The remarks followed US President Joe Biden’s vow to protect Taiwan should China invade. When asked whether the US would defend Taiwan in the event of a conflict, President Biden told a CNN reporter: “Yes…The US has a commitment to do that.” Chinese experts have digested the remarks made by Mr Biden, and claim they should not be seen as a “slip of the tongue or an accident”.
Questioning how the US would step in to protect the island, over which China claims sovereignty, Lu Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, spoke to Global Times, a publication controlled by China’s communist party.
Lu said: “So far, not a single US government official has spelt what ‘defending Taiwan’ means if done by the US… Does it mean sending US troops to confront the PLA? No one has ever explained in detail.”
On a military scale, both the US and China enjoy very similar advantages and technology, yet the sheer size of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, as well as the strategic geographic position of China, compared to the US when it comes to Taiwan may set the two apart.
Seeking to dismiss the military might of the US, The Global Times analysis said: “The US had advantages, and its strategic ambiguity was out of its diplomatic need toward China. But now, the PLA has an overwhelming advantage over the military on Taiwan island, with full capacity to cause unbearable results to US troops if they dare ‘defend’ the island.”
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Attacking President Biden, the editorial analysis went on: “Biden does not have the political authority to announce that the US military will ‘defend Taiwan’ when a war breaks out, nor does he have the confidence to have a strategic collision with the Chinese mainland in the Taiwan Straits to support Taiwan secessionists.”
Taking the warning further the piece added: “Americans bear the risk of a bottomless war for Taiwan island. So, even if he dared make a slip of the tongue, he would not dare really think so from the bottom of his heart.”
Yet as diplomatic and threatening rhetoric flows from either side, there also remains a harsh yet significant reality as to whether the US can actually come to the assistance of the Taiwan government.
A White House spokesperson said the President will not announce any change in US policy, as its stance remains robust.
The spokesperson said: “The US defence relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act.
“We will uphold our commitment under the act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defence, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo.”
Mr Biden also said on Thursday: “I don’t want a cold war with China. I just want China to understand that we’re not going to step back, that we’re not going to change any of our views.”
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With global security now focusing heavily on the Indo-Pacific region, and in particular, the South China Sea, the rules of engagement in such an area are worlds apart from the deserts and mountains of the Middle East.
With the US, UK and Australia agreeing to the so-called AUKUS deal that will see nuclear submarines built to counter Chinese threats in the region, the notion of a full-on arms race has already sprouted its seeds in the region, with other major actors already off the blocks.
China, South and North Korea have all tested their latest weaponry in a show of force.
Other regional actors have expressed concerns that a build-up of military power in the region would destabilize peace in the area, sparking a new Cold War.
Finally, the power race also has a partner event in the economic race to the leader board as the world’s largest economy. With the US likely to lose this honour by the year 2024 to the Chinese, the US can ill afford to risk losing a major trade partner like China, in favour of a minnow such as Taiwan.
For China, the long-term solution has been laid out in simple terms by Beijing.
Achieving long-term and peaceful reunification is the policy of China, but should “Taiwan secessionists” stand in the way, China could resort to any means, including using force to punish them.