A surprised and agitated Beijing on Monday denounced President Joe Biden’s assertion that the US would intervene militarily along with Japan if China invaded self-ruled Taiwan, which effectively jeopardises Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious plan of national integration.
Taiwan’s integration with the Chinese mainland is the major political plank of Xi, 68, who is widely expected to be endorsed for an upcoming third term in power this year by a once-in-a-five-year congress of the ruling Communist Party scheduled to meet in the next few months.
China views Taiwan as a renegade province that should be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary. The US has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but sells arms to it as part of its Taiwan Relations Act, which states that the US must provide the island with the means to defend itself.
At the same time, Washington maintains formal ties with China and also acknowledges Beijing’s position that there is only one Chinese government.
So far successive US administrations maintained what was officially termed as strategic ambiguity of tacitly backing Taiwan, while publicly asserting commitment for the One China policy.
“We deplore and reject the US remarks”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here soon after Biden unequivocally stated Washington’s new stand shedding the successive US Presidents’ strategic ambiguity on Taiwan, an estranged self-ruled island which steadfastly stood against Beijing’s attempts to integrate with the mainland.
Significantly, Biden outlined the US new policy in Tokyo while addressing a joint press conference with the Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida saying that America will stand with Japan and other nations to not let China forcibly take over Taiwan.
Wang reiterated that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory and the Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affair, which brooks no foreign interference.” “On issues bearing on China’s core interests including its sovereignty and territorial integrity there is no room for compromise or concession”, he said and warned that “China will take firm actions to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests. We will be true to our word.”
He urged the US to earnestly abide by the “One China policy,” recognising Taiwan as part of the Chinese mainland and refrain from sending a wrong message to Taiwan’s independence forces.
“Regarding issues related to China’s sovereignty & territorial integrity, China has no room for compromise. No one should underestimate the determination of Chinese people,” Chinese FM said, expressing strong dissatisfaction in response to Biden’s remarks on #Taiwan question. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/OU2ZLv0lkp
— Zhang Meifang张美芳 (@CGMeifangZhang) May 23, 2022
Wang also took exception to Biden comparing any action by China to forcibly take over Taiwan similar to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The Taiwan question and the Ukraine issue are fundamentally different. To compare those two is absurd”, he said.
Observers say Biden’s stand to militarily defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression will strengthen pro-independent forces led by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and cast a shadow over Xi’s oft-repeated forceful assertions to integrate the estranged island with the mainland.
Xi, who enjoys the status of the ruling Communist Party founder Mao Zedong, is currently bracing for an first third term, doing away with the two-five-year-term convention followed by all his predecessors.
Reports from Taipei quoted Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry welcoming Biden’s comments for “reaffirming” Washington’s “firm commitment to Taiwan” and would deepen cooperation with countries including the US and Japan.
“The challenges of China poses to the security of the Taiwan Strait have aroused great concern to the international community,” a spokesperson of Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said.
“Our government’s firm determination to defend Taiwan’s freedom, democracy and security has never changed,” the spokesperson said.
In the video clips of Biden’s press conference, the US leader struck a nuanced stand on Washington’s policy on Taiwan, post-Russian invasion of Ukraine where America was not militarily involved.
#UPDATE President Joe Biden says Russia “has to pay a long-term price” for its “barbarism in Ukraine”, referring to the possibility of sustaining sanctions imposed on Moscow by the United States and its allies. pic.twitter.com/oIL22HoUJm
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) May 23, 2022
Biden said “if there is no rapprochement between Ukraine and Russia and sanctions are not sustained in many ways, then what signal does it send to China about attempting to take Taiwan by force”.
“They are already flirting with danger by flying so close and all the manoeuvres they are undertaking”, he said referring to frequent attempts by Beijing to send hundreds of military aircraft into Taiwan’s airspace to intimidate Taipei.
“The US made the commitment, we support the One China policy that does not mean China has the jurisdiction to use force to take over Taiwan”, Biden said.
“We stand firmly with Japan and other nations to not let that happen. I expect it will not happen, it will not be attempted”, he said.
“That’s the commitment we made.”
President Biden on Monday indicated a hardening stance on the US’s commitment to defend Taiwan from a potential attack by China. https://t.co/4FspcCVtcX pic.twitter.com/V7uXxGABjO
— FORTUNE (@FortuneMagazine) May 24, 2022
“My expectation is a lot of it depends on how strongly the world makes it clear that this kind of action is going to result in long-term disapprobation by the rest of the community” Biden said.
When asked if the US is willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan, Biden said “yes”.
“That is the commitment we made. Here is the situation: we agree with the One China policy. We signed on to it and all the attendant agreements made from there”.
“But the idea that it can be taken by force is just not appropriate, it will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine. So, it is a burden that is even stronger”, he said.