President Donald Trump’s two greatest foreign policy accomplishments both involve departures from outmoded paradigms that had, for decades, enraptured bipartisan neoliberal elites: unprecedented Arab-Israeli rapprochement in the Middle East and an assertive China containment strategy in the Asia-Pacific. On the former front, Trump boldly departed from the misbegotten “inside-out” conflict resolution approach, which elevated to the forefront the need for Israeli capitulation to Palestinian-Arab intransigence; on the latter front, Trump became the first president since Richard Nixon’s famous 1972 trip to China to openly call into question our relationship with that ascendant, hegemonic Communist regime.
The key difference is that, as Trump prepares to ride off into the sunset, progress on the latter is likely at greater risk of a prompt post-inauguration reversal from his Democratic successor. The physical moving of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, one of the Trump administration’s myriad displays of staunch friendship with the Jewish state, is unlikely to be undone. Nor would any sane politician seek to nix the Abraham Accords, the series of landmark peace deals between Israel and Islamic nations that the administration helped negotiate. But pugnacious China-skeptical rhetoric, hardline opposition to Huawei’s emergent 5G telecommunications network and harsh tariffs on Chinese imports are the sort of moves that would be all too easy for a longtime China dove, such as Joe Biden, to quickly reverse.
In order to help box in his successor and secure the continuity of our long-overdue recalibration with our preeminent 21st-century geopolitical threat, there is one farewell action above all that would stick in the craw of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and redound to America’s substantive benefit. Trump ought to formally recognize Taiwan (also known as the Republic of China) as an independent state, distinct from the Beijing-based regime—and he must do so, with all the diplomatic accoutrements such a formal recognition entails, posthaste.