US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Chase has reportedly arrived in Taiwan for a visit. If reports about the senior Pentagon official’s trip turn out to be true, it will certainly exacerbate tensions between China and the United States and further plunge bilateral relations, already on a downward spiral, to an even lower level.
Sino-US relations worsened drastically last August when then US House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan despite repeated warnings from the Chinese mainland. Beijing lodged solemn protests to Washington over the incident as it violated the one-China principle and sent “wrong signals” to separatist forces on the island seeking “Taiwan independence”.
It was not until mid-November that the tense relations between the two countries gained a respite after their top leaders met face-to-face in Bali, Indonesia, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. During their meeting, US President Joe Biden reiterated that the US government is committed to the one-China policy, it does not support “Taiwan independence”, does not support “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan”, nor does it seek to use the Taiwan question as a tool to contain China.
Such words are taken seriously by Beijing, which has expressed the hope that Washington will act on the solemn assurance to real effect. Any visit to the island by White House or Pentagon officials would be tantamount to a renege on that promise and damage the credibility of the US as a responsible country that can keep its commitments.
So far the Pentagon has declined to comment on the reported visit, suggesting it might at least want to exercise some caution in handling this sensitive issue. Yet the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party government has obviously been emboldened by the increasing military support it has been receiving from Washington. In a meeting with visiting US lawmakers on Tuesday, Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan is bolstering its military ties with the US and will cooperate even more closely with it to deal with “authoritarian expansionism”, revealing her intention to use external forces to resist the island’s reunification with its motherland.
The Taiwan question is at the very core of China’s national interests, and is the bedrock of the political foundation of China-US relations. It is also the element that will potentially decide whether the world’s two largest economies will someday slide into a direct military conflict.
And the Taiwan question, an internal affair of China, is essentially different from the Ukraine crisis orchestrated by the US. The great lengths the US is going in its efforts to correlate the two also shows the dangerous imprudence, if not intention, of it to initiate another conflict at the other side of the Eurasian continent to maintain its hegemony.
Editorial, China Daily