Cross-Straits ties likely still strained after Biden takes office

By Sheng Jiuyuan Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/16 23:30:21

Photo: GT

US Under Secretary of State Keith Krach, who visited Taiwan in September, will now attend the Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue on Friday. Chen Chern-chyi, deputy head in charge of economic affairs for the Taiwan island, will lead Taiwan's delegation to Washington for the talks - which will be held both in-person and virtually, according to Reuters.

The upcoming economic dialogue shows a step-up for the interactions between the US and the island. This trend continues to embolden the island of Taiwan given the high frequency of their recent high-level official exchanges.

This might promote the illusion that if the island of Taiwan upgrades its relations with the US, then Taiwan may have more room on the international stage in the future. This fantasy is also contributing to greater tensions across the Straits. 

However, the dialogue is essentially a political pledge of the Trump administration, rather than a real economic talk that will bring practical good to Taiwan. A meaningful and substantial economic talk should be led by the US Department of Commerce or US trade representatives, not the US State Department. The State Department under Trump administration has become one of the biggest sources that undermine the one-China principle. This once again was proved by Krach's upcoming visit to the island. 

The dialogue takes place at a time when Trump's presidency might end in two months, which shows that the administration has gone to extremes. It is desperate to use the Taiwan card to pressure China. Both the timing and the intensity of the moves to irritate China are unprecedented - and anti-China sentiment has become hysterical. 

Since taking office, Trump's Taiwan policy has pushed the redline of the one-China principle to its maximum limits, surpassing any previous US administrations. Moreover, a tacit understanding between the US and China on the Taiwan question, which the two countries have together developed to keep a relation balance in the past, has been severely ripped apart by Trump's administration. 

Trump has played the Taiwan card to the bottom. In so doing, he has basically hollowed out the one-China principle and thus brought China-US relations to a historic low.

Under a potential Biden administration, the redline across the Taiwan Straits, which has been seriously menaced by Trump, may be relaxed to some degree. But it is unlikely to be restored to the situation of the Obama era. The high-level official interactions with Taiwan and arms sales to the island in the future might become less. A Biden administration is also likely to publicly recognize the one-China principle, but the US still might not make much effort to rein in Taiwan secessionist forces.  

Taiwan has also taken a timely turn with the ongoing development of the US presidential elections. Taiwan's regional leader Tsai Ing-wen has publicly congratulated Biden on his election.

Hsiao Bi-khim, the island's representative in the US, tweeted on Sunday that she spoke to Biden's policy advisor Antony Blinken to express congratulations to Biden and hopes for a closer cooperation between Taiwan and the US. Blinken is likely to be the future secretary of state in Biden's administration, according to certain analysts in US media. 

Hsiao's interaction with Blinken was meant to send a signal to the Taiwan public that the island also has strong ties to the Biden administration - even though it bet on Trump during the presidential election. Moreover, a call with Blinken, the potential future US secretary of state, was to show that Taiwan's relation with the US will not change, given that the State Department has long been an important role in promoting their relations. Hsiao's tweet mainly aims to maintain Taiwan people's confidence in relying on the US. However, the signal only tells Taiwan's wish and does not mean that it will come true. 

We have to warn Taiwan: It should be prepared for any possible consequence with either a high-level visit under the Trump administration, or official interactions with Biden's incoming team. 

Taiwan has always been and will continue to be a pawn of the US, no matter if China-US relations are good or bad. China-US relations have nearly hit its bottom under Trump. But it will definitely rebound one day. At that time, the so-called security interests and economic interests of Taiwan will face direct damage. This will be only borne by Taiwan people, not the Chinese mainland, nor the US.

According to Hong Kong media reports, the mainland has drawn up a list of diehard Taiwan secessionist hardliners. They will be severely punished and held accountable for life in accordance with the Anti-secession Law, Criminal Law and National Security Law. If such a list were to be drawn up, it would have a big deterrent effect. More importantly, it shows that the mainland will never tolerate the Taiwan secessionist elements and will deal with them severely. It will firmly maintain the position of unification.

The author is director of the Taiwan Research Center, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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