Last week, President Biden made a comment in an interview suggesting the US would defend Taiwan if China launched an unprovoked attack. This is the fourth time the President articulated the commitment, and now people gradually believe the commitment was not an indiscreet remark anymore. People have taken those previous comments unseriously and say President is perhaps too old to make clear policy statements interviews, and the White House and Secretary of State have had to “clarify” the comments regarding the US’s One China Policy after every such remark. Traditionally, the US’s One China Policy is strategic ambiguity, while the President’s statement marks a significant shift recently, it may affect the relations of three countries between the Taiwan Strait.

China may take those statements as a threat. Since the US established some formal diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1979, the US has rejected support for the unilateral declaration of independence of Taiwan. For China, their One China Principle stated that Taiwan is a part of China, and making Taiwan independent may hurt China’s core interests. Their commitment to their claims can be seen in some examples. The first example is the 1996 presidential election in Taiwan, during which China launched two missiles in the Taiwan Strait to threaten the election, which acted as a symbol of their political independence. Another example is Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian setting a referendum to join the United Nations, which was seen as changing the status quo even by the Bush administration, as the US was seeking cooperation with China at that time. However, times have changed.

From the Reagan administration to the Biden administration, the US’s attitude to Taiwan is changing from strategic ambiguity to strategic clarity. The US and China are in competitive relations, and Taiwan plays a key role in the situation. In the US’s opinion, strategic ambiguity not only deters China’s attack, but also deters Taiwan unilaterally declaring independence and provoking a violent Chinese response that may lead to all-out war. Now the shift may be a symbol to encourage Taiwan’s independence, at the same time also burying an excuse for China to spark the conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Most Taiwanese want to pursue de jure independence later, and now they just want to maintain the status quo indefinitely. What the Taiwanese want is not lip service in some interviews, but practical actions, like passing the Taiwan Policy Act. 

In conclusion, President Biden’s commitment is unnecessary, his statement will just ramp up the pressure on China’s response against Taiwan. It would be better to pass some helpful act rather than state such commitments that may be abrogated by the next president anyways. China already believed the US would interfere in a Taiwan Strait conflict, even without President Biden’s mentions of his willingness to defend Taiwan.     

Written by Eddie C.

Edited by Ari B.