Despite recent hot takes by Vox saying that President Joe Biden’s comments on defending Taiwan are gaffes by the president, in fact, they seem rather calculated attempts to dissuade China from using force against Taiwan to achieve unification with the island republic.
Rather than being gaffes, contrast please Biden’s clearly delineated language regarding China and Taiwan with the mumblings and bumbling’s and evasions Biden made prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Noting that Biden has said three times that the U.S. will defend Taiwan if it comes to a use of force, Vox said that such “comments reveal a lot about Biden’s tendency for undisciplined, off-the-cuff responses,” while saying that they have not revealed much in the way U.S. policy has changed.
Vox is wrong.
Instead, the comments reveal changes in China’s stance towards Taiwan and the U.S.’s evolving response to the gaffes made by Beijing in recent years; gaffes which are tacit violations of the One China policy that much of the world has supported.
The most glaring violation by China so far was the illegal and de facto annexation of Hong Kong, which was a violation of an international treaty- which China freely signed and was supposed to be a pledge to renounce coercion by the communists.
For several decades the major party in Taiwan, the Kuomintang, which represented the remnants of the army that was defeated by the Chinese communist back in 1949, either vocally or tacitly supported some sort of reunification with mainland China.
And until recently they all but ruled the country.
But as Xi Jinping took over China in 2012 and began the illiberal program that sought to amass more and more power for the central communist party, Taiwanese citizens began to rethink their relationship with China, recoiling against unification with the communist state and even the label “Chinese.”
The results have been a series of election defeats for pro-China politicians in Taiwan starting in 2014 that has only accelerated.
The Kuomintang, which is now known as the pro-China party, lost the presidency to the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen in 2016.
And the party lost again in 2020 as Tsai enjoyed even more support, while China increased its crackdown on dissent on Hong Kong, thereby destroying the credibility of anybody who favored reunification with China.
Along with the crackdown on dissent and the de facto annexation of Hong Kong has been added the willingness by China to vocally advocate for the forceable annexation of Taiwan under Xi.
“Looking further ahead, the issue of political disagreements that exist between the two sides must reach a final resolution, step by step, and these issues cannot be passed on from generation to generation,” Xi told a Taiwanese envoy in 2016, according to Reuters.
“That said, should the separatist forces for Taiwan independence provoke us, force our hands or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures,” Xi said in 2021, according to Newsweek.
Such comments have become so commonplace by Xi and other Chinese communists that insiders are anticipating a Chinese invasion of Taiwan rather than just speculating about one.
US support for the One China policy has always been predicated on the idea that any reunification done between China and Taiwan would be done cooperatively and without the use of force.
This was reaffirmed when Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979, which required the President of the United States to inform Congress of any threat to the people of Taiwan and unequivocally reaffirmed the human rights of the people of Taiwan under the protection of the United States.
The United States has always maintained that any use of force against Taiwan by China would be seen as acting directly against the United States of America.
But three times is a lot of times to say the same thing, as Vox has observed of Biden.
So, it’s only fair to point out this is not a misstep by Biden, not a gaffe.
He’s clearly telling the Chinese that the U.S. will take military action against China in line with commitments previously made to Taiwan if force is used against the island nation, a U.S. position that is absolutely in line with the One China policy.
It’s a warning to China, as clear and as blunt as Biden can make.
In diplomatic speak, it looks purposeful.