During a news conference in Vietnam on Sept. 10, a reporter asked US President Joe Biden about the possibility of China invading Taiwan. Biden replied that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is too busy handling major domestic economic problems to launch an invasion of Taiwan.
On Wednesday last week, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office published a document outlining 21 measures to make the Chinese-controlled Fujian Province into a demonstration zone for relations with Taiwan. The planned measures would expand favorable treatment for Taiwanese people and companies, and seek to attract people from Taiwan to buy property and seek employment in Fujian. In so doing, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is once again applying its two-handed strategy of using peaceful and military methods. Its resort to peaceful methods indirectly confirms what Biden said at the news conference.
For the CCP, when there are things that it cannot achieve through war, it would be better to achieve them through peaceful and less costly “united front” methods. As current conditions are not good for launching a military invasion of Taiwan, it is not surprising to see China playing its “united front” card.
Of course Biden does not have the last word on whether China would launch a military invasion of Taiwan, but for the time being the US enjoys an undisputed leading position in the world. Consequently, US presidents get to see a daily array of intelligence information, gathered and summarized through the US’ technological capabilities or through military, diplomatic, economic and other channels. Biden therefore has greater access to intelligence than other countries’ leaders, and his statements are based on the information he receives.
Another important external factor is the changes that have taken place in the international situation. China’s position in the world today is no longer what it was when Xi became president 10 years ago. Notably, Biden has in recent years adopted a strategy of “vertical and horizontal alliances,” seeking alliances with democratic countries and including relatively new partners like India and Vietnam.
As well as consolidating NATO, this strategy has strung together a united front of countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including the US, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, India and other countries, forming a containment network around communist China. This arrangement poses a new deterrent effect against Xi and his ambition to use military force against Taiwan. It makes Xi more cautious about the price that China would have to pay for attacking Taiwan.
Biden’s “decisive” remarks shouldould help to calm the global atmosphere, which is currently affected by international media making a lot of noise about military confrontation and the danger of war across the Taiwan Strait. Biden’s remarks would also shore up worldwide companies’ confidence about investing in Taiwan and shut the mouths of certain Taiwanese politicians who try to win political points by playing on the theme of “war and peace.”
Of course, Taiwan should not take it easy and let down its guard because of a few words from Biden. On the contrary, it should seize the opportunity to strengthen itself, deepen its democracy, make more connections and garner more international recognition and support.
Paul Lei is a political commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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