1.Mr. Donald Trump broke with 37 years of diplomatic practice and accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen. How do you read the message that Mr. Trump wanted to deliver?

At this point it’s not clear whether he intends simply to upgrade the protocol status of Taiwan in American diplomacy (as both Reagan and Clinton did to some extent) or whether he really wants to challenge the long-standing “one China policy”, which would be a strategic change. Whichever it is, he seems to be delivering a couple of messages. One is to the American conservative movement, which has long chafed at the US government’s failure to treat Taiwan the way they think it should be treated, given that it’s a stable democracy and a long-standing strategic partner. The other message is to Beijing, which is that Trump is a tough negotiator who is willing to use various chess pieces to demand better treatment from China on issues where he thinks the US has been mistreated.



2. What does that mean to the US-Taiwan relations?

It may turn out to mean little more than a protocol upgrade. But it could also lead to more substantive things, like stronger US support for Taiwan’s participation in intergovernmental organizations, advancing trade and investment negotiations between the two sides, or enhanced military sales and cooperation. I highly doubt it would lead to the US encouraging Taiwan to declare independence (that would be so dangerous). However, I worry that it is not in Taiwan’s interest to become a bargaining chip in the Washington-Beijing relationship. If Trump intends to use Taiwan in that way, Taiwan should avoid being trapped in such a situation.



3. After the phone call, China has sent its military aircraft flying around Taiwan twice within two weeks. How do we interpret the Chinese intention? 

Gaining control (in some form - looser or tighter, I don’t know which) over Taiwan is a core security interest of China - not only for emotional, historical, or political reasons but for reasons of geopolitics, which are the kind of reasons that do not go away. China is determined to gain that control, and I believe they will take any actions necessary to prevent an erosion of the position they have already achieved (that is, US “acknowledgment” and “recognition” that “all Chinese on either side of the TW Strait” recognize TW as part of one China plus stronger and stronger economic ties with TW plus TW diplomatic isolation plus military superiority across the Strait). If there is backsliding sponsored by the US, I expect China to ramp up pressure on TW in every way - military, economic, diplomatic, and political.



4.  Will there be more regional conflict in East Asia due to the uncertainty of Trump's policy?

Yes, it’s very possible. That could include conflict over TW, or North Korea, over the Senkakus, over the So China Sea. “Conflict” is a broad term. It could include rising political tensions, rising military tensions, or even armed clashes. I don’t expect a major war, however.

5. Under the Trump administration, do you think Taiwan will encounter a more stable or a challenging situation in the future?

Of course it is still very early and Trump has not told us much about his policies, so we don’t know. But his style so far is to oscillate between being Mr. Nice Guy and Mr. Tough Guy, and it’s hard to discern strategic principles that guide him. The cabinet members and advisers he is appointing seem to hold opinions on various issues that contradict one another. He has many enemies in Congress even among Republicans. The overall picture looks very challenging and unstable, not only for Taiwan but for everybody else as well.



6. In this circumstance, what is your suggestion to the DPP government? How should it deal with Trump and China?

I don’t like to give advice to countries where I am not a citizen. I prefer to occupy the position of an analyst. As an analyst, I can say that it is not in Taiwan’s interest to be used as a bargaining chip in Trump’s or America’s deal-making. Reagan’s Six Principles constituted a promise that Taiwan would not be a bargaining chip. How one avoids being made into a bargaining chip is a question I can’t answer.



7. According to Trump's response to this issue recently, do you think he has adequate understanding about both Taiwan and China as well as the cross-Strait situation?

It’s very hard to tell how much he understands intellectually. I consider his behavior dangerous, but I don’t know whether he’s doing (what I think are) wrong things because he doesn’t understand, or because he understands but seeks different goals from those that previous presidents have sought, or whether he understands and seeks similar goals but has a different idea of the proper tactics to achieve those goals. 



8. During the Bush government, both political and economic dialogues have been conducted between the US and China. The Obama administration combined these two dialogues as a strategic and economic dialogue. Do you think Mr. Trump will continue the long-standing practice or what kind of adjustment he will make?


We have no information about this on which to base a judgment. I can only guess. I guess (1) given the complexity of the US China relationship it is necessary to have dialogues (2) given Trump’s desire to overthrow all precedents, he’ll set up a different framework for doing so (3) given his personalized, impulsive managing style, it may be a less institutionalized form of dialogue.

9. Is it possible to develop a regular high level dialogue between the Trump administration and the Taiwan government in the future?

Maybe. I don’t know whether this has been discussed within the Trump camp or not.