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'Donald Trump didn't care about Taiwan': Ex-White House security official

Experts warn support for Taiwan may falter under second Trump presidency

Donald Trump holds a campaign rally ahead of the Republican caucus in Las Vegas on Saturday. (REUTERS, Ronda Churchill photo)

Donald Trump holds a campaign rally ahead of the Republican caucus in Las Vegas on Saturday. (REUTERS, Ronda Churchill photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A second Donald Trump presidency would likely mean further criticisms of Taiwan from the White House and less reliable U.S. support for Taiwan, experts have warned.

A former National Security Council senior director for Asia under President Barack Obama told Nikkei Asia in an interview published Tuesday (Jan. 30) that Donald Trump was rumored to have told Chinese officials of his lack of concern for Taiwan.

"During the majority of the Trump administration, one of the worst kept secrets in Washington was that Trump didn't care about Taiwan," said Evan Medeiros, now a professor in Washington, D.C.

Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton has also noted Trump’s apparent flippant attitude toward Taiwan relative to China, and said the former president once used a Sharpie pen and his desk to compare the two.

Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the German Marshall Fund's Indo-Pacific program, also said that China believes Trump does not see Taiwan as particularly important. “They know that he doesn't attach great importance to allies, which, of course, President Biden has,” Glaser said.

However, Glaser said she believes there is debate in Beijing regarding whether current president Joe Biden or Trump would be better for China’s interests. Glaser also noted that Trump has never explicitly said he would not defend Taiwan.

While Medeiros said China views a second Trump presidency as a “huge opportunity to gain international influence,” others disagree. Earlier in January, Rorry Daniels of the Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis said that Taiwan President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德) combined with a Trump presidency represents a “nightmare scenario” for China.

'Donald Trump didn't care about Taiwan': Ex-White House security official
President Tsai meets with the co-chairs of the U.S. Taiwan Caucus Mario Diaz-Balart and Ami Bera in Taipei on Jan. 25. (Presidential Office photo)

“Beijing sees both Lai and Trump as unpredictable and hostile to Beijing's use of power in the world," Daniels said.

Meanwhile, a political science professor at Tunghai University Pan Chao-min (潘兆民) said that if Trump were elected again, his criticisms of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry are likely to continue or increase. Trump has previously claimed that Taiwan “did take all our chip business,” when asked if he would defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion.

Pan said the Trump’s policy on Taiwan prioritizes American interests, and said he fears Taiwan may be used as a bargaining tool in negotiations with China.

By contrast, a bi-partisan delegation of U.S. elected officials expressed a firm commitment to Taiwan when visiting the country last week. Congressional Taiwan Caucus co-chair Mario Diaz-Balart said the Republican and Democratic parties were united in their support for Taiwan.

Taiwan is also confident in the Taiwan-U.S. relationship. "Taiwan-U.S. economic and trade relations have close cooperation, and the economic, trade, and industrial structures of the two sides are complementary and mutually beneficial," Taiwan foreign ministry spokesperson Jeff Liu (劉永健) said.

An ABC News/ Ipsos poll on Jan. 14 showed that 70% of Republican Party supporters would be satisfied with Trump as a presidential nominee. Meanwhile, the same poll showed incumbent U.S. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings drop to a 15-year record low, while only 57% of Democratic Party supporters said they would be satisfied with Biden as a presidential nominee.