 Consensus" is an unsigned modus vivendi known here as the "one China with different interpretations" principle, which was the legal basis for the peaceful development of relations between Taiwan and mainland China while President Ma Ying-jeou was in office for eight years. It is the same as Washington's "one China" policy except that in the conduct of U.S.-Taiwan relations, the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 applies.

In a statement issued after Thursday's telephone conversation, the White House pointed out: "President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our 'one China' policy," adding that the two leaders had "extended invitations to meet in their respective countries."

No mention was made in the statement of when and how many meetings would take place and what Trump and Xi would talk about. But one thing is certain: They will discuss how to continue the Sino-American relations in place since President Jimmy Carter normalized them in 1979 by derecognizing the Republic of China on Taiwan. That means trouble for President Tsai Ing-wen's Democratic Progressive Party government.

President Tsai refuses to accept the "one China" principle of the modus vivendi. Beijing retaliated by suspending all official contact and exchanges with Taiwan as soon as she had been inaugurated. As a matter of fact, it compelled Trump to question why his new administration should honor the decadeslong "one China" policy, which he demanded to negotiate.

On the other hand, Tsai is siding Taiwan ever more closely with the United States and Japan by scrapping President Ma's China-friendly policy. Shortly after his November victory, Trump spoke by phone to Tsai, breaking decades of U.S. protocol to make her happy so as to woo Taiwan to join in the containment of the People's Republic of China. Taiwan is now an undeclared partner to that containment to help Trump maintain the Pax Americana, which is on the verge of vanishing.

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