Political analysts are struggling to decipher whether Trump had purposefully upended years of US policy, or had simply been ignorant about the history and protocol as China’s Wang implied. American diplomats with experience in Asia were sharply critical, including a former ambassador to Korea and assistant secretary of state on Asian affairs:

Even Donald Trump’s “China Muse,” Peter Navarro, an economist who is deeply distrustful of Beijing and encourages more US engagement with Taiwan, stops short of recommending diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. In July he wrote that American leaders should, essentially, never do what Trump just did, saying “On the ‘don’ts’ front, the guiding principle here is that there is no need to unnecessarily poke the Panda.”

Trump’s spokeswoman, Kellyanne Conway, defended his actions on television, saying he was “well aware” of the situation and “fully briefed and fully knowledgeable.” But tweets by Trump suggest that he did not know about the complicated history and was completely surprised by the criticism:

The call had been previously arranged by both sides, a Taiwanese official told Reuters. The government of Taiwan said in a statement (link in Chinese) that the two sides had discussed strengthening bilateral relations, and increasing Taiwan’s international influence.

Tom Cotton, a senator from Arkansas who has proposed a bill that would punish Chinese officials who suppress freedom in Hong Kong, was one of the few US politicians to quickly rush to support Trump’s actions, saying: “I commend President-elect Trump for his conversation with President Tsai Ing-wen, which reaffirms our commitment to the only democracy on Chinese soil.”

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