Taiwan should fortify its ties with US Democrats and Republicans at the federal and state levels, as divisions in the US would likely persist after the winner of the US presidential election has been confirmed, experts said yesterday.
Although vote-counting has not yet been finalized, as of press time last night, the narrow margin between the US presidential candidates would affect the “mandate” of the new administration, National Taiwan University political science professor Simon Chang (張登及) told a forum in Taipei.
The forum, organized by the Association of Strategic Foresight, focused on the future of ties among Taipei, Washington and Beijing at a time when Taiwanese are anxious about the election result.
Even if former US vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, wins, he would be embroiled in lawsuits that US President Donald Trump, a Republican, has vowed to launch, Chang said.
If the Republicans continue to hold a majority in the US Senate under a Biden presidency, a rift between it and the White House would be expected, affecting budgets and the appointment of key personnel, he said.
With Trump’s odds of being re-elected shrinking, he might pursue a more radical policy to rally support, Chang said, adding that the US’ social discord would last for quite a while no matter the election’s outcome.
The possibility of Beijing using force against Taiwan during the period is low, but China would maintain pressure in the Taiwan Strait and continue to “tactically harass” Taiwan to prevent any risky scenarios caused by the US election’s uncertainty, he said.
Chang also addressed Beijing’s relations with Tokyo, Seoul, and nations in the South China Sea and Europe.
As Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) has scheduled a visit to Japan, Taiwan should watch interactions between Wang and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who assumed the post in September, Chang said.
The developments of China-Europe relations are also worth attention, after an EU-China leaders’ meeting in September did not culminate in signed agreements, he said.
Much uncertainty overshadows Washington, as Trump, if re-elected, might employ new personnel in his second term, while Biden would need time to clarify his foreign policy, said association president Li Da-jung (李大中), who is also associate professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies.
Although Washington has pursued many policies considered beneficial for Taiwan during the Trump presidency, further observation is needed to see to what extent they are carried out, he said.
Asked if President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration had shown a preference for Trump over Biden, Li said that a Ministry of Foreign Affairs video montage compiling congratulatory messages from US dignitaries for Tsai’s second inauguration in May unduly neglected US Democrats, as reported by the Washington Post.
The government should have been more careful and not left the impression that it was favoring either party, he added.
Asked how the government might improve relations with US Democrats, Li said that it should continue to solicit bipartisan support from the US to boost Taiwan’s international participation and Taiwan-US military cooperation.
Taiwan should also attempt to increase its connections with state governments, Li added.
The structures of Beijing-Washington-Taipei ties would not undergo significant changes, although a Biden administration might take milder approaches toward cross-strait issues, National Cheng Kung University professor Bernard Chou (周志杰) said.
However, Taiwanese officials should learn a lesson from the division in the US and stop manipulating populism for their own political benefit, he added.
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