It is a telling comment on America’s political Left that they have reacted more strongly to Donald Trump’s potentially “undiplomatic” phone call to the head of a vibrant democracy than to the regime in Beijing trying to crush that democracy. Visitors to Taiwan will find a fairly elected president, a vigorous legislature, an open press, religious freedom, the fifth-largest economy in Asia, and a unique culture that straddles East and West. A little over 100 miles to the west, visitors will find a one-party dictatorship, directly descended from the terrors of Chairman Mao, that “disappears” political dissidents and harvests the organs of Falun Gong adherents.
But the latter claims sovereignty over the former. According to the government in Beijing, Taiwan does not have a “president” or a “legislature.” China has never recognized Taiwan’s independence, and still harbors hopes of bringing the island back under Beijing’s rule, under the auspices of its specious “One China” philosophy (to which we have long been opposed; historically, the PRC ought to be considered a province of Taiwan, whose government predates the Communists by nearly four decades). To this end, China exercises significant economic pressure to keep Taiwan dependent on Chinese markets; it exercises diplomatic pressure to keep Taiwan from participation in international bodies such as the United Nations (where even the Palestinian Liberation Organization has observer status); and, if worse comes to worst, it is prepared to deploy the 1,500 short-range ballistic missiles currently pointed at Taiwan. It turns out that, the week before Trump’s phone call, two nuclear-capable Chinese bombers encircled Taiwan during a long-range surveillance mission.
I hope Trump goes even further and travels to Taiwan to meet President Tsai Ing-wen.