Donald Trump’s telephone conversation with the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen was a massive break with established policy – which will be greeted with shock in Beijing. When the US re-established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1979, it also severed diplomatic links with Taiwan. Since then there have been no direct conversations between the leaders of the US and Taiwan.
The stakes involved in the triangular relationship between Taipei, Beijing and Washington could not be higher. The Chinese government has repeatedly stressed that it is prepared to go to war, rather than accept Taiwanese independence. The US, while it does not promote the independence of Taiwan, has also promised to resist any attempt to incorporate Taiwan into China by force. I have personally witnessed a conversation between Chinese officials and high-ranking Americans, in which the US side has said openly that a Chinese attack on Taiwan would lead to war between the US and China. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Some years ago, I made a futile attempt to persuade a Chinese diplomat that Taiwan should be allowed to declare independence – if that is what its people want. “If Scotland voted to be a separate nation,” I argued, “England would not stop it.” The diplomat smiled sceptically, like a man recognising a particularly crude falsehood. “I know that’s not true,” he said. “England would never accept Scottish independence. It would invade.”
♦ “There is no such thing as good timing for a government when political scandal erupts,” says Hugh Carnegy, “but the tax fraud affair that has brought low François Hollande has hit the French president at a moment of severe economic difficulty.” Dominique Moïsi thinks Hollande must heed the lessons of Louis XVI: “in the wake of the Cahuzac scandal, France’s president looks ever more like a modern Louis XVI – the king guillotined by revolutionaries.”
♦ The FT looks at how Taiwan needs sweeping reform to preserve its status as one of Asia’s great successes.
♦ A recording of a private meeting between Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, and his campaign aides shows how they considered using Ashley Judd’s mental health and religion against her as political ammunition. Mother Jones, who published it, is also looking at the ethical questions it raises about McConnell’s staff.
♦ Sri Srinivasan, the Obama administration’s principal deputy solicitor general, is a candidate for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. According to Jeffrey Toobin, “if Srinivasan passes this test and wins confirmation, he’ll be on the Supreme Court before President Obama’s term ends.”
♦ Jon Lee Anderson at the New Yorker looks back at the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Augusto Pinochet. On the basis of that he argues that, “In a country where, for decades, history was buried, it is fitting for Chileans to dig up [Pablo] Neruda to find out the truth of what happened to him.” Comedian Russell Brand recalls a chance encounter with Margaret Thatcher and the less coincidental legacy she left: “She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism.”
♦ The BBC has been looking at the changing state of modern journalism. Frank Rich, writing for New York magazine, thinks when it comes to journalism, “the last thing the news business needs is a case of nostalgia.” Read more
China’s definition of what constitutes its “core interest” appears to be spreading. Such interests used to be confined to a few areas, about which the Communist party would brook absolutely no dissenting view. These included its national security, national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Tibet, where there is a strong separatist element, quite obviously forms part of China’s definition of territorial integrity. So does the island of Taiwan, ceded to Japan in 1895, and now a self-governed democracy. Beijing has made clear that, if Taiwan were ever to declare formal independence, it would invade. More recently, the term has been applied to Xinjiang, the huge area of western China that has been the scene of clashes between local Muslims and Han Chinese. Read more