The Donald Trump phone conversation that led to an official complaint from Beijing was a calculated move, not an innocent congratulatory call or a blunder made by a man with no knowledge of foreign policy, insiders tell the Washington Post. Instead, the provocative conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was a deliberate effort to break with the previous 37 years of US policy on Taiwan and had been planned for months, the sources say. They say the move was the product of talks between Trump aides, many of whom are hawkish on China, and their Taiwanese counterparts. In other developments:
- Adding to the controversy, Trump used his medium of choice to harshly criticize China on Sunday. "Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the US doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea?" he tweeted. "I don't think so!"
- Hours before Trump's tweetburst, Mike Pence tried to downplay the importance of the Taiwan call, reports the Guardian. "He received a courtesy call from the democratically elected president of Taiwan," the vice president-elect told ABC's This Week. "They reached out to offer congratulations as leaders around the world have and he took the call, accepted her congratulations and good wishes, and it was precisely that." On NBC, Pence described the furor as a "tempest in a teapot" and wondered why Trump is getting a hard time now when Obama was "hailed as a hero" for reaching out to a "murdering dictator in Cuba."
- Analysts tell CNNMoney that Trump's criticisms of China would have been valid years ago but are now outdated: The country is now fighting to keep its currency from falling further, not to keep the yuan low to boost exports.
- The South China Morning Post reports that the position Trump has adopted on China is consistent with policies he has been advocating for at least 30 years. In the 1980s, he repeatedly slammed Japan, then America's main economic rival, for allegedly dumping cheap goods on the US market. In 1987, he took out full-page newspaper ads calling for more backbone in US foreign policy.
- The AP reports that China has responded fairly mildly to Trump's latest comments, with Foreign Minister Lu Kang saying Monday that the government won't comment on Trump's personality or on his tweets, but that it continues to hope for a "sound and a stable bilateral relationship." An editorial in the government-run Global Times blamed Taiwan for the controversy. Trump "has zero diplomatic experience and is unaware of the repercussions of shaking up Sino-US relations," the paper said. "It is certain that Trump doesn't want a showdown with China, because it is not his ambition, and neither was it included in his promise to the electorate. He puts out feelers to sound China out and chalk up some petty benefits."
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