On the evening of February 9, U.S. President Donald Trump had what the White House described in a terse readout as a “lengthy” and “cordial” telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. That alone is newsworthy, as the two hadn’t spoken since November 14. But Trump also appeared to walk back an earlier claim, alarming to some, that U.S. recognition of the “one China” policy, which Beijing interprets as supporting the notion that Taiwan is part of China, would be up for negotiation. Chinese official media hastened to proclaim that, on the latest call, “Trump said he fully understands” the policy and would adhere to it. The significance of this turnabout is surely profound, given that Chinese authorities call the policy “the political foundation for China-US relations.” But what is the long-term impact of the call likely to be?

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