Beijing accused Washington of political manipulation and fostering efforts to change the status quo around Taiwan. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian criticized the changes made on the US State Department’s website regarding information about Taiwan.
The amendment, which was updated on May 5 but only caught the attention of Beijing five days later, included a line that emphasized Washington’s longstanding position not to support Taiwanese independence but removed a key line that noted the US recognized the One-China principle.
“The United States recognized the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China,” read the August 31, 2018 version of the website, which has now since been removed.
The One China principle is the near global consensus that there is only one sovereign state under the name China, with the People’s Republic of China serving as the sole legitimate government of that China, and Taiwan is a part of China.
Zhao swiftly condemned the amendment, saying: “This kind of political manipulation on the Taiwan question is an attempt to change the status quo on the Taiwan Strait and will inevitably stir up a fire that only burns [the United States].”
Chinese authorities have repeatedly stressed that the Three Joint Communiqués signed by Beijing and Washington in the late 1970s and early 1980s are the political basis for maintaining bilateral relations.
Washington’s position on the Taiwan issue is determined in these three communiqués, along with others.
According to the Three Joint Communiqués, the US recognizes Beijing’s position that there is China and Taiwan as part of China. In addition, the US recognizes the government of the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate authority of China. Washington has maintained a policy of “Strategic Ambiguity” on Taiwan and says it does not support the island’s independence. For this reason, there was a minimizing of political contacts between US and Taiwanese officials for many years.
On the other hand, the US continues to supply weapons to Taiwan, which Beijing describes as a rebel province. However, Washington has never said how it would act in the event of a military conflict between Taiwan and a third party. The only guarantees Taiwan has received from the US are the Six Assurances given in 1982 under President Ronald Reagan, whose contents were declassified by Washington in 2020. Washington promised that it will never pressure Taiwanese officials to negotiate with Beijing and said it had no intention of setting a specific time frame for ending arm sales.
Recently, the US has been actively exploring Beijing’s “red line” with Taiwan. In 2020, US Deputy Secretary of State Keith Krach visited Taipei, becoming the first senior State Department official to visit the island since 1979. This year, a group of senators visited Taipei and US warships have also increased their activities around the Taiwan Strait. In 2019 there were nine passings and in 2020 there were 15. This year so far, US warships have been passed through the Taiwan Strait at least twice a month.
The new version of the US State Department’s webpage on Taiwan demonstrates that the US does not encourage a peaceful settlement of cross-Strait differences. Washington began to reconsider its approach to Taiwan under President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. But now, after Russia began its military operation in Ukraine, the Biden administration has begun imposing new sanctions on Russia.
In fact, the US has repeatedly emphasized similarities between the situation in Ukraine and the situation in the Taiwan Strait, although Beijing has insisted that any comparison shows a “lack of the most basic understanding of the issue’s history.” US experts even point out that with Europe nearly fully united in opposing Russia to serve Washington’s interests, the US can put greater focus and resources on confronting China in the Asia-Pacific region.
Beijing has repeatedly stressed that it will seek to resolve the Taiwan issue by peaceful means. But, in the event of external forces intervening, it is impossible to exclude the use of force to ensure sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Mindful of this, US provocation is illogical, especially when it still claims it supports a peaceful solution to the Taiwan issue.