MS Risk Blog

What could be in store for US-Taiwan-China relations within the next 4 years

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Trump didn’t have the best relationship with China. He was forceful and not afraid to show a defensive stance to the powerful country. This can be analysed for having both positive and negative implications. On the one hand Trump didn’t give in to China’s power, which arguably  previous presidencies have been more lenient. However, on the other hand the previous president didn’t have the diplomacy to match. Many have questioned if Biden’s administration, in particular the Chinese Government itself, will have a similar straight forward approach.

On Sunday the 7th of March, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, warned Biden to not continue the former president Donald Trump’s “dangerous practice” of showing support for Taiwan. Additionally, Wang said “The Chinese government has no room for compromise” and that the Biden administration should stay away from “crossing the line” and “playing with fire”. The controversial island of Taiwan is claimed by China as its own territory, but both the country itself and the US want to give the Taiwanese people their own freedom.

Since the statement from Wang, the US President has replied saying he wants a more civil relationship with Beijing, but has no sign of relaxing the former presidents practices of trade, technology and human rights. In fact, as recently as Tuesday the Biden administration concluded the first arms sales to the island and confirmed exports of key submarine technology. The new administration seems to be continuing the Trumps approach so far.

Wang hasn’t replied or shown the reaction from Beijing over Biden’s recent approach. However, what could happen if neither countries retreat? In the past, China has threatened to invade Taiwan and this could have been another warning in Wang’s recent speech. In fact, China’s excessive military growth despite its stagnant economic growth this year, due to the pandemic, emphasises the ever posing threat to both Taiwan and the US. China has claimed that its massive military is only for defensive purposes and not offensive, yet the International community doesn’t totally believe this. In fact US Adm. Philip Davidson, warned the US two days after Wang’s warnings, that this threat to Taiwan could happen within the next 6 years. Davison also argued that they should see China as “the greatest long-term strategic threat to security in the 21st century”. China’s military definitely doesn’t have the technological advancements as the US military. However, the US has 1.2 million military personnel, whereas China has 2.3 million. The US and its allies shouldn’t and don’t take China’s warnings lightly because quantity has a quality of its own.

However, the US is growing its allies and has invested a further $1.6 billion to the Aegis Ashore missile defence system for safety and security. The US has recently joined the Qaud group. The other three members are Australia, India and Japan. This a group of major democracies that are strengthening their allies in response to China’s growing influence in the region. China currently has disputes with all four of these democratic nations and with them forming an alliance will not sit well with the Chinese Government.

China definitely has the military power to cause a big conflict in Taiwan. However, with more and more enemies joining forces against China and the different political conflicts that can arise from them all, China’s growing security system might be for more defensive reasons than from a first glance. However, we shouldn’t forget that the Chinese threat is very real and they wouldn’t be afraid of committing. China is clearly still a competitor and not an advisory. If China and the US don’t come to some sort of peaceful agreement soon, over the independence of Taiwan, then a conflict between the nations could be even sooner than 6 years.