In his book, Rogin writes that the global establishment was shocked when Trump unexpectedly won the election on Nov. 8, 2016. Some people, both in the United States and in mainland China, wondered what kind of leader Trump would be. Would the tough language he used in his campaign against the Chinese Communist Party become the basis for a new U.S. foreign policy?
Trump-Tsai call sends shockwaves
The timing came soon after, when Trump took a congratulatory call from Tsai Ing-wen on Dec. 2, 2016, when a White House press release said the president had taken a call from “the president of Taiwan.”
This subtle gesture, which broke a four-decade practice between the U.S. and China, sent shockwaves throughout Washington and Asia. Because the Chinese Communist Party considers Taiwan a “core interest,” it is not negotiable and is off-limits to the Chinese Communist Party.
A week later, on Dec. 9, in the office of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi expressed strong displeasure, testing the “strength and weakness” of the Trump team’s response while sternly rebuking (berate) the U.S. side, Rogin writes.
Every small interaction between Washington and Taipei is a reason for diplomatic protest from the Chinese Communist Party, Rokin said. It is not clear whether this was part of Trump’s plan to crack down on the Chinese Communist Party or whether it was an accident.
Most leftist media at the Time criticized Trump saying that the president-elect was either a reckless hawk on China or a naive and bumbling novice diplomat.
The different versions that led to the Trump-Tsai call
According to Rogin, several different versions of the Trump-Trump call were circulated, with the “most often reported” version being that of the New York Times and other media outlets, which was largely accepted by the Washington establishment, but which was considered the least credible by those directly involved. least believed.
According to the New York Times, the Trump-Tsai call was made possible by former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, who has a lobbying firm that receives $280,000 a year in funding from the Republic of China government. It was Dole’s behind-the-scenes operation that “established high-level contacts between Taiwanese officials and President-elect Trump’s staff.
But Trump transition team members directly involved in the matter denied it, saying the Trump-Tsai call was facilitated by former Pentagon official Randy Schriver, who headed a small think tank called the Project 2049 Institute. Project 2049 Institute, a small think tank funded in part by the Republic of China government.
Schriver contacted a friend of his who worked on the State Department’s transition team. Xue told the friend that he had discussed the possibility of a Chuan-Tsai call with ROC government officials. The staffer added the call, from Taiwan, to Trump’s call list and sent it to Trump Tower in New York.
Trump made the call that day until he reached the last one on the list: Taiwan,” Rogin wrote. According to White House insiders, there was so much confusion during the transition that no one caught it in time and no one stopped it.”
Steve Bannon, then Trump’s chief strategist, disputed that, however, with Bannon insisting that Trump was briefed on the call ahead of time and that both Bannon and Kushner had warned Trump that the Chinese Communist government would protest.
In Bannon’s view, provoking Beijing‘s ire was a good thing, Rogin said. Bannon said Trump felt the same way.
Bannon told Trump, “If you take this call, it will unleash shock bombs in this place (the United States), but you will put the Chinese Communist Party in a difficult position.” Trump replied, “Well then, I will definitely (DEFINITELY) take the call.”
The explosive call was then dismissed by the media as a foolish gaffe, or reckless provocation.
Bannon said Trump was surprised by the Washington media’s reaction to the call, though not at all surprised by Beijing’s reaction.
According to Rogin, at least everyone involved agreed that Trump was angry. The next day, Trump explained himself, posting on Twitter that he had not initiated the call, but that “the President of Taiwan called me today to congratulate me on winning the presidency, thank you!”
This puts Beijing in a difficult position. The call with Taiwan’s leader was seen by the Communist Party as an “offense” that could not be ignored.
Kushner arranged the first Trump-Xi call
Rokin said Xi wanted to go to Mar-a-Lago to strengthen ties with Trump, but he could not lose face. The Sichuan-Cai call must be retracted (walked back). Otherwise, Xi Jinping would be seen as giving in to the core issues of the Communist Party from the start.
According to Rogin, Trump wants to repair his relationship with Xi. Trump believes that China and the United States are like two giant companies, and Xi is the CEO of the other company. To have productive negotiations, one needs to get on good terms with the other CEO, at least at the beginning. A close personal relationship with Xi Jinping is a prerequisite for a deal.
So Kushner worked with the Communist ambassador to devise a plan to break the impasse,” writes Rogin. “On the evening of Feb. 9, after most of the White House staff had gone Home, Kushner called Bannon and (then) Secretary of State Tillerson to the White House. There, Trump took a call from Xi Jinping. And as Kushner had arranged, his father-in-law promised Xi Jinping directly that he would no longer take calls from the Taiwanese leader.”
In the official White House statement for the call, Deputy National Security Adviser Bomen, made a small change to the text, which originally read: “Trump will pledge to respect the One China Policy,” but Bomen changed it to read: “At the request of President Xi President Xi, President Trump has agreed to respect our One China Policy. This change maintains the historical U.S. position that there is ambiguity as to whether the United States agrees with Beijing’s claims regarding what it considers a renegade province.
The call removed an obstacle to the Trump-Xi Lakehead summit, said Michael Pillsbury, adding that Kushner provided the meeting Trump was seeking, putting the president’s son-in-law firmly in the driver’s seat of U.S.-China policy.
Not everyone is happy with the outcome, Rogin said. Bannon, for example, was furious. He sees the call as a naive concession by Kushner and a misstep by Trump: “Why would we take a call from Xi? We have all the leverage. Xi Jinping was very eager (was dying to) go to Lakehead Manor.”