President-elect Donald Trump on Friday broke with decades of U.S. diplomatic tradition in speaking with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, a seemingly innocuous call that started the relationship between two of the world's greatest powers on the wrong foot.
Trump's call, and the ensuing debate over its meaning, created an initial furor on both sides of the Pacific. Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party makes Beijing uncomfortable because of its official stance that Taiwan is independent and sovereign, rather than an extension of mainland China—the government's position that underpins the "One China" policy.
Yet foreign policy experts think the fallout on U.S.-Sino relations will be limited. Beijing is likely to attribute the move to inexperience — even as elements of the U.S.-Taiwan call were unorthodox in more ways than one.
"The call by itself and the potential for shift in U.S. policy to strengthen ties in Taiwan would create enormous anxiety in Beijing regardless of who is president," Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, told CNBC.
"But with Tsai Ing-wen, a president seen as pro-independent and one that has not accepted the one China principle makes it even more alarming," she added.
As expected, the Chinese government was not happy with the news. China's Foreign Ministry issued a formal statement on the conversation, saying it had lodged "a solemn representation to the United States" over the call and echoing the country's Anti-Secession Law, "there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China."
This initial reaction from Beijing seemed constructive, noted Barry Pavel, senior vice president and director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. He said that China seems to be saying that it understands that Trump's team "made a mistake and we're going to let it slide."
Lindsey Ford, director of Asian security at the Asia Society Policy Institute, agreed that Beijing seems to be taking a wait and see approach.
"People are going to give a bit of latitude to a new administration, but that will only last for so long," she cautioned.
"On things like our U.S.-China policy and sovereignty that are extremely sensitive issues, it would be a tremendous concern were we to suddenly change our position on something like this that has been a fundamental basic element of how we approach China for many, many years," Ford added.