Trump calls out China on Twitter after breaking protocol with Taiwan call
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Trump calls out China on Twitter after breaking protocol with Taiwan call

AFTER irking China and sparking a media frenzy with his historic call with Taiwan last Friday, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump had yet another go at the rising Asian powerhouse two days later, this time critiquing the country’s economic and military policy on Twitter.

In two back-to-back postings, Trump, who is just weeks away from becoming one of the most powerful leaders in the world, accused Beijing of manipulating currency, unfairly taxing U.S. products and taking military control of the South China Sea.

“Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don’t think so!” he wrote on the social media platform, after a Twitter-heavy weekend.

The rant suggests Trump was thumbing his nose at China, ignoring the diplomatic protest note lodged by Beijing on Saturday over his phone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

The congratulatory call made by Tsai signaled a break in decades of protocol, and was the first such contact made by a U.S. president-elect or president with Taiwan since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition in 1979 to acknowledge Taiwan as part of “one China”.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump speaks to Taiwan’s leader in move that could anger China

According to CNBC, China’s Foreign Minister said it lodged “stern representations” with the “relevant U.S. side” over the call, urging for careful handling of the Taiwan issue.

It was not clear who in the “U.S. side” the protest note reached but Beijing appeared to blame Taiwan for the exchange and not Trump. Some media reports also suggested that the call was a mere oversight on the part of Trump, who is a real estate mogul and billionaire businessman, but a novice in foreign policy.

Trump’s transition team tried to contain the backlash or at least downplay its significance, with vice-president-elect Mike Pence saying Sunday that the row was just a “tempest in a teapot”, according to the South China Morning Post.

Pence, who was speaking on ABC’s This Week, pointed out that the call was placed to Trump by Taiwan’s Tsai, who had wanted to congratulate the U.S. leader on his Nov 8 presidential victory.

“They reached out to offer congratulations as leaders around the world have and he took the call, accepted her congratulations and good wishes and it was precisely that.”

Pence’s remarks appeared to suggest that there was nothing more to Trump’s exchange with Tsai than a mere congratulatory call. It was also not the first time the U.S. president-elect has raised eyebrows since winning the presidential polls last month.

Among others, Trump has made headlines for calling Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a “terrific guy” and offering to help solve the country’s problems; meeting with Philippine Rodrigo Duterte who said Trump showed he understood his deadly crackdown on drug dealers; and was also hailed a “clever man” by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been locking horns with President Barack Obama over Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria.

SEE ALSO: Duterte congratulates Trump, expresses wish to bolster US-Philippines ties

However, with Trump’s Twitter outburst against China coming right after Pence’s explanation, observers and Trump detractors have been loath to agree that the Taiwan call was just a diplomatic slip-up and not an indication of an impending shift in U.S. policy on China.

Trump’s actions are also clearly in line with his plan to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office, a promise that forms part of the real estate magnate’s larger bid to overhaul the nation’s trade policy.

Furthermore, reports citing interviews with those behind the planning of that call with Taiwan indicate that the exchange was an intentionally provocative move.

According to Washington Post, people involved in or briefed on the talks said the call was the product of “months of quiet preparation and deliberations among Trump’s advisers about a new strategy for engagement with Taiwan that began even before he became the Republican presidential nominee”.

On Reuters, Tsai’s spokesman Alex Huang appeared to confirm this when he said: “Of course both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact.” Huang also told CNN something similar, that both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact.

On Saturday during the storm over Trump’s call with Taiwan, Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee blasted the U.S. president-elect over Twitter.

He acknowledged that it would soon be Trump’s right to shift policy, alliances and strategy but stressed, “What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift. These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That’s how wars start.”

“And if they aren’t pivots – just radical temporary deviations – allies will walk if they have no clue what we stand for. Just as bad.”