Biden's gaffe on Taiwan sparks new alarm

Biden's gaffe on Taiwan sparks new alarm

On Monday, US President Joe Biden made sensational headlines after he said Washington would defend Taiwan militarily in a potential conflict, and signaling a drastic shift in the United States' decades-old one-China policy.

The White House and Pentagon officials walked back on his remarks, stressing that the US policy on Taiwan has not changed. Biden backed his statement on Tuesday.

Many have been alarmed by Biden's multiple gaffes on the sensitive issue, but some have interpreted them as a deliberate tactical move.

The US should realize that the reason for the escalating tensions over the Taiwan Straits is the refusal of Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen to recognize the 1992 Consensus that there is one China and Washington's move to change decades of US policy, including that on official contacts, arms sales and laws relating to Taiwan made by the US Congress.

Such US moves have emboldened the separatist movement in Taiwan, making it clear that the Chinese mainland is not trying to change the status quo.

The Chinese people want to have a conflict across the Straits. No one should underestimate China's resolve to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Just a few days ago, Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai's predecessor, advised her that the key to defuse the tensions is to restore mutual trust across the Straits. The mainland and Taiwan made progress in restoring peace and achieving economic prosperity across the Straits under Ma's eight-year rule. The cross-Straits trade volume is more than Taiwan's combined trade with Japan, the European Union and the US.

On Monday, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger cautioned the US administration on the issue in his speech, via video link, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, saying that the US should not use the island as a geopolitical tool in its attempts to contain China's rise. The US has not engaged in a war since 1979, while the US has engaged in in incessant wars in the past four decades, which is why the US rhetoric of Chinese aggression is fiction.

Biden said in his meeting with Quad leaders on Tuesday that his first visit to Asia as US president is to counter China and force countries in the region to choose sides, something that Asian countries have long rejected, as well as unveiling the US's Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity on Monday.

Biden must remember that China is the largest trade partner of almost all the countries in the region, including Japan and the Republic of Korea, which he visited during his trip. Asian countries are frustrated with the US's refusal to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The IPEF does not offer any concrete benefits to them, such as further opening up the US market.

China is a member of the RCEP and has applied to join the CPTPP.

In an interview with Nikkei Asia released on Monday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said his country wants to have good relations with both China and the US, and strongly opposes the idea of an Asian version of NATO, with one bloc confronting another.

Biden will not infect the region with his zero-sum and new Cold War mentality, as Asian integration has been a success story.

The author is the head of the China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.