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A Trump Turn on Taiwan?

A Trump Turn on Taiwan?

As the US and China face off on trade, a growing diplomatic tit-for-tat is brewing in the background. Last month, El Salvador cut ties with Taiwan, leaving it with just 17 diplomatic allies. The Trump administration expressed disappointment.


This week, Washington dialed things up a few notches by recalling its envoys to El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Panama to protest their decisions to end relations with Taiwan, despite the fact that the US closed its own embassy there nearly 40 years ago.

What if Trump’s next move it to reopen that embassy? Unthinkable? Might Trump make this threat precisely to increase his leverage in US-China trade negotiations?

How’d we get here? In 1979, the United States entered into one of the most awkward diplomatic arrangements of the past half century. To open relations with China, President Jimmy Carter decided to acknowledge China’s so-called “One China” principle, which states that Taiwan is part of China, but without endorsing it. The US agreed that China considers Taiwan a breakaway province, and China agreed to ignore the fact that the US does not explicitly agree.

Next steps illustrate the contradiction on the US side. Washington withdrew diplomatic recognition of Taiwan and closed its embassy in Taipei, but Congress also passed the “Taiwan Relations Act,” which commits the US to “provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character” and to defend Taiwan against attack.

By opening political and economic relations between the United States and China, this much-criticized arrangement helped the US win the Cold War, China rise from poverty to prosperity, and Taiwan benefit from China’s boom.

Over the years, China has pressured numerous governments to cut ties with Taiwan. China has repeatedly warned the US and others not to interfere in this diplomatic offensive.

Fast forward to 2016. After he was elected president in November, Trump warned he would revisit foreign policies he felt deserved a second look. In December, he held a 10-minute phone conversation with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, the first call between US and Taiwanese heads of state since 1979. China responded with fury.

In January 2017, Trump upped the stakes by insisting that "Everything is under negotiation, including One China." Then in February, he backtracked and eased tensions by expressing support for the policy during a call with China’s Xi Jinping.

Today, the Trump administration is waging trade war on China, even as President Trump has made a notable effort to keep warm personal relations with Xi. But as I’ve written in the past, Taiwan has again become a flashpoint in relations between the US and China.

What’s to stop Trump from reopening—or threatening to reopen—relations with Taiwan?

Xi has made China’s reintegration of Taiwan a long-term strategic and personal priority. His credibility is on the line with China’s people and with the leaders of its armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army. But would Xi Jinping really launch a military strike in response to Trump’s decision to reopen an embassy?

Given the stakes, and Trump’s penchant for unpredictability, these are questions we should consider.

Meet Alessandra Cominetti, a recipient of MIT Technology Review Magazine's Innovators Under 35 award. As a lab technician at Eni's Research Centre for Renewable Energy in Novara, Alessandra has devoted her career to finding new solutions and materials to optimize solar energy. Much like the serendipitous encounter that resulted in her employment, her eagerness and willingness to try new things allowed her to stumble upon a material for the creation of portable solar panels.

Watch her remarkable story on the latest episode of Faces of Eni.

"If [the election] is very close and it ends up in the courts, that kind of protracted situation I think will lead many Americans to believe that it was an unfair election." Rick Hasen, election law expert and author of Election Meltdown, lays out some of the worst-case scenarios for Election Day, ranging from unprecedented voter suppression to dirty tricks by foreign actors. The conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. The episode begins airing nationally in the US on public television this Friday, October 30. Check local listings.

Joe Biden has vowed to radically change the US' approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy should he win next week's election.

But a lot has happened in four years under Donald Trump that could impede Biden's ability to simply return to the status quo ante. How different would US foreign policy really be under a Biden presidency? What will the two-term former vice president likely be able to change, and what's bound to remain the same, at least for now?

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On Wednesday, November 4 at 11a EST, we're gathering a panel to discuss "What Just Happened" with the US election. GZERO Media's Ian Bremmer, Tony Maciulis and Alex Kliment will be joined by The Washington Post's Karen Attiah and Eurasia Group's Jon Lieber. Watch live at: gzeromedia.com/gzerolive.

Decision 2020: What Just Happened? Wednesday, November 4, 11a EST/8a PST

Panelists:

Bookmark this link to watch live: gzeromedia.com/gzerolive

Add to your calendar:

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director for the United States at the Eurasia Group, shares his perspective on a special US election edition of US Politics In 60 Seconds:

So, we're about five days out from the election right now.

And the story of this week has been the remarkably steady polling lead for Joe Biden that he's had for months now. The other big story is the turnout, massive amounts of turnout. 100% of the 2016 vote already cast in Texas. 60% nationwide votes already cast. We are headed for record shattering turnout, could be around 155 million Americans voting.

On election night, what are we watching for?

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