In a rare display of public dissatisfaction, the US State Department's reaction to China and El Salvador establishing diplomatic relations included accusations that said the move was an attempt to "unilaterally alter Taiwan status quo." The US State Department officials said on Tuesday they would reexamine their relationship with the Central American country.
On the same day, GOP Senators Cory Gardner (Colorado) and Macro Rubio (Florida), threatened to amend the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 that would "block US foreign assistance to El Salvador" for committing such a "grave mistake."
China and El Salvador are sovereign nations, and free to do as they please without having to seek third-party approval. The outspoken scorn from the US over this fresh relationship is wholly uncommon in the modern diplomacy arena. Washington's comments set a negative precedent that essentially says bigger countries are to decide who smaller countries can befriend.
What many have obviously forgotten is how severing "diplomatic "relations" with Taiwan is really more of a trend that has been around since the 1970s. When it first started it was the US who lead the charge in altering Taiwan status quo.
The US publicly resumed high-level diplomatic contact with China in 1972 after Nixon's visit. By the end of the decade, both countries had firmly established a diplomatic relationship with one another that also saw the US severing ties with Taiwan. The trend, up until now, spanned four decades, with El Salvador as the latest country to implement the "American model" on diplomatic relations with China.
Washington has chosen a downward spiral by threatening smaller countries who choose to develop a diplomatic relationship with China. They do not have any legal basis to react or meddle with the diplomatic affairs of others. Should they choose to put their threats into action, such behavior would run in opposition to history and set itself in a new trap.
At this very moment, every diplomatic relationship Taiwan has is looking at China and considering the endless possibilities a bilateral relationship would provide. The US needs to find a more effective tool than intimidation. They are unable to compensate for not establishing a healthy diplomatic relationship with China early on, and now they can't stop China's development and global position.
Washington's reaction reveals a level of concern and fear over a China presence in Central America. With El Salvador, this is just diplomacy. If the US is unable tolerate normal behavior between two countries, then the problem could be that their global policies are simply on the wrong track.
Central America's geographical proximity to the US does not mean China should be alienated. Washington's move is designed to make sure those countries remain incomplete sovereignties. However, those countries will grow to not only resent the hegemony of the US, but also turn against Taiwan. In the past, they established relations with Taiwan on their own accord, and now they will be forced to do so. Undoubtedly, the US will ask them to do down the road.
The Central American nations probably regret not severing ties with Taiwan and developing a relations with Beijing much earlier.
By refusing to acknowledge the "1992 Consensus," Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen has created the current scenario. Tsai chose to go against the current, contradicting the Cross-Strait path set during the Ma Ying-jeou era. In pushing Taiwan toward separatist thought during China's rapid rise to power will forever remain a grave mistake from which Taiwan will never recover.
The best move for the US now would be to keep Tsai in check. Prevent her from stepping on the bottom line. By now Trump and his team have realized that betting on Taiwan in thinking it could be used as a fulcrum to balance China was not a good idea.
The right way for the US is to suppress Tsai Ing-wen, hold her back from stepping on the bottom line, but Trump administration rashly used Cai's gamble as a new fulcrum to play balance with China.
The one-China principle is the bottom line that Beijing will defend at any cost. The slogan from the other side of the Straits "Die defending Taiwan Independence" is a bluff. Taiwan authorities are trying to use the issue as a bargaining chip to for political gain. In fact, their political maneuvering is nothing short of a high-wire act.
Washington has taken advantage of Tsai. Meanwhile, both players are stuck in an illusion whereby they can challenge China's bottom line. It's an arena where would be doomed to lose should they feel conflict was an option.
If the US challenged the one-China principle, it would enter into a nightmare reality from which there would be no escape.
Senator Rubio vowed to make sure aid to El Salvador would be reduced or cut off for saying goodbye to Taiwan and hello to Beijing. In the event a major conflict should arise with China, the US will need to prepare a greater number of resources compared to what it would save from cutting off El Salvador.
Washington better realize when it comes to cross-Straits issues, they would be hard-pressed to find an ally willing to fight recklessly with them.