Biden’s bullish rhetoric on Taiwan risks provoking China with no gain in security

The newly elected US president stated to a reporter in May 2001 that if China attacked Taiwan, the US would have to go to war with it. George W. Bush said that the US would do “everything it necessary” to protect the island.
Senator Joe Biden at the time was unimpressed. Biden chastised the president in an article titled “Not So Deft On Taiwan” that appeared in the Washington Post. In both diplomacy and the law, words are important, he wrote. The United States had no official commitment to defend Taiwan, it was a truth. As stated by Biden, the Taiwan Relations Act, which he personally supported for in 1979, was a deliberate attempt by the US to renege on such a guarantee. Although the law proclaimed threats to regional peace and security to be “of great concern to the United States” and obliged the United States to assist Taiwan in self-defense, it did not compel American forces to engage in hostilities on the island.
No insignificant nuance mattered to Biden. There is a significant difference between reserving the right to use force and committing ourselves to Taiwan’s defense from the start, the author said. “The president should not give Taiwan, much less China, the power to automatically involve us in a conflict across the Taiwan Strait,” said the president.
Bush quickly saw the benefits of adhering to official US policy on Taiwan. By 2003, he had openly opposed Taiwan’s referendum plans out of concern that it would fuel pro-independence sentiment. However, President Biden is potentially making a more significant mistake than President Bush did two decades later.

This is Biden’s fourth such statement in a little over a year, making it less and less likely that the president is merely making a “gaffe,” as the now-ritual White House walk-backs issued each time would have one believe. Biden said that the United States had an obligation to defend Taiwan and would use force “if in fact there was an unprecedented attack.”
Biden went even further in this case. Biden rejected the 1970s-era “One China” policy while simultaneously asserting that the United States still upholds it. He remarked, “Taiwan makes their own decisions about their independence. “We aren’t changing; we don’t support their independence. Biden hinted that the United States is unconcerned with Taiwan’s declared political status, views the matter as one for the people of Taiwan to determine alone, and would support any choice Taiwan takes.
Contrary to long-standing US policy. The position has been held for many years, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently reiterated it verbatim last month. The One China policy aims to prevent both China and Taiwan from disturbing the status quo, with the former employing force to achieve “reunification” and the latter by announcing independence and cutting itself off from the mainland forever.

RELATED: What is Taiwan’s plan to protect itself against Chinese pressure?

This policy shouldn’t be altered right now. This difficult arrangement may be the only option to preserve the geographical status quo and avert a devastating war, as America’s best diplomats have recognized. Since Mao Zedong, every Chinese leader has demonstrated a willingness to accept Taipei’s de facto isolation from Beijing. Taiwan, on the other hand, has held off on declaring its independence because it understands that doing so would invite a Chinese invasion and enrage the US.
One China strategy was never satisfactory. No one views it as justice. But it works, and no one has proposed a substitute that wouldn’t push the two superpowers of the globe and 24 million Taiwanese people toward disaster.
Biden has reportedly chosen to attack the One China policy and see what happens rather than attempting to present a better alternative. He might be hoping that his seemingly unrestrained rhetoric will add a little extra deterrence. He may be concerned that Taiwan has not fully readied its defenses and that President Xi Jinping of China is considering an invasion. Even if it were the case, his remarks are useless. In the event that the People’s Liberation Army launched an unprovoked invasion, Chinese policymakers already had to take into consideration the likelihood that the United States may support Taiwan.
The military and economic aspects of deterrence are probably not significantly enhanced by Biden’s remarks. They go further in undermining promises made to China that the United States will maintain the status quo and discouraging Taiwanese independence movements. In other words, the president’s comments provoke Beijing without offering Taiwan or the US any protection.
In this context, Biden’s attempts to add further deterrence through his alleged gaffes come across as nervousness rather than confidence. He is reversing Theodore Roosevelt’s advice to carry a large stick and speak softly.
Or as the Biden of 2001 wrote: “We now appear to have a policy of ambiguous strategic ambiguity. It is not an improvement.” … we have a small favour to ask. Millions are turning to the Guardian for open, independent, quality news every day, and readers in 180 countries around the world now support us financially.

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