11/01/2019 No. 147
 
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Aftershocks
By Peter Chung Chieh
January 1, 2017


Introduction

 

At the beginning of the U.S. presidential election campaign, a British parliamentarian moved to ban Donald Trump from entering the U.K. due to his many radical and hateful statements. Another parliamentarian stood up and said: “We may embarrass the British Parliament to pass such a motion. There is a possibility for Trump to be elected?” 

 

During the election campaign, Trump’s behavior disturbed quite a few Republican rank-and-file members. They openly criticized and withdrew their support for Trump. Major U.S. media criticized his false accusations and false statements. Under normal circumstances, such a candidate has no chance to win, but the momentum of support for Trump kept going. He sensed the anti-establishment mood of some Americans, and used the criticisms of the media to fuel his campaign. He aggressively attacked the media.

 

The 2016 American presidential election results surprised the majority of Canadians. Many Americans were also surprised. For the first time in my experience, demonstration of dissatisfaction with the results broke out in major cities of the U.S.

 

The presidential campaign was so unusual this time that students of political science, history, and sociology organized a social event to watch history as it happened. They invited a history professor and a political science professor to speak at the start. I went as an observer, and they treated me as one of the curious bystanders. The historian gave a review on controversial American presidential campaigns and the political scientist told us about the limitation of power of the American presidency. The latter perhaps wanted to calm the students’ worry in case of surprising results. The professors left soon, and so did I when pizza and drinks were distributed in the party.

 

The next morning, I could not believe the electoral-college results. At this point in time, the results had been history for a few hours. However, I still felt the surprise around me. The mood of the world also touched my heart and I started to write my Chinese article “看到美国大选的感触” (“Some thoughts on the American Election”; http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_e47848bb0102wtod.html), perhaps just to calm myself. Later I thought, it would be valuable for me to write an article on this subject for the English readers, especially the Americans. This is how Aftershocks came about. 

 

The world watches the American presidential elections closely and listens to what the President-Elect says even before he takes office. For China, the 2nd largest economy in the world, its relations with the United States, the world largest economy, are the most important subject on its national agenda. A quick review on historical Sino-U.S. relations, in particular during the Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) era, already reveals that the two countries’ politics and military actions were closely intertwined.

 

Sino-U.S. relations in the Chiang Kai-shek era

 

For example militarily, I have alluded in my other recent article entitled “Chinese lost their Sun in 1955” (http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_e47848bb0102wpwg.html) to the relationships between the U.S. Administrations and Chiang Kai-shek (CKS). In short, Franklin D. Roosevelt sent General Joseph W. Stilwell to China to be the Chief of Staff of CKS. America supplied the war material to equip the Chinese to fight against the Japanese invasion. Major battles were fought in Burma, but also involved India. The Americans called this mission the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater. But CKS did not cooperate properly with Stilwell and the Americans. His dictatorship left a bad taste for the FDR administration.

 

Then, during the Chinese Civil War, Roosevelt and later the Truman administration wanted to support any alternative leader for China but CKS. Due to lack of support and out of his own incompetence, CKS failed catastrophically.

 

Politically, in the 1948 U.S. presidential election, CKS poured money to help the Republican Candidate Thomas E. Dewey, a sign of CKS’s desperation toward the Democratic-Truman Administration. However, Truman won the election, to the disappointment of CKS. Four years later, the European Theater Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower won the presidency for the Republicans. Thus, a new team took over the administration, replacing Truman’s team. Eisenhower took office in 1953, and CKS negotiated the “Mutual Defense Treaty” with the United States in 1954, by which the U.S. would protect Taiwan. This treaty had a lot to do with the fate of the able General Sun Li-jen. For details, please see “Chinese lost their Sun in 1955or its Chinese version “孙立人的命运与美国改朝换代 (http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_e47848bb0102wr6b.html).

 

 

 Will Trump “abort” the “one China” policy?

 

Recently the U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump and the Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen had a 10-minute telephone exchange which surprised the entire world, especially the Peoples’ Republic of China which considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be united with the PRC.

What does this phone call imply and what will Trump’s stance be on the Taiwan issue and the Sino-U.S. relations after he takes office? Especially as he said after the phone call that he “may use the ‘one China’ policy, under which the U.S. formally recognizes Beijing over Taiwan, as a bargaining chip in future negotiations”. Moreover, Trump told Fox News: “I fully understand the 'one China' policy, but I don't know why we have to be bound by a 'one China' policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade”.

These remain the most serious concerns of all of us since his statements angered quite a few Chinese and Chinese Americans as well.

 

Current U.S. presidential election results beyond comprehension

 

Calming myself, I tried to understand what had happened. Should I apply the quantum theory to calculate the probability of the result? Just doing that, the Quartz website has a webpage “Want to understand how Trump happened? Study quantum physics” (http://qz.com/834735/want-to-understand-how-trump-happened-study-quantum-physics/). However, quantum theory failed to give definitive result.

 

I agree with the political scientist that America should be able to take care of itself and cause its president to have limited power. Trump sold the idea that he would change Washington, but I thought Washington would change him instead. However, the President-Elect showed little sign of change, if any. He conducted his public relations the same way as he did during the campaign. Soon, we realized that Trump pushed his campaign through social media. He still tweets simple short messages as his PR. The article “Donald Trump pushes campaign through social media (http://www.digitalbinx.com/donald-trump-pushes-campaign-social-media/) reveals Trump’s campaign strategy.

 

Trump challenged Obama to produce a birth certificate soon after Obama took office. Even after the birth certificate was made public, Trump continued to question its validity. This tactic was perhaps his way of testing the waters. Doing so, he achieved his popularity. He probably also discovered the power of social media. Social media are powerful; see, for example, the article entitled “Watch: Why social media is Donald Trump's most powerful weapon?” in which Heather Dockray goes further to say “Donald Trump writes misleading tweet, but that's not the scary part” (http://mashable.com/2016/11/18/trumps-misleading-tweet-fake-news/#OOX93v8_hOqP). That may be why the American public not only is surprised by the results, but is also worried.

 

Conclusion

 

In the 1960s while I attended university in Taiwan, I recited a news item to Sun Li-jen from the article: “We (Taiwan) broke diplomatic relationship with Country X.” He smiled at me as if I was silly and then said: “No, this side (meaning CKS government) does anything to keep a relationship, but the other side (meaning PRC) will only establish a diplomatic relationship with X on the condition that X breaks up relationship with Taiwan.” Since then, I scratch slightly deeper rather than taking the face value of what I read. The scratching also led me to write this article.

 

Trump shocked us with his appointments of key officers. He also shocked us by making waves in the Taiwan Strait. I am sure that the world will watch the development of history rather than waiting for historians to study it four or eight years later.

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Peter Chung Chieh is Professor Emeritus, University of Waterloo and founding president for Central Ontario Chinese Cultural Centre. He was born in Guangdong, China. He went to Taiwan as a child soldier, and was adopted by the late General Sun Li-jen, who gave him a chance to attend school. Following his chemistry degree from Taida (National Taiwan University), he studied nuclear science in the graduate school of National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. He then studied in the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and went to University of Waterloo as a post-doctoral fellow. A year later, he became assistant professor and went through all professorial ranks during his 34 years of teaching and research. He retired in 2004.
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