US congressional body 'plays with fire' on Taiwan after top leaders' summit
Published: Nov 18, 2021 11:59 PM Updated: Nov 19, 2021 12:15 AM
Vessels in the Taiwan Straits, July 20, 2017. /CGTN Photo

PLA vessels in the Taiwan Straits, July 20, 2017. /CGTN Photo

 After the Chinese leader drew a red line with the US on the Taiwan question and warned it of not playing with fire, a bipartisan advisory body of the US Congress urged policymakers to take tougher measures in "strengthening the credibility of US military deterrence." Though those proposals, which reflect the body's bias and ignorance about China, are unlikely to turn into US policies, experts said China should remain cautious on further provocation from Washington as growing chaotic voices in its domestic political circle would only increase the risk of strategic miscalculation. 

Compared to the annual report released by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) in 2020, the 2021 report focused on enhanced military capabilities by saying it's a "dangerous period" for cross-Straits deterrence and provided recommendations to  Congress such as enhancing the island's "ability to purchase US defense articles and accelerate the process for their sale and delivery to Taiwan," and authorizing the funding to "harden US bases" in the Indo-Pacific region, including robust missile defense. 

The report was released after Chinese President Xi Jinping warned US President Joe Biden that the intention of some Americans to use Taiwan to contain China "is just like playing with fire," vowing to take resolute measures in the face of escalating provocations, which is seen as the first time for China's top leader to send such a tough, resolute and direct warning to the US on the Taiwan question. 

While some Western media outlets cited the USCC report as "influential," Chinese experts cast doubt over how many recommendations raised by a group of former senators, so-called senior experts on China on diplomacy, economic and trade issues and security would be adopted and turn into real policies. 

"The commission is composed of a group of people marginalized in both academics and policy-making, some of whom were assistants to congressmen, and the report is not even worth being mentioned as they have no readers in Washington," Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

The only time some content of the USCC's report was adopted by the government was when former US president Trump was in office. The content would normally be considered too extreme and a joke, Xin said. 

The USCC report is filled with disinformation and malicious slander, reflecting the commission's persistent ignorance and prejudice against China, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press conference on Thursday. "Such a report interferes with China's internal affairs and harms China-US relations," he said. 

Although the report unlikely becomes part of US China policy, it reflects a rising malicious attitude inside US bipartisan politics toward China, as some American hawks and anti-China officials have been stepping up efforts to play the Taiwan card to contain China, and those recommendations could be seen as paving the way for future policy suggestions, some experts said. 

In spite of the latest clear and stern warning from China, some US senators and officials continued escalating their rhetoric on the Taiwan question. For example, John Cornyn, one of six US lawmakers who visited the island last week which sparked strong reaction from the mainland, said Taiwan island should not be viewed as CPC's ultimate goal but as "the first domino" in its quest "to reach regional and global dominance." 

'Playing with fire'

When the US politicians and the bipartisan advisory body openly played the Taiwan card as part of their long-term strategy to contain China, the secessionist DPP authority "flexed its muscles" by showing off newly improved version of US-made old type fighter jets - F-16 fighter jets which were claimed to make the island's defense capabilities "even stronger." 

Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday that the attempt of the US congressional advisory body to encourage and support the Taiwan secessionist authority militarily would likely ruin US President Joe Biden's promise to China about "no conflict," as this is an act of "playing with fire" and just as what Xi warned at the virtual summit, "Whoever plays with fire will get burned."

Taiwan's F-16Vs are an updated version of the F-16 AB and its capability of striking surface targets on water has been improved to some extent, but its threat toward the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is very limited, and what the PLA is preparing is to counter an all-out military intervention launched by other countries, especially the US, during the process of reunification by force if necessary, Song said.

If US politicians naively believe that providing military support to the island could deter the Chinese mainland from reunifying Taiwan by force when necessary, this would be a huge miscalculation and an extremely dangerous mistake, said a military expert at a Beijing-based military academy who asked for anonymity.

"There is no room for compromise on the Taiwan question, and nothing can stop the national reunification of China. Anyone who wants to stop the process by force will definitely pay a huge price. US arms sales or other cooperation with the DPP authority will sooner or later cause the mainland government and people to totally lose patience and hope for a peaceful solution, and then the US will pay a huge price once the mainland decides to solve the Taiwan question by force," the expert said, noting that "this is why the ones who play with fire will get burned."

The anonymous expert said that the Taiwan military's US-made fighter jets won't even have a chance to take off in a war with the mainland, because the PLA's missiles and long-range rockets are capable of destroying all airports and air force bases on the island. So maybe most F-16Vs in Taiwan's military wouldn't have a chance to threaten PLA forces once the mainland is compelled to launch a massive military operation to reunify Taiwan.  

A US-made F-16V fighter jet takes off from the freeway in Changhua county, Taiwan, as a crowd takes photos during the annual Han Kuang drill on May 28, 2019. Photo: AFP

A US-made F-16V fighter jet takes off from the freeway in Changhua county, Taiwan, as a crowd takes photos during the annual Han Kuang drill on May 28, 2019. Photo: AFP

Chaotic voices 

Although Biden said the US remains committed to the one-China policy when it comes to the Taiwan question during the summit with the Chinese top leader, there have been growing chaotic voices in Washington, and bipartisan political pressure would increase the risk of miscalculation by the Biden administration. 

By citing the Taiwan Relations Act, Anne Neuberger, deputy assistant to the president and the US deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology, said on Wednesday that the US ensures that Taiwan can maintain sufficient self-defense, including cyberspace. 

Meanwhile, the so-called "Political-Military Talks" and "Defense Review Talks" were held in Washington from Tuesday to Wednesday, which were reportedly attended by Jessica Lewis, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and others. Such continuous provocation on the matter was refuted by Chinese officials. 

"The Taiwan Relations Act mentioned by the top Biden cyber advisor as a reason to provide defense aid, including cybersecurity, to the island gravely violates the one-China principle and the three China-US Joint Communiqués and essentially places domestic law above international obligations. It is illegal, null and void," Zhao said. 

"Biden is not that stupid as to play fire on the Taiwan question despite strong domestic pressure, because he is not as absurd as Trump. At least he is aware of the gravity and where the red lines are as he mentioned his commitment to the one-China policy," Xin said, noting that taking an anti-China posture as political correctness won't change in US political circles in the near future, and American hawks will continue exploiting the Taiwan card. 

Biden may not like Congress or bipartisan circles to take the lead in his political agenda, but there have been growing chaotic voices inside Washington on the Taiwan question, Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

"On such a highly sensitive topic between China and the US, those voices could lead to a highly dangerous miscalculation or misunderstanding," he said.