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President-elect Trump spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday, an act which threatens to jeopardize U.S. relations with China.

Tsai offered her congratulations to Trump, according to Trump’s transition team, which added that the two “noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States.” Trump also congratulated Tsai on becoming president of Taiwan earlier this year.

The call is widely believed to be the first between a U.S. president or president-elect and a leader of Taiwan since 1979, when diplomatic relations between the two were cut off. China regards Taiwan, a nearly 14,000 square-foot mile island off its coast, as a renegade province which should be returned to China ever since Gen. Chiang Kai-shek fled mainland China to Taiwan in 1949.

The U.S. adopted a “One China” policy to help facilitated diplomacy with Beijing in 1972, and President Jimmy Carter formally recognized Beijing as the sole government of China in 1978. The U.S. embassy in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, was closed in 1979.



“The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,” said Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House National Security Council, according to the Financial Times.

“Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative,” Medeiros said. “With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for US-China relations.”

Trump’s call garnered swift reaction from Congress.

“Foreign policy consistency is a means, not an end. It’s not sacred. Thus, it’s Trump’s right to shift policy, alliances, strategy,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. He warned that what has happened “is not a shift” and that these are “major pivots in foreign policy” without a plan.

“That’s how wars start,” added Murphy. “And if they aren’t pivots – just radical temporary deviations – allies will walk if they have no clue what we stand for. Just as bad.”

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Trump, who repeatedly condemned China throughout his campaign for devaluing its currency to gain a trade advantage, spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month.

The two men “established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another,” according to a read-out of the call from Trump’s transition team. “President-elect Trump stated that he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries.”

Trump told Xi that China’s “development is remarkable,” and that the U.S. and China can “achieve mutual benefits and win-win results” if the two countries enhance their cooperation with each other, Chinese state media reported.

Trump has yet to select a nominee to be his secretary of state, who will undoubtedly play a large role in shaping the U.S.’s relations with China and Taiwan in the near future.

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