It’s a new day of the week, so there is a new example of media hand-wringing over the president-elect. This time, China. It’s a spectacle, watching writers wax apoplectic over Donald Trump taking a phone call from the president of Taiwan, over China’s objection and his predecessor’s policy of respecting China’s feelings.
The stories spewed out with no regard to whether telling an independent Taiwan it belongs to Beijing is a just policy in the interests of the United States. The stories poured forth without a thought toward if this policy should continue, or, beyond when it was implemented, why it was implemented. And, hysterically, the cries came up from the echo chamber where very few could have told anyone what the United States’ phone-call policy was a day prior.
Vanity Fair, for example, wrote an explainer piece called, “This Is Why Trump’s Taiwan Call Was Truly Bizarre.” The writer graduated college two years ago with a degree in film and literature. The chances she knew how the president is supposed to take calls from Taiwan are low.
The scene recalls the week before, when a reporter class that could never name the past five secretaries of Housing and Urban Development had howled that Dr. Ben Carson lacked the required experience to fill the post. Do tell, Google experts.
But the funnier bit is the surprise that Donald Trump did exactly what he said he’d do.
For a decade at least, the New York businessman has been bashing China, accusing them of currency-manipulation, taking advantage of trade deals, and “screwing us” in all kinds of manners. He has promised to hold them accountable and negotiate hard if elected. He’s repeated “they’re laughing at us” so many times that it’s become an internet joke.
“The Trump Administration’s Relationship With China Just Started Off Badly,” the self-designated smart people at Vox wrote. It’s a wonder that this, and not his administration’s long-touted policy to confront China on every level, is what Vox thinks got the relationship off badly. “The very, very wrong foot,” they titled a section of their newsletter.
But is it really? Why is that? Once they’d polished off their Wikipedia search skills, the press informed us that it’s because since 1979, no U.S. president has spoken with the leader of free Taiwan. So, essentially, foreign policy wise man Jimmy Carter had cut a deal with a government that kills, imprisons and harvests dissidents, and wants more territory.
Carter is famous for squandering American interest in South America, Europe, Africa and, notably, Iran, and is frequently cited as an example of a failed foreign policy. Just last week, he wrote that he and his wife “remember fondly our visits with [Fidel Castro] in Cuba and his love of his country.” Days later, Trump, the guy who apparently upset America’s foreign policy wrote, “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.”
It is interesting, isn’t it?
China isn’t happy, of course. Their diplomat called the call “a petty action created by Taiwan,” and a formal complaint was apparently lodged with the government Trump will soon lead. Neither is a major reaction, likely because China is even more worried about a reasserted U.S. presence than reporters are over offending dictators.
Former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer recalled how when Bush was president, he couldn’t even call it the “government of Taiwan,” instead having to say “the government on Taiwan.” But, he added, “China has been increasingly aggressive with us because they know we won’t do anything meaningful about it. I don’t mind Trump pushing back.”
And he is, of course, correct.
For the past eight years, the United States has negotiated with our foes all over the planet like they are our equals. In Europe, Iran, Afghanistan and Cuba, we have made deals and arrangements with our enemies, trading access to trade, energy and technology in exchange for sweet nothings and outright betrayals, with, expectedly, little to show for it. “Terrible deals,” as the new guy would say. Donald Trump has made clear his intent to disrupt this order. That he is should be no surprise.