After Trump, Biden faces pressure to stand up to China by embracing Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan – President Trump has made fostering closer ties with Taiwan a critical part of China ‘s efforts to offset China’ s growing influence. It has significantly increased sales of weapons by the Taiwanese army, vowed to step up economic cooperation, and generally strengthened ties with the independent democratic island even in the days of dwindling.

His successor, President-elect Joseph Joseph Biden Jr., is likely to continue on a similar path, albeit without Mr. Trump’s characteristic greed.

As concerns about China’s increasingly aggressive behavior on the global stage grow, Mr. Biden will face pressure from Democrats and Republicans to strengthen ties with Taiwan, which he sees as part of Beijing’s territory.

While Mr Biden said little about Taiwan on the campaign trail, he said the United States must be “tough with China” and described its top leader, Xixing, as a “bandit”. His transitional team has already approached Taiwanese officials.

“If China continues to exert military and economic pressure on Taiwan, Biden must show that he will not sit next to him while China harasses Taiwan,” said Bonnie S. Glaser, a consultant in charge of Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

However, his approach is expected to be less confrontational than its predecessor. “I don’t think Biden is trying to stab Xi Jinping in the eye through Taiwan and look weak,” Ms. Glaser added. “There will be no deliberate effort to make Taiwan a point of friction.”

With less than two months to go, Mr. Trump is working to maintain a legacy of broken ties between the United States and China, including last-minute actions focusing on Taiwan.

The U.S. government held economic talks with Taiwanese officials in Washington last week and warned Beijing. The White House plans to send the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, next month, the latest in a series of high-profile visits by U.S. officials hitting the Chinese government’s rankings.

Trump has attracted loyal followers in Taiwan as his administration has criticized the Chinese Communist Party on issues such as trade, the coronavirus and the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong. In Taiwan, he was praised for quickly approving arms sales, including more than $ 4 billion last month. They also widely commend their decision to receive a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen as President-elect in 2016, breaking with decades of diplomatic practice.

“Trump’s action has been very solid,” said Tsai Yi-yu, the southern Taiwanese legislature. Mr. Tsai eagerly supported the president and led him to “Keep a Big America” face mask in meetings with Taiwanese leaders.

“Maintaining Trump’s Taiwan policy will be best for Taiwan,” he said, referring to Trump’s support for arms sales.

In Taiwan, Mr Biden’s rise was received with some concern, especially in the ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party, which is critical of China.

Many politicians and activists in Taiwan have become increasingly concerned about Mr. Xi’s creeping authoritarianism in recent years. They called on world leaders to step up Beijing’s efforts to bring the island under control and treat Taiwan on an equal footing.

Mr. Biden is considered more risk averse in Taiwan. He is best known for the post of Vice President Barack Obama, who has been criticized in Taiwan for not doing enough to stand up to Mr. Xi. As a senator, Mr. Biden helped bring China into international groups such as the World Trade Organization, which gave the country an advantage in its efforts to expand its economy and influence the global system.

Mr Biden resisted the idea of ​​succumbing to pressure from Beijing. As proof of Mr. Biden’s commitment to Taiwan, his advisers cited support for a senator from the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which obliges Washington to supply arms to Taiwan. More recently, it has indicated its support for Taiwan in other ways, for example, when the election of Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, spoke to Taiwan’s de facto U.S. ambassador this month.

“It continues to support a peaceful settlement of Taiwan issues, in line with the wishes and interests of the Taiwanese people,” an official from Mr Biden’s transition team said in a statement. “He has long said that support for US Taiwan must remain strong, principled and bipartisan.”

Some Taiwanese politicians, including members of the opposition party, the Kuomintang, believe Mr Biden’s more restrained approach could help ease tensions and prevent a military conflict between the United States and China.

“He is not a reckless politician, nor is he a man who wants to achieve something remarkable in a short time,” said Cheng Li-wun, auomintang’s legislature.

Despite Mr Biden’s call for closer cooperation, China’s leaders are wary of their leadership. They are worried that mainland analysts say it will try to unite European and Asian American allies to thwart Beijing’s global agenda and that it will continue to work more closely with Taiwan.

“Basic Taiwanese policies, even under Biden’s mandate, do not see any impending changes,” said Xin Qiang, a scholar of US-China relations and Taiwan at Fudan University in Shanghai. “As for strategy and tactics, the mainland is worried about both Biden and Trump.”

Chinese officials often accuse the United States of encouraging Taiwan to gain full independence. Mr. Hszi has repeatedly warned of his ability to respond to armed force. In China, a growing sense of nationalism has fueled concerns that the mainland could react harshly if tensions escalate.

“I fear that one day the mainland will be forced to act on the Taiwan issue, which would cause a crisis or even a military conflict between China and the United States,” Professor Xin said.

During his last weeks in office, Mr. Trump and his advisers appear to intend to test China’s restrictions on Taiwan.

Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo has intensified his mockery in Beijing, saying in a recent interview that Taiwan is not part of China. His remarks provoked an angry response from Chinese officials who said Taiwan was an inalienable part of China, reported Mr. Pompeo and retaliated against retaliating.

Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, is currently leading a visit to the region as part of reassuring U.S. allies after Beijing signed a trade agreement with 14 countries in the region this month. control of U.S. power in the region. Mr O’Brien said in Manila on Monday that the United States would continue to support Taiwan and would not hand over Pacific power status to China.

“We will fight with all our partners for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Mr O’Brien said at a conference with reporters.

When he takes office in January, Mr. Biden will also face increasing friction and tough political decisions, including issues related to arms sales and economic investment. Taiwan has long been urging US officials to sign a bilateral trade agreement, Beijing opposes this idea. In August, President Tsai lifted a long-standing ban on U.S. pork and beef imports, an attempt to open the door to formal trade talks.

In the wake of the pandemic, Taiwan also wants to participate in international groups such as the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, despite objections from China.

Many Taiwanese residents say the island can only maintain its legitimacy on the global stage and deter land invasion with the strong support of Mr. Biden.

“Taiwan alone cannot face China’s strength,” said You Ying-long, a former politician in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. “We cannot fight China alone.”

Albee Zhang contributed to the research.