Biden again indicates that the US will defend Taiwan “militarily” – does this constitute a change of policy?

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ive here. This post provides an attempt to be a fair portrayal but really not of the state of play between China, Taiwan and the United States. The article says that the United States can implement a policy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan more easily than it is doing now. But ignoring key facts like Trump’s attempt to give China too much shine through tariffs, the Biden administration has been eyeing persistently, starting with outright hostility at the early summit in Alaska. It also presents Taiwan’s strong desire for independence as an organic one. I have no way of judging the validity of the counterclaims, but Brian Berletic of New Atlas (who also expressed a very strong anti-globalization stance) had Taiwanese guests who emphasized that seeing Taiwan as distinct from China was inculcated, especially through education since the early decade The first of this century and with great support from the United States. This does not seem unreasonable given that the survival of Nazi thieves after World War II was largely due to the support of the CIA, which we saw as a tool to destabilize the Soviet Union.

Likewise, the post skips the fact that until recently, China had only a vague ambition at most to integrate Taiwan by 2049. To put it mildly, a lot could have happened now and then. But the United States is challenging China over Taiwan, in particular Biden’s refusal to stop Pelosi’s visit. Biden acted as if he couldn’t be an insult to the CIA and neither to Xi. We have cited a Supreme Court ruling showing that Biden has the power, as well as arguments about her safety, plus Congress does not conduct foreign policy. The truth is that Biden believed that avoiding internal conflict was more important than the uncontrolled escalation of conflict with China…which had the side effect of further cementing his relationship with Russia.

Taiwan and its sympathizers ignore Henry Kissinger’s warning: “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.”

Taiwan enjoyed, or at least, had autonomy before the United States cared excessively. Taiwan would have liked to have been left more or less as it is now until 2040 if it had not allowed the United States to escalate the issue of Taiwan’s position vis-à-vis China. Oddly enough, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said nothing about Pelosi’s visit when it was controversial, as if Taiwan had no agency. So it is not hard to argue that US pressure on the Taiwan independence issue will limit or end it much sooner than if Taiwan was left to its own devices.

Written by Meredith Owen, Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Originally published in The Conversation

President Joe Biden has suggested – not for the first time – that the US would intervene “militarily” if China tried to invade Taiwan.

In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” on September 18, 2022, Biden vowed to protect the island from any attack. Pressed if it meant the United States was interfering militarily, the president replied, “Yes.”

These comments appear to deviate from the official US line on Taiwan, which has been in place for decades. But White House officials said the comments did not represent any change in Taiwan policy.

Meredith Owen, an expert on US-China relations at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, helps explain the background to Biden’s comments and deconstruct what should be read in his notes – and what should not be read.

What did Biden say and why was it important?

In an exchange on “60 Minutes,” Biden was asked directly if the United States would “defend Taiwan” if it was attacked by China. He replied, “Yes, we are committed to that.” He also stressed that the US intervention would be military.

To my count, this is the fourth time Biden has suggested as president that the United States would help Taiwan militarily if the island was attacked. In 2021, he made similar statements in an interview with ABC News and then again while participating in a CNN town hall event. And earlier this year, he said something similar while in Japan, the first time he’s confirmed that assertion while in Asia.

On each occasion he made such a comment, he was very quickly followed by the White House’s retraction of the statements, issuing statements along the lines of “what the president actually means…” and emphasizing that this is not a shift away from official US policy toward China or Taiwan.

But I think with each incident it’s hard to equivocate about Biden’s comments as a coincidence, or to suggest that he somehow got it wrong. I think it’s clear at this point that Biden’s interpretation of the Taiwan Relations Act – which since 1979 has set the parameters for US policy on the island – is that it allows a US military response in the event of an invasion by China. And despite the White House’s claims to the contrary, I believe this represents a departure from Taiwan’s longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity.”

What does “strategic ambiguity” mean?

Strategic ambiguity has always been US policy toward Taiwan – really since the 1950s, but certainly from 1979 onwards. While it does not explicitly obligate the United States to defend Taiwan in all circumstances, it leaves open the option of US defensive support for Taiwan in the event of an unprovoked attack by China.

Crucially, the US hasn’t really said what it’s going to do – does that support mean economic assistance or the supply of US arms or boots on the ground? China and Taiwan are left guessing about whether – and to what extent – the United States will be involved in any dispute between China and Taiwan.

Leaving the answer to this question vague, the United States holds a threat to China: invade Taiwan and find out if you’ll also face the United States.

Traditionally, this has been a beneficial policy for the United States, but things have changed since it was first introduced. It was certainly effective when the United States was in a much stronger position militarily compared to China. But it may be less effective as a threat now that the Chinese military is catching up to the United States

Leading voices from US allies in Asia, such as Japan, believe “strategic clarity” may be a better option now – with the US explicitly declaring that it will defend Taiwan if the island is attacked.

What is the history of US relations with Taiwan?

After the victory of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, the defeated government of the Republic of China withdrew to the island of Taiwan, located only 100 miles from the shore of Fujian Province. Until the 1970s, the United States only recognized the exiled Republic of China on Taiwan as the government of China.

But in 1971, the United Nations transferred recognition to the People’s Republic of China on the mainland. In 1972, President Richard Nixon made a now famous trip to China to announce the rapprochement and sign the Shanghai Communique, a joint statement of communist China and the United States signaling a commitment to continuing formal diplomatic relations. An important part of that document reads: “The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait insist that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of China. The United States government does not challenge this position.”

The wording was decisive: the United States was not formally committed to a position on whether Taiwan was part of the Chinese nation. Instead, he was acknowledging what the governments of either region had asserted – that there was “one China”.

Where does the US commitment to military support for Taiwan come from?

After establishing formal diplomatic relations with China in 1979, the United States established an informal relationship with the Republic of China on Taiwan. In part in response to President Jimmy Carter’s decision to recognize communist China, US lawmakers passed the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979. This act outlined a plan to maintain close US-Taiwan relations and included provisions for the US to sell military materials to help the island maintain its defense Determine the course of the strategic ambiguity policy.

What has changed recently?

China has always maintained its desire for the eventual peaceful reunification of its country with the island, which it considers a rogue province. But adherence to the “one China” principle is becoming increasingly one-sided. It is absolute for Beijing. But in Taiwan, resistance to the idea of ​​reunification has grown amid mounting support for moving the island toward independence.

Beijing has recently become more aggressive in asserting that Taiwan should be “returned to China”. Domestic politics plays a role in this. In times of internal instability in China, Beijing has sounded a more aggressive tone about relations between the two entities separated by the Taiwan Strait. We’ve seen this over the past year with Beijing sending military aircraft to Taiwan’s air defense zone.

Meanwhile, China’s assertion of increasing its authority over Hong Kong has damaged the “one country, two systems” argument as a means of peaceful reunification with Taiwan.

How has the US position changed in the face of Beijing’s position?

Biden has certainly been more outspoken supporter of Taiwan than previous presidents. He formally invited a representative from Taiwan to his inauguration – the first for a new president – and made it clear repeatedly that he viewed Taiwan as an ally.

Nor has it repealed the Taiwan travel law that was passed under the previous administration of Donald Trump. This legislation allows US officials to visit Taiwan in an official capacity.

In August 2022, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, making her the most prominent US politician to visit the island in decades.

Meanwhile, for the second time, Biden in his “60 Minutes” interview indicated the belief that it was up to Taiwan to decide its future, departing slightly from the usual line that the United States does not support changes in the status quo. However, Biden also said he does not support a unilateral declaration of independence from Taiwan.

So there was a bit of a shift. But the White House is careful not to exaggerate any change. At its core, there is a desire by the United States not to depart from the Shanghai Communiqué.

So, is an invasion of Taiwan a possibility?

The current rhetoric from the United States and China’s response are already raising the risk of conflict, but I don’t think we’re at that point yet. Any invasion across the Taiwan Strait would be a military complex. It also comes with the risk of a backlash from the international community. Taiwan will receive support not only from the United States – inconspicuously, given Biden’s statements – but also from Japan and potentially other countries in the region.

Meanwhile, China asserts that it wants to reintegrate through peaceful means. As long as Taiwan does not force the issue and unilaterally declare independence, I think there is tolerance in Beijing to wait for it. And despite some comments to the contrary, I don’t think the invasion of Ukraine raised the prospects for a similar move in Taiwan. Indeed, with Russia now mired in a months-long conflict that has damaged its military credibility and economy, the invasion of Ukraine may in fact serve as a warning to Beijing.

This is an update of an article originally published on May 24, 2022.

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