Foreign policy should not be conducted through social media

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Foreign policy should not be conducted through social media

Donald Trump is not going to stop using Twitter any time soon, no matter how much US bureaucrats and political leaders may want it. He in part won the presidential election through personally reaching out to voters through spontaneous 140-character bursts, and there is no reason why he would set aside a winning formula when in office. But as his tweets about Sino-US relations and a phone conversation with Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen showed, unfiltered communication can have consequences far beyond merely letting his 16 million followers and the media know what’s happening. There is every need for him to follow basic ground rules for using social media.
No bilateral relationship in the world is as important as that between China and the US. But there is ever-growing rivalry and mistrust that require careful management. Sensitivities like Taiwan and the South China Sea mean that all decisions have to be exhaustively discussed at the highest levels of government before being announced to the world. Trump did not do that with his tweets last week, catching diplomats and officials off-guard with his revelation that he had had a phone conversation with Tsai and wondering after the subsequent commotion why that should be problematic given the billions of dollars in weapons that the US had sold to the island over the years.

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