Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

You Can Sell Taiwan $2 Billion in Weapons, But Don't Take Their Phone Call

Author: Ben Swann
Created: 14 December, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
3 min read

Editor's note: The following is a transcript of the above video. Reality Check is a segment by investigative journalist Ben Swann on CBS46 in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Well it seems like a ridiculous concern: President-elect Donald Trump takes a phone call from the prime minister of Taiwan, and the media and political establishment go into a frenzy. Well, it turns out Trump is right. Not specifically about the phone call, but about the fact that the U.S. has been arming Taiwan for years.

This is a reality check you won't see anywhere else.

Well a little over a week ago, President-elect Donald Trump took a phone call from the prime minister of Taiwan. It's not a big deal, except everyone seems to think it's a big deal. Here's why:

When Donald Trump took that phone call, he became the first U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly to the leader of Taiwan since Jimmy Carter in 1979. Why is that? Because since 1979, the U.S. has taken the approach that it would instead speak only to China. China insists that the self-ruled island of Taiwan actually belongs to it. Now to understand that you have to go all the way back to 1927 when a civil war broke out in China. The war culminated in communist revolutionaries, led by Chairman Mao, mostly defeating China's nationalist government in 1949. Since that time, there have been two governments claiming authority as the rightful government of China.

Well because of this rift -- and it has not been settled yet -- since the Reagan administration, through every presidential administration since, the U.S. has abided by something called the "One China Principle." The "One China Principle" refers to the policy or view that there is only one state called China, despite the existence of two governments that claim to be China. As a policy this means that countries seeking diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (or mainland China) must break relations with the Republic of China (or Taiwan) and vice versa.

Donald Trump... well he just kind of blew that up, and quite candidly with good reason. Consider this tweet Trump put out shortly after that call and the criticism he has been receiving:



Well that part of the debate has been all but ignored by most media, and it is the most important issue here. Just go back one year to December 16, 2015. Reuters reported that the Obama administration formally notified Congress of a $1.8 billion arms sell package for Taiwan.

Well, it's more. That package includes 2 frigates, anti-tank missiles, amphibious assault vehicles, and other equipment. And while the Obama administration claims it is not changing the long-standing "One China" policy, it also pointed out that it is only doing what was in line with 6 other U.S. administrations.

The White House said that the authorization follows previous sells notifications by the administration totaling over $12 billion under the Taiwan Relations Act.

So what you need to know is that once again this is why the U.S. media just keeps making themselves look ridiculous. The media is covering this story as if this phone call could bring us to the brink of war with China.

So which one does any thinking person actually believe is a bigger threat for U.S.-China relations? A phone call with the prime minister or $2 billion in military equipment and weapons sold to China's biggest adversary less than a year ago. Come on, let's get real.

Photo Credit: Andy Wong / AP