A Taiwanese-Canadian Perspective on the Trump-Taiwan Phone Call Controversy

The American President-Elect called the newly-elected Taiwanese President. As a native of Taiwan living in Canada who doesn’t like Donald Trump, I am now in an awkward position.

The placement of hands illustrates the relationships between the three countries. (Image credit)

What the heck happened?

On Friday, December 2nd, newly-elected President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen (Taiwan’s first female President), called United States President-Elect Donald Trump to, allegedly, congratulate him. This call, however, was more than your average congratulatory call. The U.S. does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country, as part of the “One China Policy” that treats Taiwan as a part of China, and there has been no official contact between American and Taiwanese Presidents since 1979. The keyword here is official, because the U.S. still conducts business with Taiwan (who is their 9th largest trade partner), as Trump correctly (never thought I would ever type those two words side-by-side) pointed out:

That tweet was a follow-up regarding his tweet from earlier the same day:

Herein lies the issue. Donald Trump not only took a call from the President of Taiwan, he announced that he did it, and referred to Tsai Ing-Wen as the President of Taiwan. This is a sore spot for China (and Americans who do not want to disturb the peace with China) because acknowledging Tsai Ing-Wen as the President of Taiwan implies that Taiwan is independent of China (a view I and most Taiwanese people share). China would undoubtedly view this as an act of disrespect, which could then be a potential source of conflict between the U.S. and China down the road, hence the flak Trump received.

Taiwan vs. China

As alluded to above, I (and, I am quite comfortable saying, all) Taiwanese individuals strongly believe Taiwan to be Taiwan, and not part of China, or “The Republic of China”, as referred to by China and many entities of the world who adopt the One China Policy. We feel a strong sense of pride being from Taiwan, a country that is one of the most progressive countries in the East, a country that not only has the densest population of convenient stores (you can pretty much stand at any 7–11 and have two more within sight), but the greatest convenient stores, and a country we do not hesitate to stand up for when people fail to distinguish Taiwan from China. This pride and need for clear distinction is one that is not exclusive to Taiwanese people and Taiwan, but one that anybody can have, regardless of creed, colour, or gender.

The U.S. and Donald Trump

When Donald Trump announced he was running for President over a year ago, I thought it was a joke. After the campaigning began and we heard some of what Trump wanted to do, I thought he was the joke. On November 8th, 2016, I stayed up to follow the election results (and truly realized how odd of a system the Electoral College is); it was like reality TV, except real and with stakes that were equally, and probably too, real. When Trump established a worrisome lead, I was legitimately nervous, and, again, I live in Canada.

With this phone call controversy, I’m put in an odd situation. I struggle to find any part of Donald Trump that is worth liking, yet I love what he did and is doing. Yes, I am very aware he might have his own motives (e.g., his personal business relationship with China and his potential Trump hotel in Taiwan), but at the end of the day, he’s standing up to and not backing down from China, and I think any Taiwanese individual can find some solace in that. On top of that, I’m a Canadian living in Canada, so the detrimental effects Trump’s actions may or may not have, has minimal effect on me. So now I’m in this awkward situation of loving something a person whom I despise did. Could it be true? Could the enemy of my enemy really be my friend?


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