Informed US officials are privately predicting there will be greater “friction and tension” with China in the future, a Washington-based academic said.
“Rising tensions with China seem to be accepted in Washington as unavoidable consequences of the US need to protect important interests from negative Chinese practices,” George Washington University China professor Robert Sutter said.
Writing on the Center for Strategic and International Studies Web site, Sutter said that next week’s nuclear summit between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is anticipated to bring “positive interaction.”
However, he said it probably would not change Obama’s more resolute approach to the challenges the Xi administration has posed to US interests.
“Against this background, it is worth noting the so-called Taiwan issue in US-China relations, which has become more sensitive following the landslide election in January of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and a powerful majority of DPP legislators,” Sutter said.
He said that in contrast with other recent actions, the Obama government has avoided controversy with Beijing over Taiwan as Washington “endeavors to sustain peace and stability through cross-strait dialogue.”
Sutter said that it is easy to exaggerate the impact of rising US-China tensions this year and that much worse friction was seen when the two powers grappled with tensions over Taiwan between 1995 and 2008.
“Indeed, the experience of that tension may help to explain the continued public restraint of the US government on the Taiwan issue,” he said.
“In sum, how much tension exists in the current period will depend on a complicated mix of circumstances including the resolve of the Obama and Xi governments, the out come of the US presidential elections and the salience of those elections on the ongoing US debate over China policy,” Sutter said.
This comes as the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday published an editorial saying that China appears to be turning up the heat on president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) by once again trying to poach Taiwan’s few diplomatic allies.
“It’s an ominous sign for relations across the Taiwan Strait, one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints,” said the newspaper.
According to the editorial, the main effect of Beijing’s resumption of the diplomatic tug-of-war would be to inflame public opinion on Taiwan, “where nervousness already runs high about China’s increasing economic sway over the island.”
The editorial said the larger puzzle was why Taiwan cared so much about this diplomatic struggle with China.
“Except for the Vatican, the island’s 22 diplomatic friends have almost no global clout — the 10 smallest ones have a combined population of less than a million,” it said.
Taiwan’s status in the world is underpinned by its thriving democracy, its economic prowess and its attractive social values — not the flags that flutter from ambassadorial limousines in the capital, the Journal said.
It said Tsai had called for “goodwill” on both sides and added that “the alternative is a flare-up of tensions in East Asia — and an unseemly scramble for diplomatic favor among the world’s minnows and paupers.”
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