If the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was looking for some respite after the battering former US president Donald Trump gave it, it has been swiftly refused that hope. US President Joe Biden and his administration are making it clear that there is little chance of a return to the “strategic patience” of former US president Barack Obama’s era.
In terms of the US’ approach to Beijing’s relations with Taipei, there has been a continuation of the selective strategic clarity the Trump administration favored over the “strategic ambiguity” of previous US administrations.
One indication of this occurred during a virtual event on Monday, when US Navy Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, talked of plans to distribute US forces “across the battlespace’s breadth and depth” in preparation for the challenge of China, saying that a persistent presence was the most credible way to show the US’ commitment and resolve.
Hoping to nudge Biden in a direction Beijing would prefer, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) gave a speech at the opening of the Lanting Forum in Beijing on Monday last week titled “Bringing China-US Relations Back to the Right Track.”
He painted a rosy picture of the CCP as protecting human rights and dignity, and of presiding over a “people-centered” democracy, calling on Biden to cooperate on big challenges, work to manage differences and not to interfere in China’s domestic issues.
It was a strange combination of Orwellian distortion, wishful thinking and a woeful misreading of the mood of not only the US, but the world.
US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price responded to Wang’s remarks by saying that they reflected “a continued pattern of Beijing’s tendency to avert blame for its predatory economic practices, its lack of transparency, its failure to honor its international agreements and its repression of universal human rights.”
At the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado in 2018, Michael Collins, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s East Asia mission center, spoke of the CCP’s pernicious intent.
These warnings, made less than three years ago, came as the US was waking up to the threat posed by the CCP. The climate is very different now.
During confirmation hearings last week, Biden’s nominee for CIA director, William Burns, identified China as one of the CIA’s four crucial priorities should he be apponted, saying that under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) Beijing is a “formidable, authoritarian adversary” that represses its own people, bullies its neighbors and seeks to expand its global reach. He called the CCP the US’ “biggest geopolitical test,” with Beijing’s “aggressive undisguised ambition and assertiveness” making clear the nature of Chinese intentions.
Wang’s speech included a veiled warning to Biden about interfering in China’s territorial claims on Taiwan. On Monday, US representatives Tom Tiffany and Scott Perry proposed a resolution calling on the US to scrap its “one China” policy and recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, to bring it more in line, as Perry said, to “what the world knows to be true,” and which Tiffany called Beijing’s “bogus lie” that Taiwan is part of China, “despite the objective reality that it is not.”
Biden is unlikely to go anywhere near that, as it would be a step too far for the CCP to accept, yet it is important that the notion be stated, a recognition that the CCP’s claims on Taiwan, far from being an unassailable fact, are ahistorical and a baseless delusion.
The Biden administration is recalibrating its relations with China, but not to get it back to what Wang would say is the “right track.” The new approach retains comprehension of the threat that the CCP poses to regional security and US national interests.
This threat, for ideological, geostrategic and political reasons, cannot be discussed without including Taiwan as a major factor, whether Beijing likes it or not.
In September 2013, the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) quietly released an internal document entitled, “Coursebook on the Military Geography of the Taiwan Strait.” This sensitive, “military-use-only” coursebook explains why it is strategically vital that China “reunify” (annex) Taiwan. It then methodically analyzes various locations of interest to People’s Liberation Army (PLA) war planners. The coursebook highlights one future battlefield in particular: Fulong Beach, in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District, which it describes as “3,000 meters long, flat, and straight,” and located at “the head of Taiwan.” A black and white picture of Fulong’s sandy coastline occupies the
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