Op Ed | Taiwan question should not destabilize China-US relations

Commuters walk by the new Huawei P30 smartphone advertisement on display inside a subway station in Beijing Monday, May 13, 2019. China's intensified tariff war with the Trump administration is threatening Beijing's ambition to transform itself into the dominant player in global technology. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) – Obviously it is not just a few people in Washington that are pessimistic about relations with China and assume that Beijing and Washington are headed straight toward the notorious Thucydides trap.

Which may not be unlikely, given that the frustration at the stalled trade negotiations seems to be spilling over and poisoning the overall relationship, with China-bashing all the rage on Capitol Hill.

Whether or not it is meant as a sideshow to help U.S. trade negotiators in their bargaining with their Chinese counterparts, the recent leveraging of Taiwan to irk Beijing has, intentionally or not, the potential to fundamentally derail the China-U.S. relationship, which has generally progressed on a smooth track over the past four decades.

There has been the Taiwan Relations Act and more recently the Taiwan Travel Act … Yet nothing has changed Beijing and Washington’s general willingness to handle their differences within the political framework built upon the Three Joint Communiques they issued in the late 1970s.

However, it has become apparent that not everyone in the United States shares the conviction that confrontation is a lose-lose formula to be avoided. And for those people Taiwan has never lost its value as means to turn the screw on China.

Which is why for the first time in decades multiple members of the current US administration presented themselves at an official event on Wednesday at the representative office of Taiwan to mark the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act.

In a further break from historical practices, two under-secretaries of the U.S. State Department openly stated US government support for Taiwan.

One day earlier the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills regarding Taiwan — a non-binding resolution reaffirming U.S. commitment to Taiwan, and the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019, which promises regular arms sales to the island and backing for its participation in international institutions.

In the meantime, U.S. Navy vessels are increasingly visible in waters near Taiwan.

Washington sees nothing wrong in all this. Even though at an April 11 press briefing, U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino reiterated Washington’s one-China policy has not changed.

Yet what people have witnessed are moves that undermine US government commitments and plunge bilateral ties into a vicious circle where mistrust and a confrontational approach constantly enhance one another.

Although Beijing and Washington are not on an inevitable collision course — the two parties’ consensus on sustaining trade negotiations in spite of the 11th round was a precious sign that they will continue to pursue constructive engagement — some U.S. politicians are trumpeting a “sharper” approach toward Beijing.

By trying to exploit the “Taiwan card” for this purpose, they are knowingly misleading their people and government, and increasing the possibility of an unwanted, and thus avoidable, conflict.


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