Having lived and worked in China and Taiwan for many years. I’m not ignorant to the problems this creates according to the Washington foreign policy consensus.
At the same time, I think this is (potentially) a great development and something that could have only happened by accident. Taiwan is a democratic nation with an open, diverse, and liberal society (for example, it is extremely LGBT friendly, has a great national health plan, etc.). Trump is an unwitting and idiotic vehicle for a move that should have happened a long time ago, if we had any moral courage in our foreign policy.
Tsai rode a wave of economic resentment and nativisim. Many Taiwanese feel that the previous president, Ma Ying-jeou, sold out sections of the economy to China to enrich himself and his friends (sound familiar?). Tsai is the first president of Taiwan who was born on the island. She has aboriginal heritage. She is extremely interested in addressing the needs of Taiwan’s poor, increasing support for public housing, etc. She supports marriage equality. And for a country that only had democratic elections beginning in 1996, they’ve managed to elect a woman! How about that!
Taiwan has 24 million people. Most of the people I meet, from academics to baristas, think of themselves as Taiwanese. They aren’t blind to the realities of China, but I think it’s fair to say that they identify strongly with Taiwan as a nation. There may come a day that Taiwan and China have much stronger political and economic ties, and many Taiwanese accept that reality, but it can go down in two ways: 1) It can happen down the road, when China is willing to accept a high degree of Taiwanese autonomy and/or has accepted some democratic reforms of their own, or 2) it can happen sooner than later, and Taiwan can lose its autonomy, identity, and progressive policies and be ruled from Beijing. Personally I’ll take #1. In the meantime, I think it’s shameful that we aren’t doing more to support a democratic nation because we want cheap iPhones.
No intelligent, thinking member of the Washington foreign policy consensus would have rocked the boat on this. Carter fucked it up (surprise!). They (Dems and Repubs) don’t really give a shit as long as Apple can make their shit in China for cheaper. It took an idiot to make the obvious, moral move and support a thriving, vibrant, liberal democratic society.
ETA: You can support Taiwan just by being a tourist. No visa required for Americans! Eat yummy food in Taipei! Snorkel around Kenting after visiting the national park! Hike the rugged East Coast and Taroko Gorge! Go check it out.