He’s still more than a month and a half away from officially becoming our president, but Donald Trump is already making quite an impression among leaders around the world. We already know that he and Vladimir Putin get along well, and it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that a number of other authoritarian bros seem happy to see his election. However, not everybody is so pleased with the president-elect:
US State Department officials may have grumbled about the President-elect conducting “congratulations conversations” with leaders such as Japan’s Shinzō Abe in the absence of US diplomats, which is the usual process.
And figures such as former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer may have huffed and puffed about the impropriety, or otherwise, of a foreign country releasing the transcript of such conversations.
What happened during Trump’s call with Sharif? Well, let the Pakistani government explain:
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called President-elect USA Donald Trump and felicitated him on his victory. President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.
On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump.
Now, you know, maybe Sharif’s office is being a little loose with the readout here, but if they are, they sure did capture Trump’s voice. But for Trump, who had a big Hindu fan club during the election, to slobber all over Sharif like this is not only an affront to his fans but also a pretty serious international issue. Pakistan and India are having some problems these days, as you may have heard, and so it’s no surprise that India didn’t react too well to the reports about Trump’s chat with Sharif:
“We have seen the reports of the conversation (between Trump and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif) that were one-sided and claimed the President-elect promised to help Pakistan with all outstanding issues,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup, when asked about the statement that was issued by the Pakistan government that hinted that Trump would be willing to intervene on Pakistan’s behalf.
“We look forward to the President-elect helping Pakistan address the most outstanding of its outstanding issues – terrorism,” Swarup added in deadpan.
The Pakistani statement had claimed that Trump had heaped praise on Sharif during a telephone conversation. Trump purportedly told Sharif that he feels like he’s “talking to a person I have known for long” and that Pakistanis “are one of the most intelligent people.”
Of to a great start in US-India relations! And today, Trump added himself to another country’s shit list: China’s. How? Well, apparently among the other world leaders Trump’s been calling, he decided to throw in a talk with Tsai Ing-wen, the recently elected President of Taiwan. No big deal, right? Well, kind of; see, no US president (or president-elect) has spoken with a Taiwanese leader since 1979. That’s a long time! But when Washington decided to adopt the One China Policy, in order to normalize relations with the People’s Republic of China, it had to sever ties with the Republic of China, AKA Taiwan, in the process. Direct leader-to-leader talks were one aspect of the US-Taiwan relationship that had to go by the wayside. Not only are US-Taiwanese contacts problematic in general from Beijing’s perspective, but talking with President Tsai in particular is problematic because, while she’s never come out openly in favor of declaring Taiwan’s independence from mainland China, she seems to be at least open to the idea. This is also a major red flag for the PRC. So, hey, I wonder how Beijing will react (UPDATE: so far they seem to be blaming Taiwan for the call, which I suppose is the diplomatic thing to do)?
Now, don’t get me wrong; if the worst thing Donald Trump does as president is piss off the repressive and increasingly dictatorial Chinese government over Taiwan, I’ll be the first to say his presidency has been a great foreign policy success. But the problem here isn’t that Trump may have irritated Beijing, it’s that Trump seems to prefer flying by the seat of his pants when it comes to talking to foreign leaders, and when you’re, with all due respect, a gibbering idiot, that kind of attitude can get you into a lot of problems. Fortunately, Trump is in no way a gibbering idio–oh, right.
Also, when you’re a gibbering idiot whose first and only genuine interest is in grifting your way to more riches, you sometimes threaten to upend 37 years of American foreign policy just because you’re looking to build another tacky resort:
Despite the historically frosty relations between the United States and Taiwan, Trump picked up the phone to peak with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, incensing Beijing according to geopolitical experts.
As it turns out, the head-scratching move by Trump may not be so surprising afterall. The Gothamist LLC publication Shanghaiist—which covers news and events in China—Trump is eyeing Taiwan as his next location for a series of luxury hotels and resorts.
In November, the mayor of Taoyuan, Taiwan confirmed to China Times that a representative from the Trump Organization visited the municipality in September. Reports indicate Trump’s son Eric Trump will visit Taiwan later this year to discuss “a large-scale urban development project aimed at capitalizing on Taoyuan’s status as a transport hub for East Asia.”
See, there’s challenging the One China Policy out of some sense that it’s wrong in principle, and there’s challenging the One China Policy because you don’t know there is a One China Policy, or you don’t really know what the One China Policy is, and/or because you’d like to get a good deal on some primo Taiwanese real estate. The former would be bold, maybe even noble, provided you had a plan to deal with the Chinese response. Any or all of the latter are, to be blunt, terrifying.