Trump is mixing his business with the presidency. Today was a stark illustration that the combination is extremely dangerous — to Americans and the world.
The Financial Times, citing three sources, reports that Trump called Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan, on Friday. The call is a symbolic breach of the United States’ “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the only government and which has been in place since 1972.
After the FT’s report, Trump’s transition team confirmed the call in a statement.
Statement from President-elect Trump’s transition team on his phone call with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan pic.twitter.com/fPTaNjnkx6
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) December 2, 2016
The call will antagonize China and risks “opening up a major diplomatic dispute with China before he has even been inaugurated.”
The incident is raising eyebrows because the Trump Organization, in which Trump plans to maintain ownership as president, is actively seeking new business opportunities in Taiwan. The Shanghaiist reported on the Trump Organization’s interest last month:
A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September, expressing interest in the city’s Aerotropolis, a large-scale urban development project aimed at capitalizing on Taoyuan’s status as a transport hub for East Asia, Taiwan News reports.With the review process for the Aerotropolis still underway, Taoyuan’s mayor referred to the subject of the meeting as mere investment speculation. Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect’s second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.
Trump has shown no hesitation in using his position as president-elect to enhance his business interests. In a meeting with British politicians, he encouraged them to kill a wind power project because it marred the views from a Trump golf course. He also had his daughter Ivanka, who is likely to run the Trump Organization during his presidency, sit in on his first meeting with a foreign head of state. He reportedly asked the President of Argentina to approve permits for a tower he is building in Buenos Aires. (Trump, through a spokesman, denied the report.)
Trump’s latest gambit, however, may damage bilateral relationship with one of the world’s most powerful countries.
“The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,” Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House national security council, told the FT.
Trump could avoid these kind of conflicts, and be in a position to put American’s interests first, by selling his companies.