US-China keep rumbling and grumbling over Taiwan


US-China tensions have spiked again with the US Senate’s passage of the 2022 Taiwan Policy Act, which if enacted will see Washington allocate billions of dollars to fortify Taiwan’s defenses against a potential Chinese invasion.

Qiu Kaiming, director of the Taiwan Work Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee, said Wednesday the Taiwan issue has become more and more complicated due to the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) separatist stance and collusion with foreign powers.

Qiu also criticized US politicians for undermining the “One China” principle for their own political purposes.

China’s official comments came after US President Joe Biden said on Sunday that the US was not encouraging Taiwanese independence but said it would militarily defend the self-governing island in the event of a Chinese invasion.

The comment, made in an interview with the “60 Minutes” news program, marked at least the fourth time Biden has suggested that the US will come to Taiwan’s aid militarily if the island is attacked. Many have viewed those statements as a move away from the “strategic ambiguity” the US has maintained on the issue for decades.

Chinese academics cited in Chinese state media warned that if the 2022 Taiwan Policy Act is passed into law it would be 10 times more destructive to US-China relations than US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s early August visit to Taiwan.

Her high-level visit, made above Beijing’s warnings, prompted China to launch massive three-day military exercises that saw ballistic missiles fired over Taiwan and into Japan’s territorial waters as well as a simulated blockade of the island between August 4 and 6.

There are certain indications the US is compromising. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee amended the wording of the Act before passing it on September 14 in order to avoid provoking China, according to media reports.

An earlier draft of the Act allowed for the US President to establish a “war reserve stockpile for Taiwan”, but the wording was later changed to a “regional contingency stockpile for Taiwan.”

The Act also originally ordered the renaming of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office to the Taiwan Representative Office, but the order was changed to only a recommendation.

Chinese academics have said they expect the US Congress will not have enough time to pass the Act before pivotal midterm elections in November. They speculated that if the current Congress could not pass the bill before its term ends on January 3, 2023, then the whole legislative process would be restarted. 

Meanwhile, military maneuvers are keeping the situation on edge.

On September 20, the US Navy said its destroyer USS Higgins and Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver jointly conducted a Taiwan Strait transit. China’s Eastern Theater Command said it sent battleships and airplanes to closely monitor the situation.

That followed on the US Navy’s August 28 deployment of its guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) through the Taiwan Strait for what it characterized as a “routine” transit through the waters “in accordance with international law.” 

Ma Xiaoguang, director of the Information Bureau of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said in a media briefing on Wednesday: “We have a strong determination to defend our national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will never allow anyone to infringe on our sacred territory.

“If the Taiwan independence separatist forces and external forces provoke and cross our red line, we will have to take decisive measures.”

When Ma was asked by reporters whether Beijing has a timetable to reunify Taiwan by force, he said China’s basic direction is to achieve peaceful reunification and implement “one country, two systems” on the island.

On the same theme, the CCP’s Qiu said: “Although the Taiwan situation is severe and complicated and has a lot of challenges, we have strategic composure and historic patience, and we are also full of confidence, with regard to resolving the Taiwan question and realizing the complete unification of China.”

According to a survey published by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council on August 18, 84.7% of Taiwanese opposed Beijing’s idea to implement “one country, two systems” on the island while only 6.1% supported it. The survey said the proportion of Taiwanese who felt the CCP was hostile to Taiwan and its people was 80.8% and 66.6%, respectively.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the US’ recent actions, including Pelosi’s Taiwan trip, the Senate’s passage of the Taiwan Policy Act and Biden’s comment on militarily defending Taiwan, had seriously challenged the Three Joint Communiques signed between the US and China and undermined the political foundation of Sino-US relations.

Wang said the US side had to return to the real meaning of the “One China” policy and clearly oppose and stop any Taiwanese moves towards declaring independence.

Biden said in his “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday: “We agree with what we signed onto a long time ago. And that there’s ‘One China’ policy, and Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence. We are not moving — we’re not encouraging — their being independent. That’s their decision.”

On September 14, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the 2022 Taiwan Policy Act, which if implemented will bolster Taiwan’s defense capabilities with almost US$6.5 billion in new security assistance over the next four years.

If enacted, analysts have suggested the legislation would effectively signal that Taipei is considered a non-NATO ally by Washington. The bill needs approval from the full Senate, the House of Representatives and President Biden before it can take effect.

Zhao Minghao, a professor at the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, wrote on Tuesday that the Taiwan Policy Act aims to promote the concept of “one China, one Taiwan” by allowing the US to provide more military support to Taiwan, deepening the economic partnership between the US and the island, and expanding Taiwanese authorities’ international presence.

Zhao said if the Act is implemented, Beijing will likely take decisive measures that will increase the risk of a direct US-China conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

Li Zongguang, chief economist at China Renaissance, said in an article last month that the passage of the Act would be 10 times more destructive to US-China relations than Pelosi’s Taiwan visit because the Act would allow the US military to interfere more easily in Taiwan matters.

However, Li speculated it was doubtful that the Act would be passed by the House of Representatives and signed by Biden in the next few months. 

Read: US-China at a weaponized breaking point over Taiwan

Follow Jeff Pao on Twitter at @jeffpao3

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