Last weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, held a two-day summit in California.
Branded as “a new type of relations between big powers,” one issue attracted the most attention from the outside world.
According to media reports, Xi once again stated his view that the Pacific Ocean was wide enough to accommodate both China and the US.
It was the third time that Xi made the statement in the past year and a half. In addition to Xi’s statement, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) said at a briefing after the summit that the two countries should be able to find a new path that is different from the historical precedent of conflict and confrontation between the major powers.
In other words, as far as China is concerned, the joint management of the Pacific Ocean with the US will be a crucial component to this new relationship.
At the same time, Beijing is hoping that Washington will abandon the idea of using military force to contain China and that it accepts the possibility that China might replace the US as the world’s biggest power some day.
As far as Taiwan is concerned, the appearance and development of such a relationship could create two big problems.
First, if the US was to agree to jointly manage the Pacific Ocean with China, then China would likely move to take control of the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea — two regions that Beijing claims are part of China’s core interests.
Second, as China’s strength grows, as do the increasingly overlapping interests between China and the US, the question would be whether Washington is capable and willing enough to continue to play the role of security provider, which maintains the balance in the western Pacific region.
This is why, in the short term, Taiwan must gain a deeper understanding of the scope of this new type of relationship between China and the US and the issues such a relationship would involve.
It must also find ways to enhance communications and negotiations with the US to avoid a negative impact on Taiwan’s interests.
In the medium and long term, Taiwan must be well-prepared and flexible so that it can create new strategic value for itself as China and the US go through a process of strategic adjustments.
It must also make an effort to obtain the greatest benefits possible as a result of the dynamic inconsistencies between China and the US.
In addition, Taiwan should create even closer relations with neighboring countries throughout the region, especially Japan and India.
Doing so would relieve and counterbalance the pressure China is putting on Taiwan and the whole of East Asia.
In short, faced with a new type of relationship between China and the US, Taiwan must not remain aloof from the situation.
It certainly should not resign itself to fate.
Huang Tzu-wei is a researcher at the Taiwan Thinktank.
Translated by Eddy Chang