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Trump’s Taiwan policy: A Dangerous Game

Mar 08 , 2019
  • Fan Gaoyue

    Guest Professor at Sichuan University, Former Chief Specialist at PLA Academy of Military Science

Responding to Trump’s Taiwan policy, Senator Cory Gardner and other four Republican senators wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this February to propose that she invite Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen to deliver a speech to the US Congress. It would be a big step in violating the “One China” policy and would cause tensions within Sino-American relations and between the Taiwan Strait if Pelosi adopts their proposal.

Trump’s Taiwan Policy deviates from “One China” Policy

Although President Trump promised President Xi Jinping on February 10, 2017 that he honors the “One China” policy, what the US has done since then has deviated from the policy in multiple ways in the past two years.

First, Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Acts for Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019. This demands that the US Department of Defense invites Taiwan’s military forces to participate in US military exercises, exchange high-level official visits with Taiwan, conduct bilateral naval exercises in the Western Pacific Ocean, and consider reestablishing port of call exchanges between the US Navy and the Taiwan Navy. Second, Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act on March 16, 2018 to encourage senior officers and officials exchanges with Taiwan. Third, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific held a hearing in April 2018 to collect testimonies to reinforce the US-Taiwan relationship, at which Mark Stokes, Executive Director of the Project 2049 Institute, delivered his testimony “Reinforcing the U.S.-Taiwan Relationship” and brought forward his “US One China” policy, the essence of which is to restore and increase official relations between the US and Taiwan. Fourth, the US allowed Tsai Ing-wen to give a speech at Taiwanese institutions in the US and invited her to visit the NASA headquarters in Houston last August, which is generally off limits to PRC officials. Fifth, the US Navy’s scientific research ship, Thomas G. Thompson, was called at Gaoxiong Port in Taiwan to challenge the three communiqués signed by the US and China. Sixth, the US recalled its ambassadors from El Salvador, Panama and the Dominican Republic for cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan and called for them to openly support Tsai Ing-wen and condemn the Chinese mainland. Seventh, the US Navy conducted freedom of navigation operations in the Taiwan Strait at a higher frequency than ever before (from once a year to four times in the past five months) to provoke the PLA. Eighth, Trump approved $1.4 billion and $330 million in arms sales packages for Taiwan in 2017 and 2018 respectively. These wrongdoings have seriously deviated from the “One China” policy followed by previous US governments and will result in catastrophic consequences in China-US relations.

Trump’s Taiwan Policy Encourages Tsai Ing-wen to Confront the Mainland

Since Trump became president, the US government has taken concrete steps to bolster ties with Taiwan. Encouraged by President Trump, Tsai Ing-wen has adopted an antagonistic attitude toward the mainland and has implicitly tried to pursue Taiwan independence in various ways. First, Tsai Ing-wen refused to support the “1992 Consensus” and even openly denied its legitimacy. Second, Tsai Ing-wen is pursuing the “New Southbound Policy” to diversify Taiwan’s export markets and production chains away from the mainland and seek to enhance economic links with major economies in Southeast Asia, Australia, and South Asia. Third, the new DPP chairman Zhuo Rongtai asserted that Taiwan and the mainland were not of one family, outwardly rejecting the “One China” policy. He later said that the DPP would release a new, updated resolution document on its anniversary this year, on September 28. Fourth, the Tsai Ing-wen government has decided to revise “Regulations for Cross-Straits People Relations” as soon as possible in order to prevent any negotiations or peace agreements with the mainland. Fifth, the so-called Minister of Internal Affairs Xu Guoyong announced in January that Taiwan would open Dongsha Islands for tourism to challenge the territorial sovereignty of the mainland. Sixth, Tsai Ing-wen declared that she would like to have cooperation in security with Japan while interviewing journalists from Japanese media early this March. Such acts by the Tsai Ing-wen government have worsened Cross-Straits relations and have made reconciliation between Taiwan and the mainland even more unlikely.

Trump’s Taiwan Policy Is a Dangerous Game

It is clear that Trump’s Taiwan policy endangers peace and stability in and between the Taiwan Strait. First, Trump’s Taiwan policy degrades China’s strategic trust in the US because it goes against the fundamental spirit of the three Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act and betrays the US’s credibility. Second, Trump’s policy has misled the Tsai Ing-wen government. The aim of Trump’s Taiwan policy is to use Taiwan as a strategic chess piece to hedge against the mainland, not to support Taiwan independence which does not accord with US interests. But Tsai Ing-wen has mistaken this as US support for Taiwanese independence. Third, because of Trump’s Taiwan policy and Tsai Ing-wen’s irreconcilability, China might lose its confidence and patience in peaceful reunification and try to reunify with Taiwan by force, thus resulting in a civil war, which both sides of the Taiwan Strait have historically tried to avoid. Therefore, Trump’s Taiwan policy poses a grave threat to the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and is one of the causes of straining China-US relations.

At a moment when the US has defined China as a revisionist country, a long-term strategic competitor and a primary threat, Trump’s Taiwan policy might become the last straw for constructive, cooperative relations between China and the US and risks triggering confrontation with China. It is high time for President Trump to end his Taiwan policy game and be honest and sincere in honoring the “One China” policy.

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