The American people have just picked a new leader for the world’s most powerful office. As shocking as the results are, Taiwan must be prepared for a new world with Donald Trump at its helm. With Trump being a businessman and an entrepreneur instead of a politician, many of his ideals and policies will affect Taiwan in unprecedented ways.
During his campaign, Trump promised to bring jobs back to the US. While this seems like good news for the American people, it will be disastrous for Taiwan’s economy. The US is currently the second largest importer of Taiwanese goods, and Taiwan also produces plenty of high-tech components for American companies. Not only could Trump raise import tariffs, he may also make deals with US companies to move their factories back to America. Both of these actions would lower Taiwan’s trade income and cause plenty of people to lose their jobs, effectively dealing a huge blow to an already struggling Taiwanese economy.
Trump also thinks that the defense treaties with Japan, Korea, and NATO are a mistake, and he doesn’t see them as a necessity. To him, the US is paying for everything and the other countries are just sitting back and enjoying all the benefits. Trump has said that if American allies still want military assistance from the US, they better start paying up. And if Korea and Japan refuse to pay, the US military might pull out of Northeast Asia, effectively giving China more control over the region, which is bad news for Taiwan. With no formal agreement between Taiwan and the US, and the fact that the US protective umbrella is the only thing standing between peace and a full-out Chinese invasion, Taiwan will be crushed if China decides to invade.
Being a businessman, Trump is all about making a profit, so as long as America is making money, he will continue selling arms to Taiwan. He may consider selling Taiwan more advanced weaponry such as the long sought after F-16s or missile defense systems with better capability. This means that the US may allow Taiwan to have a more complete and capable military, but it also means that Taiwan would have to spend more money on the military, because the US might force Taiwan to buy more weapons. It could also anger Beijing and cause cross-Strait tensions to rise.
It is well known that Trump is not a big fan of running a trade deficit. To him, running a trade deficit means losing, and America has been running a trade deficit with Taiwan for quite some time. As such, Trump is most likely going to try to sell more stuff to Taiwan, such as American pork, which America has been trying to sell Taiwan for a while. Or he will try to buy less things from Taiwan, both of which will damage local Taiwanese businesses and make a huge dent in Taiwan’s economy.
Finally, the worst thing that could happen to Taiwan during Trump’s reign is Trump using Taiwan as a bargaining chip in a deal with China. As long as it fits with his ideals as a businessman and benefits the US, Trump will not hesitate to sacrifice Taiwan to gain more leverage over China. It might seem that Trump has been acting nice and friendly towards Taiwan, but truthfully Trump only cares about America, and he does not care whether Taiwan remains democratic or not.
Still, what Trump will actually do remains a mystery so Taiwan must prepare for all the different possible scenarios Trump’s presidency might bring.