President Joe Biden has shocked the Chinese regime three times with announcements that the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily if the communists attack the island nation.
Even though the White House walked back each claim, the truth is likely that the U.S. and other allies are secretly preparing to rush to Taiwan’s defense against Beijing.
Biden’s latest statement came in response to a question at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The president was asked whether the U.S. would defend Taiwan if attacked by China; he answered, “Yes.” Biden added that we agree with the “One China” policy “but the idea that [Taiwan] can be taken by force … it’s just not appropriate.”
Evidently, that caveat was insufficient for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who quickly tried to walk back Biden’s “yes,” claiming, “I think the president was clear on the fact that the policy has not changed.” But it seems to have changed, Mr. Secretary.
In October at a CNN town hall, Biden said he would protect Taiwan and then added that there was no need to “worry about whether [China is] going to be more powerful” because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world.”
A White House spokesman quickly announced the president’s remarks did not signify a change in policy, even though Biden was actually pretty clear about our policy: We will defend Taiwan.
Even for the gaffe-prone Biden, three times on the same topic is too much of a coincidence. Biden’s statements are perhaps intended to message the Chinese that the U.S. and its allies won’t allow the communist regime to pull a Ukraine on the democratic nation.
Since 1979 and the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. policy regarding Taiwan has been strategically ambiguous. That’s possibly changed thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has abandoned any pretense about his intention to return Taiwan to the fold.
Last summer, Xi spoke at Tiananmen Square in Beijing to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party. He used the occasion to pledge complete “reunification” with self-ruled Taiwan and threatened to “smash” any attempts at formal independence.
Understand that Beijing considers Taiwan its own territory and that over the past year Xi has intensified his rhetoric as well as frequently exercised his military to prepare for an invasion.
Of course, Taiwan rejects Beijing’s “One China” principle. What many readers don’t understand is the backstory to this conflict that dates back to the early 20th century.
In 1911, Chinese reformists turned revolutionary and toppled the Qing dynasty to establish China’s first republic. However, the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China fought a civil war with the Chinese Communist Party until 1937, when they put the conflict on hold to join forces against the Japanese invaders and then resumed their war after World War II.
By 1949, having lost numerous battles, the KMT retreated to Taiwan, and the communists founded the People’s Republic of China. However, hostilities continue to the present.
The communist Chinese are committed to “reunification,” and Beijing appears intent on forcing that outcome through violence. After all, the use of military action against the democratic country dates back to 1954, when the communists bombed one of Taiwan’s northern islands. At that time the U.S. helped evacuate thousands of citizens, and other flare-ups followed.
Over the past year, Beijing has flown bombers and fighter jets around the island almost daily, and at sea the regime intimidates Taiwanese ships with its giant fleet. What’s clear is that violence, not peaceful diplomacy, is the likely way ahead for Mr. Xi.
The timing of Xi’s inevitable assault is likely tied to the end of his tenure as China’s leader, which could yet be years in the future. However, that day is coming and is only delayed by the uncertainties about the role the U.S. and other Western nations might play.
Certainly, the difficulties the Russians experienced with the West coming to Ukraine’s aid is a factor in Xi’s calculations. So are the messages coming from Biden himself — a man given to frequent gaffes.
Is the American president guilty of misstatements about U.S. intentions regarding Taiwan, or is it all part of a psychological war effort to keep the Chinese off balance?
Let’s hope the gaffe-prone Biden and his backtracking staff are part of a disinformation campaign to fool the Chinese and not a fumble leading to yet another disastrous outcome.
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