Why Are People Making Such a Big Deal about the Trump-Taiwan Call?

WORLD

With a roughly 10-minute phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, President-elect Donald Trump broke from nearly 40 years of U.S. policy in Asia and probably complicated relations among the United States, China, and Taiwan. What’s the big deal? (Washington Post)

Use our resources to take a look at a brief history of the “Two Chinas.”

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Click to zoom, zoom, zoom in on this classic 1980 National Geographic map of the “Peoples of China.” Han Chinese are the most populous ethnic group in both the People’s Republic of China (sometimes called “Mainland China”) and the Republic of China (sometimes called “Taiwan” or “Chinese Taipei”). Indigenous Taiwanese groups are considered Austronesian peoples—on our map, called Malay-Polynesian. Map by National Geographic magazine

Click to zoom, zoom, zoom in on this classic 1980 National Geographic map of the “Peoples of China.” Han Chinese are the most populous ethnic group in both the People’s Republic of China (sometimes called “Mainland China”) and the Republic of China (sometimes called “Taiwan” or “Chinese Taipei”). Indigenous Taiwanese
groups are considered Austronesian peoples—on our map, called Malay-Polynesian.
Map by National Geographic magazine

Discussion Ideas

  • The president of Taiwan is just one of more than a dozen world leaders president-elect Donald Trump has called (or accepted calls from) since winning the presidency last month. Isn’t this normal?
    • No. Traditionally, presidents wait for briefings from the State Department. Calls to the president or president-elect are also usually vetted and verified by staff.
      • President Barack Obama, for instance, made no calls on election day in 2008, when he won the presidency for the first time. He spent days in briefings, and made initial contacts, with strong U.S. allies (Australia, United Kingdom, Canada) two days after the election.

 

 

 

  • Why was the conversation so groundbreaking?
    • No U.S. president or president-elect has spoken directly with a Taiwanese president since 1979.

 

 

  • So what does this have to do with Taiwan? Read our super-short resource on the “Two Chinas” for some help.
    • It’s a big “so what.” The People’s Republic of China (PRC, or China) considers the island of Taiwan (home to the Republic of China (ROC)) to be a part of China, not an independent country.
      • The Republic of China was established in 1949 as the Nationalists, or Kuomintang, fell to the Communists in the Chinese Civil War. The defeated Nationalists moved their capital from Beijing to Taipei, on the island of Taiwan.
        • The Kuomintang continue to be one of the major political parties in Taiwan, and support eventual unification with mainland China. (Tsai Ing-Wen, Taiwan’s first female president, represents the Democratic Progressive Party and favors Taiwanese independence.)
      • The PRC is a communist country with a command economy. The ROC is a democratic state with a capitalist economy. The Two Chinas issue is called the “Taiwan issue” in the PRC and the “Mainland issue” in Taiwan.

 

  • The Washington Post notes that “China’s hypersensitivity to questions about Taiwan’s status cannot be overstated.” How has the world acquiesced to China’s sensitivity?
    • The Republic of China (Taiwan) lost its seat at the United Nations when the UN recognized the PRC in 1971.
    • Fewer than two dozen countries maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
    • At the Olympics, Taiwanese athletes compete for “Chinese Taipei,” as the name “Republic of China” offends its big brother on the mainland.

 

 

 

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Washington Post: Why people are making such a big deal about the Trump-Taiwan call

CNN: Donald Trump’s Phone Calls with World Leaders

Nat Geo: Two Chinas article

Nat Geo: Peoples of China map

Nat Geo: People’s Republic of China map

Nat Geo: Republic of China map

U.S. State Department: Taiwan

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