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BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China lodged a diplomatic protest on Saturday after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, but blamed the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own for the “petty” move.

The 10-minute telephone call with Taiwan’s leadership was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China”.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it had lodged “stern representations” with what it called the “relevant U.S. side”, urging the careful handling of the Taiwan issue to avoid any unnecessary disturbances in ties.

“The one China principle is the political basis of the China-U.S. relationship,” it said.

The wording implied the protest had gone to the Trump camp, but the ministry provided no explanation.

Speaking earlier, hours after Friday’s telephone call, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointedly blamed Taiwan for the exchange, rather than Trump, a billionaire businessman with little foreign policy experience.

“This is just the Taiwan side engaging in a petty action, and cannot change the ‘one China’ structure already formed by the international community,” Wang said at an academic forum in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry quoted him as saying.

“I believe that it won’t change the longstanding ‘one China’ policy of the United States government.”

In comments at the same forum, Wang noted how quickly President Xi Jinping and Trump had spoken by telephone after Trump’s victory, and that Trump had praised China as a great country.

Wang said that exchange had sent “a very positive signal about the future development of Sino-U.S. relations”, according to the ministry’s website. Taiwan was not mentioned in that call, according to an official Chinese transcript.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office also called the conversation a “petty” move by Taiwan that does not change the island’s status as part of China. Beijing is resolute in opposing independence for Taiwan, it added.

Trump said on Twitter that Tsai had initiated the call he had with the Taiwan president. “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!” he said.

Alex Huang, a spokesman for Tsai, said: “Of course both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact.”

Trump and Tsai noted that “close economic, political and security ties exist between Taiwan and the United States”, the Trump transition team said in a statement. Taiwan’s presidential office said the two discussed strengthening bilateral interactions and establishing closer cooperation.

China considers Taiwan a wayward province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control. Relations between the two sides have worsened since Tsai, who heads the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president in January.

Chinese state media downplayed the possibility of a major blow-up in Beijing’s relations with Washington as Trump prepares to assume office.

Influential state-run tabloid the Global Times said in an online editorial that if Trump really overturned the “one China” principle upon assuming office it would create such a crisis with China he’d have little time to do anything else.

“We believe this is not something the shrewd Trump wants to do.”

China’s official Xinhua news agency said Trump needed to know Beijing can be a “cooperative partner” as long as Washington respects China’s core interests, including the issue of Taiwan.

“China and the United States are not destined rivals,” it said in an English-language commentary.

Washington remains Taiwan’s most important political ally and sole arms supplier, despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties, the irony of which was not lost on Trump.

“Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call,” Trump said in another tweet.

Trump has eschewed tradition in other calls with foreign leaders since he won the U.S. election, prompting the White House to encourage him to make use of the diplomatic expertise and counsel of the State Department.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said on CNN that Trump was “well aware of what U.S. policy has been” on Taiwan.

Administration officials said Trump’s team did not alert the White House about the call ahead of time. The White House also said after Trump’s call that “longstanding policy” on China and Taiwan had not changed.

Advisers to the Republican president-elect have indicated that he is likely to take a more robust policy toward China than Obama, a Democrat, and that Trump plans to boost the U.S. military in part in response to China’s increasing power in Asia. However, details of his plans remain scant.

Trump lambasted China throughout the U.S. election campaign, drumming up headlines with pledges to slap 45 percent tariffs on imported Chinese goods and label the country a currency manipulator on his first day in office.

Earlier this week, Trump spoke to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and praised him, according to the Pakistani leader’s office, as a “terrific guy”.

Islamabad and Washington have seen relations sour in recent years over U.S. accusations that Pakistan shelters Islamist militants who kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, a charge denied by the South Asian nation.

Trump also invited Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte to the White House next year during what a Duterte aide said was a “very engaging, animated” phone conversation. Duterte has openly insulted Obama, who canceled a planned meeting with him in September.

A statement issued by Trump’s transition team made no mention of the invitation.

(Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici, David Alexander, Yara Bayoumy, John Walcott, Arshad Mohammed, Eric Beech, Jeff Mason and JR Wu; Writing by Jeff Mason and Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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