It may have been a blunder, but it wasn’t an accidentby Andrew Stuttaford / December 7, 2016 / Leave a comment
When Metternich heard the news that Talleyrand, the legendarily devious French diplomat and statesman, had died he is said to have asked “I wonder what he meant by that?” While the connection between Metternich, Talleyrand and Donald Trump is not obvious, China’s leaders may now be asking themselves a similar question about a series of tweets by America’s next president—and the phone call that set them off.
Let’s start with the phone call. On Friday, Trump’s staff announced that The Donald had had a telephone conversation with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, effectively, and publicly, ignoring a long-standing taboo. Officially at least, no American president (or, it is thought, president-elect) has talked to his Taiwanese counterpart since the 1970s, the decade in which the US recognized the People’s Republic as the sole legal government of a China that included Taiwan. Unsurprisingly, those in charge in Beijing were less than thrilled to hear about Trump’s chat with the head of what they see as a fugitive province. “Solemn representations” were lodged with the US.
On the other hand, Beijing initially also seemed willing to put the whole incident down to inexperience and widespread suspicions that Trump simply did not know what he was doing were reinforced by a tweet he sent the