As Taiwan becomes a contentious issue between China and US President-elect Donald Trump, Taiwanese are hoping it will lead to closer ties with Washington but are wary of becoming a bargaining chip between the world’s two largest economies.
Trump’s Dec. 2 phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen raised expectations that he will upgrade relations with the self-governing island with which Washington has only had unofficial ties since recognizing the Communist government on the Chinese mainland in 1979. Trump followed up the call with tweets and comments criticizing Chinese trade and foreign policy, stoking speculation about a major change in American policy toward the nearly 70-year-old regional rivalry.
But the euphoria has been tempered by worry about what might happen to Taiwan if Trump uses it to press Beijing on trade, China’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea or its ties with North Korea.
“On the surface, it looks like this means America is getting closer to Taiwan,” said Jonathan Wang, a civil engineering student at National Taiwan University in Taipei.
“But Trump is a businessman, so he has own considerations,” Wang said. “If Taiwan becomes a bargaining chip in negotiations with China … (Trump) might give up the goodwill.”
The mix of excitement and fear poses a tricky challenge for Taiwan’s government. Despite being shunned by Beijing for her pro-independence stance, Tsai has repeated over the past two weeks that she values ties with both China and the US.