US and PRC Dig In (High*) Heals About Taiwan

*Refers to Speaker Nancy Pelosi

The convoluted US policies towards Taiwan are creating serious angst in diplomatic circles. The PRC even hinted that it would shoot down the plane that carried Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. Few thought that it was a credible threat, but to her credit, the Speaker defied China.

The US position on Taiwan is reflected in “six assurances to Taiwan.” The Six Assurances include:

  • The US has not agreed to set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan.
  • The US has not agreed to hold prior consultations with the Chinese on arms sales to Taiwan.
  • The US will not play a mediation role between Taiwan and China.
  • The US has not agreed to reverse the Taiwan Relations Act.
  • The US will not alter its policies regarding Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan.
  • The US will not exert pressure on Taiwan to negotiate with the Chinese.

The position of the US has offended the Chinese continuously ever since 1949, when Chiang Kai Shek’s troops decamped to Taiwan at the end of the Chinese civil war. In 1978, the US announced it would break relations with Taiwan and formally recognize the PRC as the sole and legal government of China.

Over the years, though, American presidents have reconsidered these policies, much to the chagrin of the PRC. For instance, on several occasions, the US stated or implied it would come to the rescue of Taiwan if it were attacked by the PRC.

How does all this affect the current US/PRC relations? Frankly, the PRC resents the wishy-washy position of the United States and the latter’s interference into internal affairs of the PRC. The visit by Speaker Pelosi has riled PRC leadership greatly, and that is resulting in aggressive and undiplomatic actions by the PRC, including a show of force in the area around Taiwan that included live fire combat exercises.

Would the PRC go to war to protect its claims on Taiwan? It’s doubtful that it would initiate a shooting conflict with the US, but it might take other kinds of actions that are deemed to be provocative, such as claiming more islands in the South China Sea and militarizing islands located near the PRC. There is a growing concern that a misstep by either the US or the PRC could accidentally lead to direct conflict.

Seems to me that the current policies of the US are the major issue. Our government has been dancing around its position relating to Taiwan for many years. Direct and frank negotiations with the PRC are an obvious alternative to military confrontation.

These solutions would be complicated and likely fraught with economic sanctions by both sides, something the world economy does not need at this time. I am absolutely dedicated to affirming the rights of US, but we need to be clearer, as it was with Hong Kong. Perhaps a date to reunite the two Chinas in the distant future would be a reasonable idea to discuss. The 100-year deal between the PRC and Hong Kong ultimately worked out without serious violence.

In the meantime, the US should retain all of its rights to have a relationship with Taiwan that includes among other things arming the island. Another Russia/Ukraine situation is not a preferred course. If the PRC wants to annex Taiwan, it should do it peacefully. So long as this happens there will be no need for either the PRC or the US to show their muscles.