In late February, the US Congress passed the Taiwan Travel Act, which is aimed at facilitating exchange and dialogue between senior officials in Washington and Taipei.
The act was supposed to come into effect automatically on March 16, with or without US President Donald Trump’s endorsement.
However, it appears that Trump just couldn’t wait that long, and eagerly signed the bill in the Oval Office before its official effective date.
Shortly afterwards, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her gratitude to Trump for his approval of the new law on Twitter. The island’s foreign ministry also said Tsai was looking forward to further cooperation with the Trump administration and even a long-term partnership with Washington.
Although the Taiwan Travel Act is a non-binding instrument, it is believed that its passage would inevitably draw the United States and Taiwan closer together, and could pave the way for an eventual face-to-face meeting between Trump and Tsai.
Such a meeting is probably a remote possibility for now, but the idea is no longer just a fantasy; former undersecretary of state Richard Armitage has already called on the US president to meet with Tsai.
As expected, Beijing was infuriated by Trump’s high-profile endorsement of the Taiwan Travel Act.
The Chinese embassy to the US has issued a statement strongly protesting against the enactment of the bill, calling it an outright violation of the One-China Policy and the Three Joint Communiqués.
An Fengshan, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council in Beijing, lambasted the US government for sending a very wrong message to separatists in Taiwan.
The state-owned Global Times also strongly criticized Washington’s decision and warned that the new law would only stiffen China’s determination “to resolve the Taiwan issue” decisively, including seeking cross-strait reunification by force.
That President Trump chose to sign the Taiwan Travel Act in such a high-profile manner at a sensitive time when Chinese President Xi Jinping was just re-elected by the National People’s Congress is widely interpreted as an open act of defiance against the One-China Policy.
The US president is notoriously unpredictable in the eyes of the international community when it comes to diplomacy, but if we carefully examine his policy initiatives one by one, we can actually tell that Trump has been following a set pattern in his approach to handling both domestic and foreign affairs.
We would like to refer to that pattern as “the repeated punches of egomania”. Trump is obsessed with seeking control over basically everyone and everything in his administration. In other words, he is both an egomaniac and a control freak.
Such kind of “my way or the highway” mentality could perhaps explain why Trump was ruthlessly firing his top White House aides and advisers one after the other, including key officials such as State Secretary Rex Tillerson.
The way Trump fired his subordinates without a moment’s hesitation indicates that he is the kind of leader who is possessed by a lust for absolute personal power, and who just won’t tolerate any opposing view within his inner circle.
And the fact that Trump’s mindset and behavior are pretty much dictated by his egomania can perhaps also explain why is he has swiftly and eagerly accepted Kim Jong-un’s invitation to a one-on-one meeting scheduled for May.
The North Korea nuclear issue has been dragging on for over two decades, and despite China’s efforts at mediating the crisis, little progress has been achieved in facilitating its peaceful resolution.
If a “normal” US president were in office today, he would probably continue to count on Beijing to bring Pyongyang into line.
However, for an unconventional leader like Trump who doesn’t like to play by the book, it has become apparent that he is determined to handle the crisis in an unorthodox way: instead of relying on China, which has proven not very helpful, why not sit down and speak directly with the “rocket man” to work things out together?
Some other examples of Trump’s pattern of “egomania” include his highly controversial decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as well as his plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, particularly those from China.
Simply put, Trump likes to get things done entirely his way and have control over everything regardless of what others think, including his country’s closest allies.
As such, one can easily tell that the Taiwan Travel Act fits his pattern of “egomania” and makes a lot of sense: he has no intention of playing by the “One-China Policy”, and he couldn’t care less about how Beijing would react when it comes to deciding who to befriend.
While it is still premature to tell the exact implications of Trump’s egomania for the rest of the world, at least one thing is for certain: world politics would undoubtedly become increasingly unpredictable and the global market more and more volatile in the days ahead.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 19
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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