A Financial Times report that the US is considering allowing Taiwan to change the name of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington to feature the name “Taiwan” highlighted Washington’s “two-pronged” approach to China, a researcher said yesterday.
The report on Friday said that Washington might allow the nation to change the office’s name to “Taiwan Representative Office.”
The report came after US President Joe Biden on Thursday spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) by telephone for the first time since February.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
A White House readout of the call said that “the two leaders discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict.”
Speaking at symposium on the state of Taiwan-US relations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Taiwan International Strategic Study Society director-general Wang Kun-yi (王崑義) said that Biden was toughening up on China while appearing soft.
When Chinese and US officials met in Alaska in March, both sides came into the meeting “with daggers drawn,” resulting in a tense meeting, which might have led to US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman not being able to meet with Xi during her trip to China in July, and instead meeting with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅), he said.
Biden’s call with Xi was somewhat of a breakthrough, he said, adding that the Financial Times report was therefore surprising.
Making the plan public at this time suggests that Biden wants to test Xi’s reaction, Wang Kun-yi said.
“However, judging by the very strong response from China with regard to a planned Taiwan office in Lithuania, Beijing is unlikely to just let a name change happen without protest,” he said.
A name change would likely result in a suspension of US-China cooperation and might also lead to skirmishes in the East China Sea and Taiwan Strait, which would be intended to test Washington’s resolve to help Taiwan in the event of a conflict with China, he said.
National Dong Hwa University professor Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said that although Biden considers the US-China relationship to be his administration’s biggest challenge, a military conflict between the two countries is not inevitable.
If the US and China could reach a tacit understanding on the issue, the US could maintain stability and security at home and abroad, although Washington would also not yield to China in the Indo-Pacific region, Shih said.
“However, looking at how things turned out in Afghanistan, it seems that Taiwan’s best course of action would be to help itself,” he said.
Separately yesterday, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Department of International Affairs said that the office’s new name should instead contain the nation’s formal name, the Republic of China.
However, the KMT does not believe that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would consider such a proposal, it said.
Using “Taipei” in the names of representative offices might offer advantages over using “Taiwan,” as the former is the name of the nation’s capital, while the latter might legitimize Beijing’s point of view that Taiwan is a Chinese province, it said.
The government’s priority should be signing trade deals and getting Washington to support Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, instead of getting involved in ideological disputes about independence or unification, it added.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiao-kuang
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