OPINION / VIEWPOINT
Craft’s upcoming Taiwan visit a provocation making no difference in the Straits
Published: Jan 10, 2021 11:48 PM

New US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft addresses a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, US, September 12, 2019. Photo: VCG


Two days after announcing US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft's Wednesday-Friday visit to the island of Taiwan, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Saturday that he was lifting the complex internal restrictions the US State Department had imposed on itself regarding to relations with Taiwan.

The first thing to be clear is that it is impossible for the island of Taiwan to join the UN. 

The international status and influence of the Chinese mainland today are incomparable to the past. China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and the possibility of Taiwan returning to the UN is almost zero. If Taiwan cannot enter the UN, it means that the international community does not recognize it as a country. Even if Taiwan wants to participate in international organizations such as APEC, it needs to be approved by the Chinese government. 

With the US presidential transition taking place in 10 days, a visit by an outgoing ambassador to the UN to Taiwan is merely a desperate political provocation.

The Trump administration has been trying to strengthen ties with Taiwan, including through the so-called TAIPEI Act and the Taiwan Assurance Act. They tried to expand the island's international space. But the reality is that the number of "diplomatic allies" to Taiwan has shrunk from 22 to 15 since Tsai Ing-wen took office as the island's regional leader. 

It is clear for the foreseeable future that the US only recognizes the People's Republic of China in terms of diplomatic relations. Even as a radical anti-China politician, Pompeo hasn't publicly opposed the one-China policy. 

Craft will continue to use Taiwan as a pawn during her visit, while the US will not establish diplomatic relations with the island. The US itself does not regard the island as the object of diplomatic relations, so how can it then actually improve the international space of the island?

There are several factors for sending an outgoing UN ambassador to visit Taiwan. First of all, the Trump administration attributed its failure in the reelection largely to the coronavirus. Out of a sense of seeking revenge, the Trump administration wants to use the "Taiwan card" to irk the Chinese government. 

In addition, Trump wants to preserve his diplomatic legacy. If it were not for the epidemic, he could have touted a booming economy and low unemployment rate as a pretext for his reelection. However, the epidemic made all these bragging rights turn into bubbles. He now may only be able to praise himself as the first president since 1972 to change the US' decades-long policy of engagement with China, claiming to be tough to safeguard US national interests. 

Moreover, it is also a goal of the Trump administration to push the upcoming Biden administration down a road of no return in regard of the Taiwan question. Craft's visit is actually part of a series of premeditated plans, including Pompeo's announcement on Saturday that he is lifting the complex internal restrictions the US State Department had imposed on itself regarding to Taiwan.

In fact, however, this gives the Biden administration a lot more space to maneuver. Given the Trump government's last-ditch madness, it may not be so sensitive in the future if Biden wants to play the Taiwan card. But whether the Biden administration will follow Trump's path remains to be seen.

Kelly Craft herself is pro-Taiwan and has been in touch with Taiwan representatives in New York before her upcoming visit. However, a visit to the island just as she is about to wrap up her service at the UN will bring no real commitments to the island - it is a symbolic function at best. 

The author is Deputy Director and senior fellow of the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
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