Song Cheng-en, doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, in The Storm Media (January 28, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: stingrayschuller)
Not long after the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, Beijing dispatched military jets into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. This provocation was seen as not only a military exercise but as a political test for the new administration. The US State Department responded by condemning China for threatening regional peace and stability.
The statement noted Chinese attempts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan, and called on Beijing to “cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives”. The US reaffirmed that it would stand with its friends and allies in the Indo-Pacific to promote mutual prosperity, security and values, including deepening relations with democratic Taiwan.
This statement was both soft and tough, maintaining the Trump administration's strong tone, while demonstrating the continuity of US foreign policy. The wording, however, suggested that Washington intends to bring its Taiwan policy back to the framework of the past:
First, the use the "People's Republic of China" (PRC) to refer to China is in line with the position established in “Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations” between the United States and China in 1979. Second, the use of "Taiwan" throughout the text complies with the unofficial policies under the "Taiwan Relations Act". Third, the use of the phrase "Taiwan's democratically elected representatives" deliberately avoids mentioning the Taiwan government, president or officials.
It is impossible to judge the direction of the Biden administration’s Taiwan policy with a single statement and whether the US government returns to the One-China framework will ultimately depend on the government’s own interpretation. Nevertheless, close attention must be paid to how Taiwan’s status is supported or hindered by US policy.