What is Biden’s Plan With Taiwan and China?

President Biden’s unplanned announcement during his latest Tokyo trip said the U.S. would take military action if China tried to seize Taiwan by force.

This indicates a dramatic change in U.S. international policy, even if Biden’s handlers try to spin it as another case of the president “misspeaking.” 

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Biden wasn’t misspeaking; he explained U.S. policy toward Taiwan and China to the American people and the world.

A promise to intervene with U.S. forces guarantees Taiwanese self-rule and breaks with America’s long-standing “tactical ambiguity” on Taiwan, such as recognizing the “one China” policy, which acknowledges Beijing’s claims to Taiwan. 

Biden’s Pledge

In Tokyo, Biden threatened to intervene, while asserting the right to acknowledge the “one China” policy.

We can’t unring the bell. Beijing will nearly certainly take Biden at his word. We must face the fact we are not ready to take military action in Taiwan. U.S. strategic obtuseness about China has facilitated its rise and left us frighteningly weakened. 

Even if this is a crazy way to conduct foreign policy, we may have an opportunity to change course. We’ve sold U.S. arms to Taiwan for decades, while trying to pursue trade and economic policies that enhanced and empowered China.

Both major political parties have promised to allow U.S. firms to give new tech to the PRC, in return for market access. Technology transfers are strategically important. It’s helped China’s meteoric rise. 

We permitted vital supply chains to be routed via China. This makes Americans dependent on Chinese manufacturers and producers of everything from face masks and medicine to the rare metals we need to run our digital technologies.

We’ve let large swaths of our industrial capacity move to China, bringing financial disaster to U.S. communities for cheap Chinese consumer goods. 

All of this means we’ve done almost everything we can over the last 25 years to make communist China a great power, even as it’s become abundantly apparent that Beijing is a dangerous U.S. foe.

At the same press conference where Biden threatened to engage if China invaded Taiwan, he said tariffs on some goods from China might be repealed.

The PRC has long sought a revanchist foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific, such as uncontested control over Taiwan.

China’s Foreign Ministry responded angrily to Biden’s remarks, saying China “has no room for negotiation and concession” on Taiwan and “will take a strict stand to protect its sovereign rights and security interests.” 

We Enabled China

If America is serious about protecting Taiwan, we must act like it. We can’t guarantee Taiwan’s defense, so we must do more.

We must acknowledge we are in a Cold War with China, acknowledge that enabling its upsurge was a major error, and recognize if we don’t reverse tack immediately, we won’t be able to ensure Taiwan’s independence. 

A start would be to disentangle our strategic distribution networks from China. If that means U.S. companies losing entry to Chinese markets, so be it.

If they don’t like it, they can restructure as Chinese companies and lose access to U.S. markets. It should also mean reviving a key manufacturing sector in the U.S. 

Regardless of the policy mix, China’s strategic incoherence must end. China is a global menace. The PRC is a malevolent empire, objecting to freedom and American-style democracy.

Our elites have assumed otherwise for a long time, enriching themselves from China’s rise, while cynically trying to commit to Taiwan’s defense. 

Biden’s haphazard commitment to Taiwan’s defense must be taken seriously, if not for Taiwan’s sake, then for ours.

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