Donald Trump took to twitter last night to defend his decision to take a call from the President of Taiwan, a state with whom the U.S. has not had diplomatic ties for 38 years. It is the first time that a U.S. president or president-elect has made state level contact with Taiwan since President Jimmy Carter acknowledged China’s claim to sovereignty over the island in 1979. Trump sought to mitigate the blunder – one that has already drawn a measured, if stern, response from China – by emphasizing on Twitter that Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan called him, not the other way around.
Apparently in a forgiving mood, the Chinese put it down to a “petty action” played by the government in Taiwan against Trump – the implication here, of course, being that Trump is a foreign policy novice who walked into a trap set for him by his more experienced counterpart in Taiwan. Whatever one’s position on China’s policy toward Taiwan, there might be some truth to the suggestion that Trump is being played like a fiddle by foreign leaders out to take advantage of his lack of foreign policy knowledge in order to bolster their support at home.
On the same day that Trump spoke with the premier of Taiwan, another world leader with a lot to gain from U.S. friendship was taking to social media – Facebook this time, not Twitter – to make public the details of his own phone call with President-elect Trump. With a status update that read “Good news!!! Let´s share this!” Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte shared a video clip of his “very engaging and animated” conversation with Trump.
Often referred to as The Filipino Donald Trump for his tough talking anti-establishment rhetoric, Duterte reported that during the call, Trump voiced his support for Duterte’s war on drugs – a campaign which has seen some 5,000 people killed amid widespread accusations of extrajudicial murders carried out by government-paid vigilantes. Duterte also said that Trump invited him to come to Washington next year. Just as in the case with the leader of Taiwan, Duterte comes out of the exchange looking 10 feet taller in terms of political stature, while Donald Trump comes out looking like he would be better off spending his late nights studying up on foreign relations than defending his seemingly endless stream of faux pas on Twitter.
Earlier in the week, Pakistan’s press information department shocked the diplomatic world by releasing a transcript of Donald Trump’s call with the Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Shariff. The highly embellished manner of Trump’s praise for Shariff, going so far as to say that he is “willing to play any role that you [Shariff] want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems” might strike his own supporters as worrying given his outspoken criticism of Pakistan in the past as a safe haven for terrorists and will certainly rankle with Pakistan’s adversarial neighbor and U.S. ally, India.
In just one week, the president-elect’s phone calls with Pakistan, the Philippines, and now Taiwan have all made headlines and none of them for good reasons. Three world leaders who already have reason to feel emboldened by a Trump administration and as many world leaders left to ponder what it means for the delicate balances they have struck with the U.S. over decades. Hillary Clinton once famously called for Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account. After this latest debacle with Taiwan, many foreign leaders will likely be keeping their eyes trained on the president-elect’s Twitter feed just to stay updated on the status of their diplomatic relations with the U.S.
[Featured Image by Ty Wright/Getty Images]