Exploiting the ‘Taiwan Card’

In relations among the United States, China and Taiwan, the main focus of debate is always this: In the case that China takes military action against Taiwan, will the U.S. deploy military forces to protect Taiwan? After President Tsai Ing-wen was elected, she adopted a policy of uniting with the U.S. against China, following along with the United States’ actions, and hoped to gain the United States’ strong support and assurance on all fronts, especially security strategy.

Former White House security advisor John Bolton revealed in his new book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” that to Donald Trump, Taiwan is like the nib of a pencil, while China is like a large office desk. To the Democratic Progressive Party government that has always sided with the U.S., this was a major shock.

Even more shocking, Bolton also pointed out that after Trump betrayed the Syrian Kurds in November 2019, the outside world speculated that Taiwan was very high on his list of partners he would betray next. Furthermore, he reiterated that the U.S. supports Taiwan solely for its own strategic benefit, but would not enter into dangerous situations for Taiwan.

The U.S. has exhibited some pro-Taiwan behaviors since Trump’s election, but the underlying reason is that Trump launched the U.S.-China trade war and extended the frontline to technological and strategic security. Trump has also used the “Taiwan card” to control the Communist Party of China in other aspects of relations with China, as seen through Trump’s signing of the Taiwan Travel Act and the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act. The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act signed March 26 of this year further strengthened U.S.-Taiwan economic ties and diplomatic relations, as well as allowed Taiwan to participate in international organizations.

The examples cited above demonstrate that the United States has taken concrete actions favoring Taiwan, which has pleased the Democratic Progressive Party and caused it to call this the best time for U.S.-Taiwan relations in 40 years. But in reality, none of these are proof of anything – Taiwan is still excluded from joining the World Health Organization.

In Bolton’s book, he points out that Trump is extremely uncomfortable dealing with Taiwan, and that Taiwan is not only just a pawn to Trump, but will quickly be abandoned by Trump when he sees fit. In an article published in the July 2018 edition of the French periodical L’Obs, Taiwan’s future was discussed. In the article, the author reminded Taiwan to be aware that it is only a tool to Trump, and may be abandoned and betrayed by Trump as soon as he develops good relations with Xi Jinping.

On the ever-changing international stage, superpower countries are following international trends and adjusting their diplomatic strategies and tactics in a timely manner in order to obtain the most benefits. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote an article in Foreign Affairs, published June 4, stating that after China’s reform and opening up, Asia-Pacific countries have stood in the middle of a confrontation between two superpowers. Prime Minister Lee reiterated that Southeast Asian countries would not choose a side in U.S.-China relations, because while standing at the convergence point of the two nations, they need to avoid being caught between the two parties and forced to make a difficult decision.

Because of the United States’ history of betraying the Republic of China in the past, Taiwan must be extremely careful when dealing with U.S.-Taiwan relations. President Tsai can unite with the U.S. against China, but in the process of resolving U.S.-China relations, will Taiwan become a profitable trade chip for the U.S.? Putting all of Taiwan’s eggs in one basket is extremely risky – once Taiwan is betrayed, it will already be too late.

The author is a retired ambassador

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