If the courts ultimately determine that former US vice president Joe Biden has been lawfully elected president of the US, “good old Joe” will have to get to work immediately to assure many that he deserves that honor and their trust.
In addition to gaining the trust of the American people, roughly half of whom deemed him unworthy on Tuesday last week, Biden owes the people of Taiwan assurances as well.
There are many reasons Taiwanese are concerned about a Biden presidency. One reason is that there was little in Biden’s campaign rhetoric to suggest how his administration would support democratic Taiwan or confront the increasingly threatening, totalitarian China.
No one from the campaign would go on record about Taiwan and China policy specifics.
Finally — and under great pressure — at the last minute his campaign put online a generic statement vowing support for Taiwan.
In short, Biden responded to Taiwan’s intense existential concerns with the cheapest form of meaningless election year pandering.
Biden’s record with China and the failures of those who are likely to be appointed to foreign policy and defense positions is not encouraging.
The administration of former US president Barack Obama “slow rolled” arms sales required under the Taiwan Relations Act, and then-US secretary of defense Leon Panetta admitted that Beijing had been given a “heads-up” on arms sales in breach of former US president Ronald Reagan’s “six assurances” to Taiwan.
Of greater concern, the Obama-Biden team was perceived as being — at best — accommodating to China, at the expense of the US and its allies and friends.
The 2012 theft of Scarborough Shoal — known as Huangyan Island (黃岩島) in China and Taiwan, which also lays claim to it — is one major example. China stole the shoal from a US treaty ally, the Philippines, in an immediate breach of a US Department of State-brokered agreement.
Then-Philippine president Benigno Aquino III quickly flew to Washington to ask Obama for help under the treaty, but was ignored.
That failure helped catapult Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to his current position of power, as he led China’s Scarborough small leading group, and the “Scarborough model” has become a template for undermining other US alliances.
Previously pro-US Thais, for example, have repeatedly said that the Scarborough betrayal is why the US treaty ally Thailand should align with Beijing and not trust the US to come to its aid.
Of equal concern, Xi assured Obama to his face that he would not militarize China’s illegally built South China Sea islands — then he soon militarized them.
The Obama-Biden team just shrugged it off and China paid no price for effectively taking control of this strategically vital area that is 1.5 times the size of the Mediterranean Sea — for all the world to see.
Further, the Obama-Biden administration failed to confront China’s massive political warfare operations against the US and democracies globally, leaving itself and those dependent on US leadership defenseless against the main weapon China uses to “win without fighting.”
In a campaign speech, Biden said that he views Russia as the “main threat” facing the US, whereas China is a mere “competitor” — sort of like buddies facing off in a pickup game of basketball down the street from his mansion on the Delaware shore.
Like concerned Americans, Taiwanese see a worrisome shift back to what some deemed appeasement during the Obama-Biden administration. China enablers in US academia have even coined a name for this return to unconstrained engagement with totalitarian China: In e-mails and conversations, they gleefully call it “the restoration.”
Clearly the politburo is losing no sleep over a potential Biden presidency. The Chinese Communist Party leadership understands Biden and the people that would be in key positions if he wins.
They know to expect “tough talk,” but also know that they would no longer be held accountable for their rapacious, repressive, genocidal actions.
Conversely, many in Taiwan understand that if US President Donald Trump is deemed the winner, his administration would continue to support Taiwan as the US continues to meaningfully confront and deter an expansionist China.
For example, the Trump administration is on track to provide about US$22 billion in defense capabilities to Taiwan in four years, compared with a total of a little more than US$14 billion “slow rolled” during the eight years of the Obama-Biden administration.
In the face of a massively expanding Chinese People’s Liberation Army, increasing threats of attack from Xi personally, and China’s efforts to isolate Taiwan from security cooperation and assistance by other nations, Taiwan is uniquely reliant on this US support for its national survival. These people deserve assurances.
Biden is not yet the president, but if the courts deem it so, he must first work to prove to the American people that he is worthy of their trust. Then “good old Joe” must work earnestly to prove himself trustworthy to the concerned people of democratic Taiwan who depend so much on the US for their freedom, their democracy and their lives.
Kerry Gershaneck is a professor and Taiwan Fellow at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies.
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