A Gunpowder Magazine of U.S.-China Rivalry

By Philip Yang

United Daily News, September 20, 2020


The lifting of the ban on U.S. pork and beef import two months ago was thought to have the resumption of U.S-Taiwan economic talk in return. However, Under Secretary of State Keith Krach of the United States who just visited Taiwan was not here to preside over an economic talk. Consequently, the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen can only say that Krach is the highest ranking official from the State Department to visit Taiwan and that he was here to conduct a "preliminary dialogue."


Against this backdrop, China announced that the combat exercise recently is a necessary move against the situation in the Taiwan Strait and a warning to the recent change in the U.S.-Taiwan relations.


On September 18, some 19 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) military aircrafts crossed the median line of Taiwan Strait and entered the southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ) of Taiwan respectively. Taiwan responded by scrambling jets for 17 times. Suddenly, tension has dramatically risen in the Taiwan Strait.


Meanwhile, American media reported that the administration of President Donald Trump in the United States has decided to sell seven weapon system packages to Taiwan in order to equip Taiwan as hard to attack as a porcupine and as a "Taiwan Fortress" in the first line of defense in the U.S.-China competition.


All of a sudden, there is a strategic squeeze among the United States, China, and Taiwan. At this juncture when the United States and China are embroiled in a strategic competition, Taiwan may easily miscalculate and fall into a crisis.


The Tsai administration could not have an economic talk in return mainly because of two things: First, economic dialogue with a foreign country falls in the purview of U.S. Trade Representative, not the Department of State. That is why in the past the U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks were represented by USTR officials. Second, the timing of the lifting on the ban of American pork and beef is meant to be a gift to President Trump to help his re-election bid in the agriculture states.


U.S.-Taiwan relations has tilted totally in favor of the United States. Taiwan has become the first line of defense and a fortress in the U.S.-China strategic competition. The PLA's combat exercises are military threats as well as political warnings.


When will the military conflicts break out in the Taiwan Strait? We may ask. Personally, I think there are two situations which could trigger a conflict: First, when Taiwan or the United States crosses the red line; secondly, when the domestic pressure or political needs in China or the United States is higher than the peace dividend.


The second situation comprises the internal factors in China or the United States. For example, because of the election, the United States might intervene in the military or political maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait. This may be considered by China as crossing the red line. In the past, this is unimaginable because it is not in keeping with traditional U.S. strategic interests in Asia. However, from Trump's anti-China policy and his maneuvers on the Taiwan issues, many international observers, as well as observers from Taiwan and mainland China, are worried that it might happen.


In general, the anti-China policy adopted by the Tsai administration has given rise to the stagnation of Taiwan's economy and poverty of Taiwanese people. The Tsai administration has adopted a policy totally titled to the Trump administration at the expense of Taiwan food security and national security. This has led to the uncertainty of Taiwanese livelihood and might transform the Taiwan Strait into a gunpowder magazine amid the U.S.-China rivalry.


From 2012 to 2013, the author served as deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council, Republic of China (Taiwan).


From: https://udn.com/news/story/7339/4873972

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