Another senior American politician was visiting Taiwan as Chinese military exercises around the independent island just ended.
Described as rehearsals for a potential invasion of the island, China’s unprecedented live-fire drills were sparked by the visit of Mr. Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in early August.
The visit by Pelosi – the highest-ranking US official to Taiwan in 25 years – led to a major crisis between China and the United States.
Twelve days after Pelosi’s trip, a delegation led by US Senator Ed Markey landed on the island.
On Thursday, Marsha Blackburn, a Republican senator who sits on the Senate armed services and commerce committees, descended on Taipei.
“I just landed in Taiwan to send a message to Beijing – we won’t be bullied,” Blackburn tweeted.
So, why are so many US politicians visiting Taiwan now?
The United States considers China its main strategic rival, and high-level engagement between Washington and Beijing is crucial to keeping the difficult relationship stable.
Over the past decade, however, the United States has also placed greater emphasis on supporting Taiwan as a response to what Washington perceives as China’s increasingly assertive actions in East Asia.
In 2021, the US, Australia and the UK announced a new tripartite security alliance – named AUKUS – in an apparent attempt to counter Chinese growth in the Asia-Pacific region.
China claims democratically administered Taiwan as its own and has pledge to put it under Chinese control, by force if necessary.
Beijing’s increasingly assertive stance towards Taiwan seems to signal that “future crises in the Taiwan Strait are likely”, according to the professors. Owen Greene and Christoph Bluth of the University of Bradford.
Without the current assertive response, Chinese leaders may believe that the United States is unlikely to engage militarily if a crisis engulfs Taiwan.
Even before Pelosi’s visit, Beijing increased its military activities, including frequent intrusion into Taiwan’s aeronautical identification zone, since President Tsai Ing-wen Voted for the first time in 2016.
From ‘strategic ambiguity’ to strategic clarity
The US policy towards Taiwan is related to what is known as “strategic ambiguity”.
This approach to policy involves the US – bound by law to provide Taipei with the means to defend itself – helping to build up Taiwan’s military defenses on the island.
The “ambiguity” lies in the fact that the US has not given specific assurances that Washington will intervene directly if Taipei is attacked by China.
Recent events suggest that ambiguity over Taiwan’s defenses is giving way to more outspoken comments by US leaders that they will support Taiwan in the face of Chinese aggression China.
The strongest signal of a departure from strategic ambiguity came in May when US President Joe Biden said he would use force to defend Taiwan if it is attacked of China.
Biden said while the US agrees with the “one China policy”, the idea that “Taiwan can be coerced by force” is “inappropriate”. White House officials later told reporters there was “no change in US policy towards Taiwan”.
United States, under one China policy, recognizing the People’s Republic of China as the “sole” and “legitimate” government of China. However, that policy does not mean that Washington recognizes “China’s sovereignty over Taiwan”.
Some analysts believe that the US is moving from strategic ambiguity to “strategic clarity” about Taiwan and its defense.
“Biden’s claim this time may seem illogical in itself, but the emotions and signals it sends are politically useful,” said Wen-ti Sung, a political scientist who teaches at the Research Program. Taiwan’s Australian National University, told Al Jazeera earlier this year.
During her visit, Pelosi seems to have added clarity to the debate by saying “America stands with Taiwan”.
“We are advocates of the status quo,” she said. “We don’t want anything to happen to Taiwan by force.”
The US wants Taiwan to have security freedom and the US will not back down from that, she added.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Pelosi’s visit a “sideline farce” and accused the US of violating “his country’s sovereignty under the guise of ‘democracy'”.
War in Ukraine
The invasion of Ukraine has drawn attention to China’s longstanding threat to use force to annex self-ruled and democratic Taiwan.
Taiwan raised its alarm at the start of the war in Ukraine, concerned that China can take advantage about a world distracted by the Russian invasion against Taipei.
During the first week of the invasion, a delegation of former senior US security and defense officials – led by the one-time Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen – – led – went to Taiwan.
In July, the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was affecting Beijing’s calculations of Taiwan about when and how it might play out, rather than whether it would happen. invasive or not, CIA Director William Burns said.
China is likely to realize from Ukraine’s example that “you don’t achieve quick, decisive victories with too much force,” says Burns.
Burns told the Aspen Security Forum: “Our sense is that it might have less of an impact on the question of whether the Chinese leadership might choose a number of years on the path to using force to control Taiwan. or not, but how and when.”
“I suspect that the lesson the Chinese leadership and military are learning is that you have to accumulate overwhelming force if you are going to take that into account in the future,” he said.
China did not condemn Russia war against Ukraine and has not joined international sanctions against Moscow.
Domestic politics in the United States
In Bloomberg’s opinion Piece, Historian Niall Ferguson said one reason Biden reached out to Beijing on the Taiwan issue could be domestic politics as the US heads into the midterm elections.
“Being tough on China is a winner – in other words, doing anything Republicans might describe as ‘weak against China’ is a vote loser,” said Ferguson. ‘ said Ferguson.
U.S.-based independent political fact-checking website Politifact found that U.S. candidates are using political ads that promise to be tough on China or attack rivals. soft on China.
China was a theme in the election campaign that coincided with Americans’ unfavorable views of China “whether they see it as an economic or security threat, or they blame the COVID-19 pandemic.” ,” Politifact reported.
A 2021 Gallup poll, found that “45 percent of Americans now say China is America’s biggest enemy, more than double the rate in 2020.”