William Dobson

On Nov. 11, 1861, the Qing dynasty opened a new agency to deal with foreigners. A target for the West's "gunboat diplomacy," the last imperial Chinese government had been forced to recognize a wider world and, with little leverage, it entered into a series of unequal treaties that crippled its economy and left it only more vulnerable. Still, Chinese officials believed the crisis would pass. It was for this reason that this new body, a quasi-ministry of foreign affairs, was housed in a small, shabby building that had previously served as the Department of Iron Coins.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It wasn't the common ground that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was looking for. When President Trump was asked at their joint press conference Friday about the White House claims that President Obama had enlisted British intelligence in spying on him, Trump looked toward Merkel and quipped, "At least we have something in common, perhaps."

Trump was referring to reports that the National Security Agency had tapped the German leader's phone during the Obama administration. Merkel wasn't laughing.

The revelation of a phone call between President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen last Friday startled leaders and diplomats in Washington, Beijing and beyond. In her first comments on the call, Tsai sought to dampen those fears.

"Of course I have to stress that one phone call does not mean a policy shift," Tsai said on Tuesday in a small meeting with American journalists in Taipei. "The phone call was a way for us to express our respect for the U.S. election as well as congratulate President-elect Trump on his win."