Best columns: International
How they see us: China won’t be bullied
Donald Trump is about to learn the limits of “wheeling and dealing,” said the South China Morning Post(China) in an editorial. The U.S. president-elect broke with diplomatic protocol earlier this month when he accepted a phone call from the Taiwanese leader—the first such contact between Taiwan and an American president or presidentelect since 1979, when the U.S. severed diplomatic ties with the breakaway province and recognized Taiwan as part of “One China.” Now Trump is threatening to scrap that understanding and treat Taiwan as an independent nation. “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a One China policy,” Trump told Fox News this week, “unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.” He seems to think he can use the status of Taiwan as a bargaining chip, perhaps offering to recognize the island as part of China only if Beijing changes its currency policies, makes trade concessions, or pressures North Korea over its nuclear program. But here, Trump has badly overplayed his hand. “Taiwan is a sovereignty issue and the bedrock of Sino-U.S. ties.” Its status cannot be traded away.
Trump is “as ignorant as a child in terms of foreign policy,” said Huanqiu Shibao(China). He wants to blow up decades of carefully negotiated agreements and undermine the world’s most important economic relationship? He will find that China can be just as impulsive as he is. Why should Beijing help Washington in any of its goals, whether in the Middle East or North Korea or anywhere else? “In response to Trump’s provocations, Beijing could offer support, even military assistance, to U.S. foes.” And if the U.S. openly supports Taiwanese independence, China’s top priority will be to “reunify Taiwan under its leadership with force.” Taiwanese authorities may soon “regret being a pawn of Trump and his radical policies.”
Taiwan should tread carefully, said the Taipei Times(Taiwan). “A war of nerves in the Asia-Pacific region is underway.” After Trump’s phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ingwen, Beijing flew long-range bombers and fighter jets around Taiwan’s airspace and very near Japanese islands, causing U.S. and Japanese planes to scramble. “All parties engaged in massive military mobilization,” and as China continues to test limits, “such events will become increasingly frequent.”
That’s why the belligerence of the incoming Trump administration is so worrying, said The China Post(Taiwan). Tsai thought she was being clever by cozying up to Trump, and it’s true he seems to be pro-Taiwan, not least because he has business interests here. But his policy is likely to be shaped by his advisers, who are nearly all “cold warriors with far-right and neoconservative political leanings.” These people are associates of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, a proponent of aggressive, unilateral, disastrous military campaigns “used to further the gains of corporate elites through profitable government contracts.” Those elites will get rich if the U.S. and China clash, but Taiwan could simply get crushed.
Taking a swing at Trump
La Crónica de Hoy
Mexicans may not like Donald Trump, said Leopoldo Mendívil, but we should certainly not “sink to his level.” This month, at an office Christmas party, leftist Mexican senators—including the president of the Senate, Pablo Escudero Morales of the Green Party—were photographed whacking away at a piñata of Trump. How they laughed and whooped as a hole opened to rain down candy and each blow took off another piece of the effigy. Finally, there remained “just the head, with its massive cap of blond hair, hanging from the rope.” This is the behavior of children, not lawmakers. Yes, Trump “has always been a jerk.” He called Mexicans rapists and criminals, and built his whole campaign around keeping us out of the U.S. Some of his own supporters already seem to find him a disappointment, and they may well throw him out of office before his term is up. But the fact remains that at least for some time Trump will be the leader of our neighbor and main trading partner. While Mexicans owe him no love, it is beneath the senators to “stage a burlesque act against the incoming president” when they should be “working on a strategy” to deal with him. It was pure “political idiocy,” and you can bet the thin-skinned Trump won’t let it slide.
Our women leaders are corrupt, too
Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
South Africa’s first woman president will likely be just as venal and corrupt as the male incumbent, said Onkgopotse JJ Tabane. President Jacob Zuma used $16 million in public funds to trick out his private home, and lavished public contracts on his cronies, so there are calls for Parliament—which appoints the president—to replace Zuma before his term ends in 2019. Yet the top contender to succeed him is no better: Bathabile Dlamini, the woman who “defended him for two years in Parliament when he refused to pay back the money.” As Zuma’s minister for social development, Dlamini presides over “one of the biggest cesspools of corruption in our body politic, where dead people receive grants and officials steal from the old and the crippled.” She got that post despite having already been convicted of fraud in a 2006 scandal, as one of the legislators who used parliamentary travel vouchers to pay for lavish trips for themselves and their families. Yet she may be the best of the candidates. Others include Zuma’s ex-wife, who was complicit in many of his crimes, and the speaker of Parliament’s lower house, a woman who was caught using a phony driver’s license. “It is truly a race to the bottom” to see which woman will be named “commander in thief.”