I’m sure the Biden administration was hoping to focus on domestic priorities for the next several months but that may not be possible. China seems determined to have some sort of showdown with the U.S. over Taiwan. Last weekend China sent military jets and bombers into the airspace around Taiwan and the U.S. responded by sending the USS Theodore Roosevelt through the South China Sea.
Today a Chinese military spokesman warned that independence for Taiwan meant war. This is from the Global Times which is Chinese state media:
The Chinese Defense Ministry said on Thursday that China-US military relations are at a new starting point with the Biden administration, but warned it is impossible for the US to contain China if it remains determined to do so, and “Taiwan independence” will lead to war…
On the recent operations of the People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Straits, Wu again stressed that Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, and the Taiwan question is China’s internal affairs and does not allow any foreign intervention.
The PLA operations in the Taiwan Straits are aimed at the current situation in the region, and are a necessary move to safeguard national sovereignty and security, and act as a stern response to foreign interference and Taiwan secessionists’ provocations, Wu said.
“Taiwan independence” means war, Wu warned.
The warning is not only to “Taiwan independent” forces, but also to the US, since the US has been sending the wrong signals to Taiwan secessionists and boosting support to them, according to Song.
China’s message: We want peaceful relations with the new administration but if you mess with Taiwan we’ll kill you. You can’t say they haven’t been clear about their expectations. The Pentagon brushed off the statement with the diplomatic equivalent of “Nah, bro.”
“We find that comment unfortunate and certainly not commensurate with our intentions to meet our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act and to continue to, as Secretary [Antony] Blinken at the State Department said yesterday, look for ways where we can cooperate with China, but we have obligations that we intend to meet,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.
The Pentagon “sees no reason why tensions over Taiwan need to lead to anything like confrontation,” Kirby said. “The United States military remains ready in all respects to meet our security commitments in the region.”
But the question is whether or not China is willing to push the issue, as they seem to be willing to do recently, and if so who will blink first. As this Bloomberg analysis piece points out, this issue is one of national pride for China:
Although the Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, it views control over the island as essential to completing its goal of reversing China’s “century of humiliation” by colonial powers. Beijing argues that Japan surrendered Taiwan to “China” after World War II and blames the current dispute on the DPP’s refusal to accept that. Xi has shown an increased willingness to assert such sovereignty claims from Hong Kong to the South China Sea to the Himalayan Plateau. Securing Taiwan would make Beijing an even more formidable Pacific power. Problem is, Taiwan residents themselves are becoming more skeptical of the idea. Only 8% of Taiwanese favor unification at some point, compared with 26% who favor eventual independence, according to a November 2020 survey. Almost 60% would prefer to keep the status quo indefinitely or otherwise delay the decision.
China couldn’t care less about what the people of China want. That’s not how communist dictatorship works. What they do care about is the power of the United States. After Xi Jinping’s success in clamping down in Hong Kong he is probably eager to do the same in Taiwan, but that can’t happen unless the Biden administration lets it happen. Hopefully the U.S. will continue to refuse to kowtow to the Chinese bullies.