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.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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