Biden’s Taiwan comments have caught the eyes and ears of billions across the globe as the 46th President of the United States proclaimed that the U.S. would intervene “militarily” if China attacked Taiwan. Though the White House insists there’s no policy change, the statement was one worth noting. Let’s take a look back and see how we got here.
Disputes Involving Taiwan Predate the Biden Administration
It can be easy to simply pin the latest rhetoric involving Taiwan from the Biden administration on the rise in international tension since the invasion of Russia in Ukraine. But the situation in Taiwan goes back a bit further. Taiwan has a rich history, but for our purposes, we’ll take a closer look at some of the more recent developments affecting the world today.
After the conclusion of World War II, Taiwan was taken from Japanese rule and placed under the rule of the Republic of China (ROC) after being liberated by Chinese and Allied forces. This is about where everything ends up becoming as clear as mud.
- There were disputes following these events as to who owned what and the treaties that should be followed.
- A civil war in China would cause the ROC and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to battle and dispute the territory.
- Naming the island has been an issue for hundreds of years thanks to a European-centric view of Taiwan, but through the years, Taiwan has come to a compromise to be allowed into certain international organizations under the name Chinese Taipei rather than ROC or Taiwan.
- To this day, China continues to see Taiwan as an extension of itself and recognizes that direct support for Taiwan from the likes of the U.S. would lead to direct conflict.
- The United States avoids this to maintain relations with China; however, it still continues to supply Taiwan with weapons to support its democracy.
And those are just the highlights. It all boils down to disputes regarding borders and some of the lingering issues we saw during the Cold War: communism vs. democracy. The U.S. continues to do what it can to ensure that democracy is a part of the lives of the nearly 24 million Taiwanese citizens who should be allowed to enjoy their freedoms without the fear of repercussions from mainland Chinese forces.
Biden’s Taiwan independence stance will continue to garner attention, but it’s far from new. Earlier in 2022, the presence of a U.S. warship in the Taiwan Strait was condemned by the Chinese government, calling the move provocative.
The Biden-China-Taiwan dynamics are important to monitor and could be one of the defining moments of his Presidency, should things come to an apex in the region. Statements from Biden on Taiwan and other regional issues could push a renewed focus on warfare in the Pacific region.
If China Attacks Taiwan, Will U.S. Help?
A forceful takeover could see interesting decisions made by the U.S., as President Biden has claimed that such actions could involve a military response from American Forces.
“Yes, that’s the commitment we made,” said President Biden responding to a reporter on the prospects of helping defend against an invasion of Taiwan. “We agree with the One China policy. We signed on to it, and all the attendant agreements made from there, but the idea that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, [isn’t] appropriate,” he continued.
The One China policy aligns the U.S. with China’s belief that Taiwan is a part of China; however, the U.S. continues to maintain that a hostile takeover of the region is not acceptable. The United States also persists in its belief that Taiwan is still a self-governing entity.
Is Taiwan in NATO?
No, Taiwan is not a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); however, it is designated as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA), according to U.S. law. The MNNA status means that, while Taiwan is not a member of NATO, they are afforded certain benefits, as they maintain strong strategic relationships with the members of NATO.
Taiwan’s status as an MNNA does not entitle it to military defense in the way NATO members receive. For example, if a non-NATO member, such as Russia, were to attack a member of NATO, it would quickly throw the world into a world war. If Taiwan were attacked by someone outside of NATO, such as China, tensions would rise, but it would not trigger an automatic world war scenario.
Biden, Taiwan, and the Future
Playing Nostradamus can be tricky, and for such a complex subject, it is both difficult and irresponsible to speculate what will happen for sure.
Some believe that this is a great time for China to strike, as the U.S. and its allies already have their eyes turned to Europe. The United States is also exiting a long war with many suffering from war weariness who are not in favor of additional conflicts.
Others point to the economic difficulties that all parties are suffering due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 outbreak as deterrents for war. One thing is for sure, however: The Biden-Taiwan rhetoric will be something to continually watch, as the words of such global powerhouses will have lasting effects felt throughout every corner of the world.
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Image: Jonathan Ernst | Reuters