The phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday was set up well in advance and provocative on purpose, people involved with the planning told The Washington Post Sunday.
The U.S. has a military relationship with Taiwan, but closed its embassy there in 1979, and leaders from the two countries have not spoken since. Beijing views Taiwan as a province, and suggested the phone call was a clear example of Trump's inexperience. Some advisers are calling on Trump to take an aggressive approach to relations with China, and many on his transition team are seen as being hawkish on China, including incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus, the Post says.
Plans for Friday's call were being developed before Trump even became the Republican nominee, people involved with the plan told the Post, and the goal was to set him apart from previous presidents. At July's Republican National Convention, the party platform included a phrase, inserted by Trump allies, that reaffirmed assurances made to Taiwan by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, as well as tougher language toward China. The call is being touted by the Trump camp as being a congratulatory call placed by Tsai, whose office said she told Trump she is hopeful the United States will "continue to support more opportunities for Taiwan to participate in international issues." Those close to the situation told the Post that while this was a calculated communication, it does not signify a formal shift in U.S. relations with Taiwan or China, and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters Sunday "everyone should just calm down."
The New York Times is also reporting that in September, a woman saying she was a representative of Trump's company went to Taiwan to get information on Taoyuan Aerotropolis, the biggest development project in Taiwan's history. The mayor of the area said investment opportunities were discussed, but no agreement was ever made. Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller told the Times there have been "no authorized visits to Taiwan on behalf of our brand for the purposes of development," and there were "no plans for expansion into Taiwan."