An American trade delegation visited Taiwan from Jan. 14 to 17 for consultations regarding the “U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade.” If this had been a non-governmental delegation engaging in non-governmental interaction between the U.S. and Taiwan — and could have added to the welfare of the people of the island — mainland authorities should have no complaint. They should even be glad to see it succeed.
However, with the delegation directly demonstrating its official identity as it openly engaged in official interaction with various departments in Taiwan, the visit amounted to official exchanges. In addition, the timing of the visit, the specifics of the talks and the agreements reached all give the lie to claims that this was a benign interaction. It disrupted peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which is why the U.S. move was illicit.
First of all, the incident was an official interaction between the U.S. and Taiwan in the guise of economics and trade. It therefore violated the China-U.S. communique on establishing diplomatic relations. The U.S. has pledged that “The United States of America recognizes the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China. Within this context, the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan.”
Judging from the composition of the delegation — its head being the assistant U.S. trade representative for China affairs, Terrence McCartin, and with members who are U.S. government officials — its nature as an official U.S. government delegation is beyond doubt. Those who interacted with the delegation included Yang Jen-ni, deputy trade representative of the Taiwan authorities, and members of their foreign affairs, economic, legal affairs and anti-corruption agencies. There is no doubt about the official nature of the interaction. This undoubtedly violated U.S. commitments and trampled on the common political foundation of three China-U.S. joint communiques. The malicious essence was self-evident.
Second, the incident once again sent a mistaken message to Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party authorities and the international community. Taking place before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Beijing visit, the incident can be seen as another component of America’s habitual double-dealing tactics in relations with China. It was intended to pacify the Taiwan authorities in advance of the trip and to create a bargaining chip in the U.S. game with China by stirring up trouble. It was designed as part of a balancing act between Beijing and Taipei and meant to preserve U.S. interests on both sides of the strait.
In addition, by dispatching such a high-profile delegation of officials to Taiwan, the U.S. was attempting to show the international community that even though it was sending its secretary of state to visit China, this doesn’t mean the U.S. will allow Western countries to universally increase official exchanges with China. That’s because — before Blinken’s visit — the U.S. escalated its saber-rattling against China and enhanced its ties with Taiwan. By means of such duality, the U.S. isf showing other Western nations that it is both fighting against and dealing with China, and that the fight comes first.
Third, taking Taiwan as a guinea pig, the U.S. is using the process and outcomes of the U.S.-Taiwan talks as an example of “scaring the monkey by killing the chicken.” Everybody knows that the so-called high-standard rules the U.S. proposed within the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework were based on U.S. interests, and many have raised doubts among IPEF members and others in the region.
After excluding Taiwan from the grouping to deter other countries and regions, the U.S. has made the contents of negotiations on the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade similar to those of the IPEF. It wishes to provide a template via its interaction with Taiwan to accelerate the IPEF negotiations. For this purpose, in contrast to its past arrogance, the U.S. has allowed Taiwan authorities to raise their own concerns. The idea is to stimulate IPEF negotiations, rather than show respect for Taiwan — let alone deliver benefits to the people in Taiwan or act with their welfare in mind.
The recent incident was even more malicious than Nancy Pelosi’s earlier Taiwan visit. As U.S. House speaker — and even though Pelosi and President Joe Biden belong to the same political party — it was still possible for Biden to argue that he was not intentionally violating the “one China” policy or taking advantage of the separation of powers under the U.S. political regime. Yet members of the official U.S. government delegation, led by McCartin, were all from the executive branch of the U.S. government, or they were estaff members under the direct control of the U.S. president.
The delegation’s composition was evidence that Biden violated the three China-U.S. joint communiques, as well as the consensus reached between Chinese and U.S. leaders during their meeting. In so doing, the U.S. government has eaten its own words. As the ancient Confucian adage goes, “Those who lie won’t be trusted anyway.” The contradiction between what the U.S. says and does on Taiwan will only render the already volatile cross-strait relationship even more worrying.
The visiting U.S. delegation’s attempt to consult with DPP authorities on signing an official trade agreement is self-explanatory. The move, which rudely interfered in Chinese domestic affairs, seriously undermined core Chinese interests and had an extremely negative influence both internationally and on the island. It will do plenty of harm but no good in China-U.S. relations. It will make no contribution to peace across the Taiwan Strait, but will only deal a blow to Blinken’s Beijing visit.