Mon, Nov 11, 2019 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik, Jr On Taiwan: A new ‘Trump Doctrine’ on China and Taiwan?

Whew! Last month, the Chinese foreign ministry whacked both Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the most solemn terms! The Vice President, it seems, “intentionally misrepresented China’s social system, human rights and religious conditions, and wantonly criticized China’s domestic and foreign policies.” Mr. Pence’s remarks were “full of political bias and lies, and reveal nothing but his arrogance and hypocrisy. China expresses strong indignation and firm opposition to them.”

Mercy! Strong words, indeed. No need to repeat the Vice President’s exact words in his October 24 speech on US-China Relations, but the daily newsfeed reflects that Mr. Pence has the far stronger argument.

Then, on October 30, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo spoke forebodingly about the “China Challenge.” Both speeches made it clear that the dangers come not from China’s people, but from the totalitarian ideologies of China’s ruling Communist Party. The Secretary of State stressed “that the communist government in China today is not the same as the people of China”; it is a government “using methods that have created challenges for the United States and for the world.” He warned that “we collectively, all of us, need to confront these challenges from the People’s Republic of China head-on,” and he counseled that “above all, it’s critical that as Americans, we engage China as it is, not as we wish it were.”

All this struck a nerve in Beijing where it is forbidden to criticize the “Party.” The Foreign Ministry blasted the Secretary of State personally. He “fully exposed the deep-seated political prejudice and dark anti-communist mindset of a handful of American politicians,” the ministry spokesman fulminated. “Mr. Pompeo’s speech maliciously attacked the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government,” and “[Pompeo] tried to drive a wedge between the CPC and the Chinese people and deliberately distorted and slandered China’s domestic and foreign policy.”

As these speeches show, a stiffening American posture toward China is taking shape. I see them as part of a new “Trump Doctrine” on China that germinated last year in bitter trade talks and is now crystallizing into a coherent strategic vision. Over the past few months this “Trump Doctrine” has focused on China’s increasingly malign behavior in global affairs, human rights, weapons expansion, trade cheating, cybercrime, floods of killer narcotics. Yet, it hinges subtly on the “Taiwan Question” and the “permanent imperative” of a “peaceful resolution” between Taiwan and China. The State Department issued a series of position papers last week on Washington’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy; Taiwan gets prominent attention in all of them. Moreover, the State Department strategy papers all dovetail nicely with the Pentagon’s “Indo-Pacific Strategy” of last June which also stressed Taiwan’s partnership in a regional security architecture.

Also, for the first time I can remember, Taiwan was a significant part of consecutive pronouncements on China policy by top administration figures. Vice President Pence praised Taiwan’s contribution to global democracy and regional peace and urged the international community to remain engaged with Taiwan. Secretary Pompeo reminded his audience that forty years ago, “we downgraded our relationship with our long-time friend, Taiwan … to normalize relations with Beijing” on “the condition that the ‘Taiwan question’ would be resolved peacefully.”

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