Op Ed | Arms sales to Taiwan a blow to Sino-US ties

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A Chinese fighter plane fires at ground targets in an amphibious landing drill during the third phase of the Sino-Russian "Peace Mission 2005" joint military exercise, held in China's Shandong Peninsula, in this Aug. 24, 2005 photo. China warned the United States and other governments on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 against using missile-defense systems to protect rival Taiwan or helping the island produce its own system. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Li Gang)

HONG KONG (The China Daily/ANN) — By approving the potential sale of arms worth US$2.2 billion to Taiwan, the U.S. State Department has not only further strained cross-Straits relations, it is also trying Beijing’s patience. And by passing a series of acts and resolutions related to Taiwan this year, the U.S. Congress has dealt a serious blow to Sino-U.S. relations, as well as undermined peace and stability across the Straits.

The U.S. House of Representatives enacted the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019 and passed a resolution reaffirming the U.S.’ commitment to Taiwan on May 7, which essentially means the U.S. would sell arms to the island regularly and back its participation in international organizations.

That the U.S. has continued to meddle in Taiwan affairs shows it is desperate to use the “Taiwan card” to contain the Chinese mainland.

The US believes that by consolidating its relationship with Taiwan authorities through acts and resolutions, it can further integrate the island into its “Indo-Pacific” strategy to contain the mainland, the biggest rival in Washington’s eyes thanks, in part, to the trade disputes between them.

Yet the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan, which favors an independent entity for the island, is willing to act as the cat’s paw for the U.S. in exchange for security protection and political cover. Which is nothing but wishful thinking on the part of Taiwan authorities, because there is little chance of Washington getting involved in a war across the Straits if the DPP indeed tries to split the country.

Following the DPP’s ideology of making Taiwan an independent entity, the island leader Tsai Ing-wen and other DPP officials have intensified their pro-independence activities, especially in the fields of education, culture and administration, since she took office in 2016. In fact, Lai Ching-te, Tsai’s rival in the island’s next leadership election in January 2020, openly pitched himself as a worker for “Taiwan independence” before stepping down as the head of the executive body.

To send a clear message against secessionism to the Tsai administration and give a strong warning to separatist forces on the island, the mainland has held military exercises in the Taiwan Straits and sent warplanes and warships around the island.

But at the instigation of the U.S. administration, thanks to its acts and resolutions and promise of support, the DPP could try to further push forward its “pro-independence” agenda and cross the red line and worsen the situation across the Straits. Therefore, the US should review its policy and stop selling dreams to the Taiwan authorities.

The Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019 is a serious violation of the one China principle and the three joint communiqués, which the Sino-US relationship is built on. The U.S.’ interference in China’s internal affairs will not only endanger one of the world’s most important bilateral ties and jeopardize peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, but also increase the possibility of the mainland using whatever means necessary to realize the final reunification of the island with the motherland.

The U.S. has frequently meddled in Taiwan affairs, which has significantly undermined Sino-US ties, creating worries and risks across the Straits.

But since China is committed to safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and achieving national reunification, the US should not hope to succeed in its design of splitting the country by leading the island authorities down the garden path.

By Li Zhenguang
Professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Beijing Union University

 


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