President-elect Donald Trump’s call with the president of Taiwan on Friday triggered a formal protest by China and sent shock waves through at least parts of the U.S. diplomatic establishment. But the move was welcomed by many Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a former rival of Trump's for the GOP presidential nomination, showed his support on Twitter for the president-elect's phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, calling it an “improvement.”
I would much rather have Donald Trump talking to President Tsai than to Cuba's Raul Castro or Iran's Hasan Rouhani. This is an improvement.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 3, 2016
Similarly, Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific affairs, said he looks forward to working with the president-elect to find ways to "strengthen our relationship with our ally and friend, Taiwan.”
“The friendship between our two countries is important, and I am glad to hear the president-elect is committed to that friendship," Gardner said in a statement.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican, also issued a statement of approval.
"I commend President-elect Trump for his conversation with President Tsai Ing-wen, which reaffirms our commitment to the only democracy on Chinese soil,” Cotton said. “I have met with President Tsai twice and I'm confident she expressed to the president-elect the same desire for closer relations with the United States."
Taiwan has held that it is an independent nation since it split from the Chinese mainland in a 1949 civil war.
But the U.S. has maintained a "one China" policy since establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, meaning that it has not recognized Taiwan as its own country, but rather as a part of China. Since then, there have been no publicly reported phone calls between a U.S. president or president-elect and a Taiwanese leader.
The U.S. does have a "robust unofficial relationship" with Taiwan and commits to defending it in the event of a Chinese attack, according to the Department of State's website.
The White House did not know about the call until after it took place.
And since news of the call broke, some Capitol Hill Democrats have expressed bewilderment at Trump’s sudden departure from years of established policy.
Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said on Twitter that it is Trump’s right to shift policy and strategy. But he suggested the phone call is not just a shift but a "major" change and warned that "major pivots in foreign policy [without] any plan" are "how wars start."
(1) Foreign policy consistency is a means, not an end. It's not sacred. Thus, it's Trump's right to shift policy, alliances, strategy.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 2, 2016
(2) What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift. These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That's how wars start.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 2, 2016
Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz took to Twitter to appeal for clarification and to call for a “steady hand” from Trump’s yet-to-be-named secretary of state.
1 - The world needs clarity on this Taiwan phone call. 2 - We really need a steady hand at State Department. Tomorrow would be perfect.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) December 2, 2016
China meanwhile has lodged a formal diplomatic protest, what a spokesman called "solemn representations" to the U.S., over Trump's phone call.
"There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing. “The government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China. This is a fact that is generally recognized by the international community."
He said China urged the relevant parties in the United States to handle Taiwan-related issues "cautiously and properly" to avoid "unnecessary interference" in the China-U.S. relationship. He did not describe details of China's complaint to the U.S., or say with whom it was lodged.