The US may be rethinking the idea that closer cross-strait relations are always preferable, a new academic study says.
Written by Davidson College East Asian politics professor Shelley Rigger and published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the study is the latest in a series of articles suggesting that Washington could be shifting its policies.
Rigger contrasts the 2012 Washington visit of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) with her visit earlier this month, saying that on both occasions, Tsai’s “line” on cross-strait relations was not what Beijing wanted to hear.
“However, this year there was no rebuke from Washington,” Rigger said. “The gaps between Tsai’s two visits reflect profound changes in Taiwan and in US-China relations.”
US-Taiwan-China relations continue to evolve rapidly, Rigger said.
Tsai feels “little domestic pressure” to accept the so-called “1992 consensus,” Rigger said, “given that many Taiwanese voters now welcome the possibility that cross-strait interactions might decelerate.”
“Nor is there much evidence that the US is leaning on Tsai to compromise on the issue. Skepticism about China and anxiety about its rise appear to have affected US policy as well as Taiwan’s domestic politics,” she added.
This comes after the Wall Street Journal said US foreign policy has reached a turning point, asserting that analysts from across the political spectrum have started to speak of a need for a “policy of containment” against China.
American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Asian studies director Daniel Blumenthal and AEI research fellow Michael Mazza said that China’s aggression is pushing the South China Sea to a boiling point.
They are calling for a “far more active role” from the US.
National security expert Bill Gertz wrote in the Washington Times that the most senior US intelligence official on China, Paul Heer, recently resigned, saying that he “was known for a steadfast bias that sought to play down the various threats posed by China in favor of more conciliatory views.”
This development, along with the resignation earlier this month of US National Security Council senior China specialist Evan Medeiros — “regarded by critics as among the most pro-China policymakers,” has brought a “more hawkish coalition of officials across several agencies and departments” to power, Gertz wrote.
“Congressional Republicans have said Medeiros was behind the White House decision to deny sales of advanced US F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan,” Gertz wrote.
On top of the South China Sea problems, the US also appears to be furious at what it believes are major cyberattacks from China on US government sites.
During a just-completed, high-profile visit to the US, Chinese Central Military Commission Deputy Chairman General Fan Changlong (范長龍) raised Taiwan-related issues and urged Washington to abide by Beijing’s “one China” policy and to refrain from “sending wrong messages to the forces seeking [Taiwan’s] independence.”
This was a clear reference to Tsai’s successful US tour.
US House of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee on sea power chairman Randy Forbes issued a statement criticizing the administration of US President Barack Obama for allowing Fan’s visit.
“China poses a challenge across a number of areas, from cyberespionage to Beijing’s efforts to undermine the military and political balance in the South China Sea,” the statement said. “Chinese behavior must have consequences and rewarding espionage and artificial island construction with red-carpet treatment only encourages further destabilizing behavior.”