September 16, 2022
BEIJING – What has prompted the US to repeatedly violate the three US-China communiques and introduce the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 in the Senate? Why has the US been trying to hollow out the one-China principle and interfere in the Taiwan question?
Doesn’t the US know that the Taiwan question is the most sensitive factor in Sino-US relations and any US attempt to change the status quo across the Taiwan Straits could trigger a new Cold War, even set Beijing and Washington on a collision course? Or, is the United States following former president Theodore Roosevelt’s famous advice: Speak softly and carry a big stick?
A cursory view of the three joint communiques reflects another story. In 1972, when Pakistan played a key role in breaking the ice between Beijing and Washington, the US side said: “The US acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.”
Later in 1979, while establishing Sino-US diplomatic relations, the US government again said it acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China. Going a step further in 1982, when the US-China Communique on US Arms Sales to Taiwan was issued, the US government reiterated that it has no intention of infringing on Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity.
But the US Senate taking up of the Taiwan Policy Act 2022 for debate has once again added fuel to the fire, not least because the act, if adopted, would provide $4.5 billion in aid to Taiwan, a big part of which could be in form of arms and military equipment.
Introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez and Senator Lindsey Graham, the bipartisan act is aimed at completely restructuring the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, in order to significantly bolster the Chinese island’s military capability, support its participation in international organizations and designate it a “non-NATO ally”, all of which are serious violations of the three joint communiques and a challenge to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Another disturbing factor is that the bill after being debated in the Senate will be sent to the House of Representatives, whose speaker, Nancy Pelosi, started the latest US attempt to hollow out the one-China principle by visiting Taiwan on Aug 2. The House had to reschedule the debate on the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 amid Sino-US tensions following Pelosi’s reckless visit to the island.
Some claim the US bill sends a message to Beijing not to commit the mistake in Taiwan that Russian President Vladimir Putin has done in Ukraine. But since the Taiwan question is different from the Ukraine crisis in every aspect, the US’ attempt to squeeze the strategic space of its rivals may backfire.
The Joe Biden administration’s approach to Taiwan has dealt a blow to Sino-US ties, although he has reportedly sought to discuss with lawmakers the significant political impacts of the bill on bilateral ties and ensure the consequences remain manageable.
But China will brook no interference in its internal affairs which include the Taiwan question whether or not US President Biden signs the Taiwan Policy Act into law.
China has already reduced cooperation with the US in the fight against climate change and drug trafficking in response to Pelosi’s visit to the island, though US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel has said the administration continues to keep the lines of communication open with China. Beijing has also made a serious demarche to the US on the visit of Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to the island on Aug 22.
Earlier, despite their differences, China and the US had been working together to address the common problems facing humankind such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and drug trafficking.
Talking about Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Bilahari Kausikan, former secretary of Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that, instead of visiting the island, like Pelosi did, more intelligent ways can be adopted to support the island, adding that the Americans do have made things worse.
Some analysts said that China’s military drills around the Taiwan island may force both China and the US to reconcile, as bilateral relations cannot progress with such serious differences, while some say the US is only pretending to be a friend and defender of Taiwan; it is only interested in selling weapons and military equipment to other countries after forcing them into a conflict, just like it has done to Ukraine. The powerful military-industrial complex nexus still influences the US foreign policy.
So, US politicians who can see reason and support peace and development should work together to avert a catastrophe across the Straits. And since no country can afford another geopolitical crisis, the US ought to stop risky moves on Taiwan.
M. Abdul Qadir is a professor at the University of Punjab, Pakistan; Wang Hanling is a research fellow on international law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing; and Javed Iqbal is a veteran journalist with Minute Mirror, Lahore.