Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, Associate Professor, Graduate Institute of International Affairs And Strategic Studies, Tamkang University, and Chairman, Council on Strategic & Wargaming Studies, in United Daily News (February 20, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: US Department of Defense/Army Sgt Amber I Smith)
After the end of the Cold War, the US and China pursued a "constructive strategic partnership", where Beijing was expected to become a "responsible stakeholder" in the international system. Following more than a decade of the US pivot to Asia, however, the pace of US-China decoupling has started to accelerate. Many are now wondering whether a "new Cold War" between Beijing and Washington has begun.
On February 8, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech on the strategic competition between US and China. He outlined the Trump administration’s hardline stance on China. Pompeo mentioned Taiwan six times, the most significant public recognition of Taipei by a high-level US official since 1971.
In addition to Taiwan, the US has made the military, geopolitics, trade, technology, currency, and supply chains all diplomatic battlegrounds with China. There are now restrictions on Chinese admissions to US universities, academic exchanges, visas and employment in scientific laboratories.
Combined with the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus, which is weakening bilateral economic cooperation and restricting the free movement of people, these moves are accelerating the pace of US-China decoupling. With Taiwan caught in the middle, cross-strait relations are likely to become more treacherous.
Improvements in mainland-Taiwan ties during the previous Kuomintang government were a result of mutual understanding between the decision makers on both sides. Beijing's policy towards Taipei has shifted from "anti-Taiwan independence" to "promoting reunification”. Yet it would be a big strategic mistake to take a stern rather than benevolent approach to cross-strait relations. It is important to stress that what Taiwan despises is one-party Communist rule and not their mainland compatriots. While the Covid-19 virus is wreaking havoc across China, Taiwan should not decouple from their compassion and sympathy for Chinese citizens.