Trump’s Gunboat Diplomacy With China Has Begun

Contrary to the media’s first reaction, President-elect Donald Trump’s telephone conversation with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday was not a brainless blunder. It was in fact a planned first shot in the diplomatic and trade tug-o-war with China.

Immediately after Trump won the Nov. 8 election, his staffers compiled a list of foreign leaders with whom to arrange calls. “Very early on, Taiwan was on that list,” said Stephen Yates, a national security official during the presidency of George W. Bush and an expert on China and Taiwan. “Once the call was scheduled, I was told that there was a briefing for President-elect Trump. They knew that there would be reaction and potential blowback.”

Trump’s team knew that China would react, and in fact they reacted strongly, both in words and symbolic (for now) deeds.

Trump sent two Twitter messages Sunday that echoed his campaign-stump blasts against China.

“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 U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea?” he asked. “I don’t think so!”

The People’s Republic flew two nuclear-capable bombers around the nationalist Chinese island it claims as its own on Nov. 26, causing Japan to scramble F-15 jets to intercept.

“This was the first time that Chinese aircraft circled around Taiwan,” Deputy National Defense Minister Lee Hsi-ming said, adding that China has said similar flights would occur in the future according to Focus Taiwan News Channel.

“China has steadily built up a massive military capability in the area around Taiwan. This isn’t simply a matter of flying bombers. Understand that technically, we can’t object to flying bombers near Taiwan if we are flying combat aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft near China. This is simply legal under international law,” Anthony H. Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said. “Taiwan faces a much more serious Chinese challenge than it has ever faced before.”

China has long experience with “gunboat diplomacy.” In 1839, the British blockaded the Pearl River to force the Canton government to agree to terms in what became the First Opium War. That war is largely blamed by Chinese for the fall of the Qing dynasty and referred to as the “Century of Humiliation.”

America also used this kind of military extortion in the far east when Admiral Perry arrived at Edo Bay in Japan in 1852. Possibly an inspiration some of Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis, more colorful quotes, Perry displayed a white flag of truce while sending a letter telling the Japanese that should they choose to fight, he would destroy them all. He did this while firing blanks from the 73 cannon aboard his flagship, the Susquehanna.

Trump’s planned call from the Taiwanese president is the opening shot in a game of trade “war” where gunboat diplomacy is not out of the question, and the fate of Taiwan hangs in the balance. Let’s not mince words, there’s absolutely nothing America could do if the Chinese on the mainland decided to invade and take Taiwan, short of full-on war with our second largest trade partner. But let’s also recognize that such a course would be catastrophic for both China and for the United States (and the world economy).

This trade “war” is much more subtle than that, but it does involve a certain amount of eye-poking, cheek-slapping, and gauntlet-throwing. The Chinese seem to be prepared for this. Knowing Trump’s history, he’s unlikely to back down publicly, but will negotiate privately for his goals.

What we don’t really know (other than “Make America Great Again”) is what Trump’s specific bargaining goals are. He’s almost certainly not going to tell the press (because then he’d be held accountable).

Trump has not even taken office, and he’s already positioning America for the kind of winning he sold voters on. It’s not very clear at all how he’ll do it, or if we will actually win–never mind the 23.5 million souls who live on an island just 125 miles off the coast of the biggest remaining communist power on earth.

Trump’s Taiwan Call Was a Good Thing

The United States has had a defense relationship with Taiwan going back to the Carter Administration and it only strengthened through Ronald Reagan’s tenure in office. But the United States has always tried to placate China.

The problem with placating China is that in the last number of years China has more and and more decided that it not only does not need our cooperative friendship, but it also thinks we will hinder its new expansionist tendencies.

I am no China expert, and I have noticed a lot of people who must have stayed in Holiday Inn Expresses lately given their immediate career change into Chinese experts, but this Trump call does not bother me at all. I have long hoped a President would do it to send an appropriate signal to China.

That Trump did it while not yet in the White House was smart on his part because he did it and can get it away with it as a private citizen.

Those people saying he did this solely because he has business interests in Taiwan are being silly. Trump does not want the Taiwan market at the expense of the Chinese market where this is more money. He potentially precludes himself from access to that market now.

When Reagan became President, the same class of people freaking out about Donald Trump calling Taiwan’s President also freaked out about Reagan rejected long held assumptions in our relationship with the Soviet Union. We forget now, but in the sixties and seventies, American elites had settled on a notion of detente with the Soviets where we and they would each have our spheres of influence. As the Soviets tried stretching their legs, we’d try diplomatically engaging them.

It did not work.

Giving head pats to China and following their lead makes them the leader in the relationship and they are not. But a growing number of American elites have been peddling a theory for almost a decade now that the 21st century would be China’s century. Just as demography meant the GOP would never win another Presidential election after 2008, destiny meant China is on the rise and we are old and weak.

The more Trump rejects that notion, the more the elites will complain and the better off we will be.

Barack Obama is a Moral Coward and Fluffer of Totalitarians

President Obama has decided to greet Pope Francis with transgendered activists, the first gay Episcopal Bishop who is now already divorced, and activist Catholic nuns. The Vatican is not happy about it and is pushing back.

On the eve of Pope Francis’s arrival in the U.S., the Vatican has taken offense at the Obama administration’s decision to invite to the pope’s welcome ceremony transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an activist nun who leads a group criticized by the Vatican for its silence on abortion and euthanasia.

The Obama Administration is no doubt thrilled to make a show of it and push a secularist, anti-Catholic agenda while embarrassing Pope Francis and putting the Pope in an awkward political position.

According to a senior Vatican official, the Holy See worries that any photos of the pope with these guests at the White House welcoming ceremony next Wednesday could be interpreted as an endorsement of their activities.

But Barack Obama would never do this if the Pope was a major trading partner, had a military, or was a totalitarian despot who snuffed out human rights activists.

This was, after all, the President of the United States who sent the Dalai Lama out the back door by the trash so as not to offend the Chinese.

This is the President who turned his back on the Iranian Green Revolution so he could do business with Iran’s totalitarian dictators.

The Chinese Premier is coming for a state visit. What are the odds that the President will greet him with Tibetan dissidents and Taiwanese freedom protestors. What are the odds there will be any there who fled after Tiananmen? I put the odds and slightly less than zero.

Then, of course, there are the Cubans. The President did nothing to work to improve the situation of Cuban human rights activists in jail. He turned a blind eye to them while trying to improve relations with that totalitarian regime.

But the Pope? Oh, we can greet the Pope with transgendered activists, gay rights activists, and Catholics who disagree with the Pope on Catholic doctrine. That’s really standing up to power and speaking truth!!

President Obama, in fact, is only willing to stand up and speak truth when it costs him nothing. He’s never met a totalitarian he wasn’t willing to kneel in front of.