“The United States and Taiwan have never been so close. “ Visiting Taiwan on the occasion of the 42e anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA, the law which allows the United States and Taiwan to maintain diplomatic relations despite the recognition of the People’s Republic of China as “official China” by the United States), the former senator American Chris Dodd, accompanied by two former assistant secretaries of state, conveyed a strong message of American support to Taipei during his speech to Taiwanese officials on Thursday (April 15th). A word that is not trivial, by which the United States shows China that it is keeping an eye on the Pacific region, in the midst of escalating tensions.
A delegation like no other
This meeting may seem like a simple courtesy call. This is not the case: it is the symbol of an American-Taiwanese relationship which has been consolidated over the past few years. While diplomatic relations between the two countries have always been discreet on the basis of the 1979 TRA, the Americans and Taiwanese are now starting a real bilateral rapprochement. In 2018, former Republican President Donald Trump opened this new chapter with a congressional vote allowing American and Taiwanese delegations to meet. Before, it was impossible for them.
By sending an unofficial delegation to the island, a few months after his inauguration, Joe Biden is therefore in the diplomatic lineage of the rapprochement desired by his predecessor, based on values of democracy and economic opportunities, of course, but whose The goal is to reaffirm Washington’s strength in the face of Beijing’s ever-expanding territorial appetite.
A worrying escalation of tensions in the region
This island meeting takes place in an extremely tense security context, according to Marc Julienne, researcher specializing in China at the French Institute of International Relations. “China has recently taken an increasingly authoritarian and virulent direction vis-à-vis Taiwan. It has reached a point where it sends planes almost every day to the identification and air defense zone of Taiwan ”, explains the expert.
Their number is growing day by day: while the country generally sent less than ten planes to patrol this area, it sent, on March 29, 20. Then 25, a few days ago. A number that should grow even more in the coming weeks, according to the researcher.
→ ANALYSIS. Taiwan never belonged to the People’s Republic of China
Beijing is also making its pressure felt as far as the China Sea. “China seeks to push back the status quo, and often ventures beyond the limits of its territory, whether with the islands of Taiwan or those of Japan”, explains Marc Julienne. After entering Japanese waters, it recently took it to the next level by arming its coastguard battalions. In recent days, the United States and Taiwan have decided to unite theirs in a cooperation agreement, and Taiwan has unveiled its first assault and transport ship that it will use during its maritime missions.
“The situation is very worrying and the escalation is worrying”, admits Marc Julienne who, a few years ago, did not believe in a real escalation of tensions in the region. But the situation has changed since the start of Xi Jinping’s second term in 2017, which marked a turning point in Chinese political discourse and in his military posture. This change worries the international community: in early March, the head of the American forces in charge of the Pacific region told Congress that China could invade Taiwan within the next six years.
If the escalation continues, it will not only affect China and Taiwan, it will also affect other countries, and in particular France or the European Union, in full development of their Indo-Pacific strategy. But with this delegation, the United States shows that it is not ready to let Chinese ambitions come true. Do they have a choice? “S‘they were abandoning Taiwan, Marc Julienne analysis, the United States would give China a blank check to do whatever it wants in the region. “