January 16, 2017
TAIPEI- On Jan. 20, real estate mogul and television reality show host Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States, ending one of the bitterest and most tumultuous presidential campaigns in U.S. history.
But if the electoral process will soon be over, few believe that inauguration day will herald a clear path forward, domestically or in foreign relations, where Trump's impulsiveness and lack of experience have nearly everyone worried.
Most say it will take at least six months for the new administration to settle in and begin formulating coherent policy positions. Yet certain areas are already attracting attention due to their global importance and to various unscripted comments by the president-elect during the campaign and subsequently.
On East Asia, Trump has gone out of his way to raise concerns over issues related to trade and security, creating significant uncertainty, particularly with respect to China.
While complaints about lost manufacturing jobs were to be expected from a candidate who sought support from working-class voters, on Dec. 2, four weeks after his election victory, Trump pointedly raised the bar with China when he broke longstanding diplomatic protocol and accepted a telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
Not only was Trump the first American leader to speak directly to his Taiwanese counterpart since the United States severed diplomatic ties in 1979, but afterward he openly questioned the "one China" policy that for much of that time has sustained peace across the Taiwan Strait.
Trump's motives for such provocations are entirely obscure, and there is little to suggest he plans to clarify them anytime soon, with the resulting confusion creating ripple effects throughout the region.
Unsure how to respond, Beijing has staged a number of largely symbolic acts to register its displeasure, such as persuading one of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, Sao Tome and Principle, to change sides last month. (Kyodo News)
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