Forget the trade war– a bigger dispute in between the United States and China is playing out right under our noses


  • While the world is fixated on the trade dispute in between the United States and China, a more substantial confrontation is playing out between the two nations over Taiwan and China’s One China policy.
  • Recently, Reuters reported that Washington is preparing to offer $2 billion worth of arms to Taiwan.
  • To China, this is a matter that might cause “severe damage” to US-China relations and disrupt peace in its region.
  • But the Trump administration has actually been ratcheting up its obstacles to the One China policy for many years now.
  • “Taiwan is the important things the Chinese care most about by far,” stated Susan Thornton, former Assistant US Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. “Anything where the United States is hindering Taiwan hits a nationwide 3rd rail.”
  • See Organisation Expert’s web page for more stories.

The world has its eye on the trade war between the United States and China, however a more unsafe confrontation in between the two countries is playing out in the background– the aggravating disagreement over the One China policy.

Last week, Reuters reported that Washington is on its way to approving $2 billion worth of arms sales to Taiwan. The move shows that the Trump administration isn’t attempting to develop an atmosphere for trade settlements, and suggests that disputes in between the US and China are more most likely headed toward escalation than resolution.

“Taiwan is the important things the Chinese care most about by far,” said Susan Thornton, previous Assistant United States Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. “Anything where the US is hindering Taiwan strikes a national third rail.”

The One China policy– which asserts that Taiwan is not an independent nation however rather part of China– was developed throughout the Nixon administration to enhance US-China relations. The idea is central to China’s identity as a modern world power, and considering that Trump took office the United States has actually challenged that concept consistently.

Regardless of protests from Beijing, Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, legislation permitting high-level talks in between United States and Taiwanese officials, last year. In May, US nationwide security consultant John Bolton satisfied with David Lee, among Taiwan’s top security authorities. This meeting came simply after Taiwan relabelled its unofficial embassy in Washington “the Taiwan Council for United States Affairs.” The old name, the “Coordination Council for North American Affairs” overlooked to mention Taiwan or the United States.

The Trump administration has actually also offered arms to Taiwan prior to, as have previous administrations, however this $2 billion arms sale digs at a fragile wound during a delicate time. It’s a huge sale, even in a world where weapons are becoming increasingly more costly. And though it does not consist of the US’s top fighter jets, it is sure to annoy Beijing before US and Chinese presidents travel to a G20 meeting in Osaka, Japan at the end of this month.

On Thursday Chinese Foreign Ministry representative Geng Shuang reacted to the news of the arms sale with a caution, according to Chinese state media outlet Xinhua.

“We advise the United States side to stop arms sales to Taiwan and sever their military ties, wisely and appropriately deal with Taiwan-related issues, to prevent major damage to China-US relations along with to the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,” stated Geng.

It’s just imagination

In January of 2017 China– most likely mindful that the incoming President of the United States was not familiar with the intricacies of US-China relations– clarified its position on Taiwan in a rare US media interview by Chinese foreign ministry authorities Lu Kang.

“Due To The Fact That this [Taiwan] concern discuss China’s core interest, by no means is this something that could be negotiated or utilized as a bargaining chip,” he told NBC.” One China policy, 100%.”

The battle over Taiwan’s status started in 1949 after Nationalist leader Chang Kai-shek left the mainland for the island when he was defeated by Mao Zedong’s Communist forces. To the Chinese the island’s self-reliance is both a product and a tip of China’s century of embarrassment, when China was carved up by foreign powers and then thrown into decades of turmoil and civil war after completion of the Qing dynasty.

“It’s the mythology they’ve informed themselves for many years,” Thornton stated.

Because method the One China policy and China’s economic nationalism are looped in the Chinese political imagination. We don’t think about it that way in the US, where we have one set of technocrats handling economics and another managing national security, but the merging of the two interests are an action to the China’s lost century.

And both of them are being evaluated by the Trump administration right now.

While the US-China trade war producing a” Tech Cold War” has actually gotten headings, there has actually been less attention paid to escalation in hostilities surrounding the One China policy.

This in spite of the truth that the conflict has all the features of the Cold War era. China sees US interference in Taiwan as an encroachment on its sphere of influence. And the United States sees Chinese participation in the Caribbean likewise.

Back in February 2018 after a speech in Texas, then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson warned Latin American countries of China’s “imperial” aspirations, invoking the Monroe Teaching.

“Latin America does not need brand-new royal powers that look for just to benefit their own individuals,” he said. “China’s state-led design of advancement is similar to the past. It doesn’t need to be this hemisphere’s future.”

All of this matters for Taiwan since the more included a country is with China, the more pressure China places on it to clean Taiwan off the map. Earlier this year the Dominican Republic dropped its recognition of Taiwan at China’s request. El Salvador did it in 2018, and Panama in 2017.

There might be a Cold War-reminiscent motivation behind this arms sale also. Taiwan’s present anti-China President, Tsai Ing-wen, deals with an uphill fight for reelection next year. In Washington the sale may be viewed as a method to reinforce her chances of winning.

“One thing United States administrations tend to think, which might or might not be true,” said Thornton, “is that offering weapons to Taiwan assists political candidates show that they have US support and can withstand China.”

We– the US and China– might be slipping into a world where that theory has to be checked.

This is an opinion column. The ideas revealed are those of the author.

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