OPINIONS Washington must be clear-eyed of risks


Washington must be clear-eyed of risks

China Daily

20:52, December 08, 2022

Chinese and US flags flutter outside the building of an American company in Beijing, Jan 21, 2021. (Photo: Agencies)

The meeting in Bali, Indonesia, between Chinese President Xi Jinping and United States President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G20 Summit was significant in that it provided an opportunity for the two countries' leaders to clarify their respective government's positions and bottom lines in dealing with bilateral relations.

That the meeting took place at all revealed a shared interest in avoiding misjudgment and instilling stability and predictability into the recently volatile relationship. Yet, just as the Chinese leader told his counterpart, it takes efforts from both sides to maintain constructive engagement.

What is happening in Washington regarding Taiwan, however, clearly goes against the kind of healthy, manageable China-US interaction the two leaders expressed they aspired to in Bali.

During their face-to-face talks, the Chinese president reiterated to his US counterpart that Taiwan stands at the core of China's core national interests, constitutes the foundation of the political foundation of China-US relations, and is thus the first redline that must not be crossed. Citing Biden's repeated claim of commitment to not supporting independence for Taiwan, he urged the latter to honor his words with deeds.

Yet just weeks after saying that the US government is committed to the one-China policy, it does not seek to use the Taiwan question as a tool to contain China, and hopes to see peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits, the Biden administration signed off on the sale of a fresh package of arms worth more than $425 million to the island, mainly spare aircraft parts for Taiwan's military.

This may not seem like such an "escalation" in US arms sales to Taiwan that the package itself would result in a conspicuous blow to the already frayed ties. No matter how Beijing protests, Washington will continue insisting there's no change to its "one-China policy". But as it is outright interference in China's domestic affairs at a sensitive time, it is damaging to overall bilateral ties. More important, this is only a small token of US military support for the island compared to what is to happen.

The "Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act", which is included in the National Defense Authorization Act the US Senate and House Armed Services committees just unveiled, is expected to be approved by Congress and signed into law this month. This will mark a conspicuous escalation in US military intervention in Taiwan affairs, which will deal a heavier blow to the two countries' relations.

The proposed legislation promises up to an annual $2 billion in military grant assistance for Taiwan from 2023 to 2027 to boost the island's military capabilities.

At a time when Western politicians are creating a hullabaloo about an imminent mainland "invasion" of Taiwan, and independence seekers on the island are becoming increasingly bold in their efforts to push the envelope, the US moves are adding fuel to the fire.

If Washington is serious about crisis management, it must see the dangerous potentials of such stunts and practice restraint. The "China challenge" they are clamoring about may blind them to the truth on the ground and lead them onto a perilous track of confrontation that is in neither country's interest.

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