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How Have Trump's Comments On China Policy Been Received In Taiwan?

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The President-elect Donald Trump has said he doesn't know why he has to be bound by long-standing policy that says there is one China, and Taiwan is part of that. Trump says, in fact, the status of Taiwan might be used as a bargaining chip in the U.S.-China relationship, and this could potentially upset 40 years of U.S. policy. The response from an official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party came very quickly. When it comes to foreign policy, the paper said, Trump is, quote, "as ignorant as a child." And let's take a closer look at this back and forth. Former Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was a key policymaker in President Obama's State Department, and she is actually in Taiwan right now and joins us on the line. Ambassador Sherman, good morning to you.

WENDY SHERMAN: Good to be with you, David.

GREENE: So what's the reaction to these comments from Trump in Taiwan?

SHERMAN: Well, as you can imagine, when I planned this trip, I didn't expect to be in the middle of such a discussion. But what's really important here, David, is, as you said in your introduction, this is a policy that has been in place for decades - Republican and Democratic presidents. And I think the real fundamental issue here is why would we bargain away such a close partner? It's sort of ridiculous when you think about it.

GREENE: Well, you say bargain away. I mean, it sounds like Donald Trump's argument is that this might be a way to have leverage over China and maybe sending a message that, you know, we could put pressure on you as well. Is there any argument for that at all?

SHERMAN: I actually don't think so in this case. If you're looking for leverage, this is not the place to look for it. You don't say to Taiwan we are going to use you to extract something from China. Taiwan has its interests and its balance with the mainland. And who are we to decide to upset that apple cart?

GREENE: If the apple cart is upset, what would that look like?

SHERMAN: Well, there's no doubt in my mind that the first casualty of such an approach will be Taiwan because China and the mainland will take out its retaliation first in Taiwan because it is seen as, by China, as part of China.

GREENE: In what way? What would retaliation look like?

SHERMAN: Well, that retaliation could be economic. About 40 percent of Taiwan's economy is dependent on the mainland. So they could send deals elsewhere. They could also take kinds of military action that might not start a war but would be provocative.

GREENE: What might happen beyond that? You said that might be the first reaction.

SHERMAN: Well, I think it could go far beyond that in things they could do to us. There's a report out this morning that China has said that a U.S. auto company is going to be facing some fines for monopolistic behavior. I think that is an effort that has been going on for some time. But I think there is a coincidence of timing. So I think China's got a lot of cards to play. And I'm not sure why we'd go down this particular road.

GREENE: Well, what would you tell Donald Trump's supporters who heard his message that he would get tough on China, that it's not a balanced relationship and that he was going to really shake things up? They are watching this, and they're liking what they're seeing.

SHERMAN: Well, what I would say is make sure you know where you're heading. What are steps two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10? When you do international relations, this is not like building leverage to do a real estate development deal. If that building doesn't get built, then that building doesn't get built, and people go live somewhere else. If you blow up an international understanding of long-standing, you may find yourself at war.

GREENE: OK. Ambassador Sherman, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate the time.

SHERMAN: Thank you.

GREENE: That was Ambassador Wendy Sherman speaking to us from Taiwan. She is a former U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.