For decades, Taiwan has been walking a fine line that broadly suited everyone: neither being part of mainland China, nor officially declaring independence. The People’s Republic of China could maintain its claim over it. Yet Taiwan was free to develop as a vibrant liberal democracy and modern economy. And the democratic world was able to develop ties with both, so long as they steered clear of the sovereignty issue and adhered to the so-called “One China” policy.
But that has changed. Through its actions and the rhetoric of its Secretary-General Xi, China has shown it is no longer willing to accept this status quo. Likewise, the free world needs to rethink its approach.
During Secretary-General Xi’s term as leader, Beijing has ramped up the hybrid attacks on Taiwan. It targets Taiwan’s democracy with disinformation. It throws its diplomatic weight around the world stage to coerce multilateral bodies and institutions to leave Taiwan out in the cold. And it has launched increasingly aggressive and dangerous military incursions into Taiwan’s airspace.
China is actively threatening democratic Taiwan. To date, many in the free world have turned a blind eye to this. They feared Beijing’s threats and economic coercion, and they have been willing to go along with China’s unilateral efforts to redefine and corrupt what Beijing now calls the “One China principle.” Beijing wants it to mean that no other country can have any economic or political relations with Taipei.
We cannot allow that to happen.
The Taiwan status quo exists alongside an American policy best described as strategic ambiguity. In short, it may be implied that the United States would support Taiwan if China were to attack, but the exact scale and scope of any response has been purposefully left undefined.
Several times, President Biden has been much less ambiguous in his views. China and Taiwan are one area of foreign policy which unites both sides of the aisle in Washington.
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