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Taiwan President‘s Telephone Call with Trump Makes Headlines

President-elect Donald Trump’s recent phone call to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has given a boost to the Taiwanese government. Tsai won the election this year in a landslide victory, as she vowed to improve the island nation’s economy and “recalibrate” its relationship with China.

But support for Tsai has been waning in the face of slow economic growth and China’s use of its diplomatic and political power to divide public opinion about Taiwan’s relationship with Beijing.

Trump’s call to Tsai has been the first such contact between the U.S. and Taiwan since 1979. Tsai’s office confirmed the call with Trump, saying they discussed ideas to improve Taiwan’s economy and strengthen its defenses.

The call was a “major diplomatic coup” for Tsai that will make Taiwan feel more secure and relevant, said Sean King, an Asia specialist and senior vice president at consulting firm Park Strategies.

However, there is a threat that the call could result in backlash from Beijing. Chinese officials sought to blame Taiwan for the call. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the call was “a petty trick on the part of the Taiwan side.”

Tsai has pledged to maintain the status quo with China and abide by agreements reached by previous Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, although she hasn’t specifically stated that she would stand by the 1992 agreement that both nations belong to “one China.”

Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party were brought to power by a nation that voted for her believing that she would reverse that trend, thereby decreasing Taiwan’s economic reliance on China.

Trump said that he did not initiate the phone conversation with Tsai. “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!” he tweeted.

Regardless, “It shows Trump doesn’t adhere to foreign policy taboos and that everything is on the table,” King said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Although they won’t admit it for fear of angering Beijing, it also gives our other Asian allies confidence that America has their back.”

King said that other Asian democracies will see the contact with Taiwan as a sign that Trump will support them over China.

In an interview with VOA News, King said that the call shows Trump may not care whether Beijing demands that the United States ignore Taiwan.

However, if Trump contacts Tsai after he formally takes the office of the presidency, China is likely to get angrier. “If anything, Beijing’s predictable outrage will probably make (Trump) even happier he did it,” King said.

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