The White House insisted Thursday that US policy toward Taiwan “has not changed” following Joe Biden’s remarks in an interview that the US would not shy away from a hypothetical defence of Taiwan. Chinese media blasted the president over his comments, and warned “secessionists” in Taipei not to “swim in the sputum that Biden carelessly spits out”.
Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu has accused China of seeking to “emulate” the Taliban*, and expressed gratitude to Washington for its continued diplomatic support for the island.
“Thanks for upholding the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan. They include democracy and freedom from communism, authoritarianism and crimes against humanity. China dreams of emulating the Taliban, but let me be blunt: We’ve got the will and means to defend ourselves,” Wu tweeted.
Thanks for upholding the wishes & best interests of the people of #Taiwan. They include democracy & freedom from communism, authoritarianism & crimes against humanity. #China dreams of emulating the #Taliban, but let me be blunt: We’ve got the will & means to defend ourselves. JW https://t.co/p71Mru2RLl
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) August 21, 2021
The diplomat did not elaborate on what he meant about China seeking to “emulate” the Afghani Sunni extremist militant group, but accompanied the tweet with a clip from a recent press briefing by State Department spokesman Ned Price.
In the briefing, which took place Thursday, Price said that the US would “continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait relations consistent with the wishes and best interests of the Taiwan people,” and urged Beijing “to cease its military, diplomatic, economic pressure against Taiwan, and instead to engage in meaningful dialogue”.
The spokesman also stressed that “events elsewhere in the world, whether that’s in Afghanistan or any other region, are not going to change that”, in an apparent nod to President Joe Biden’s recent comments on Taiwan.
Speaking to ABC News on Wednesday, Biden insisted that there was a “fundamental difference” between the US retreat from Afghanistan and the US commitments to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and NATO.
“We are in a situation where they are in – entities we’ve made agreements with based on not a civil war they’re having on that island or in South Korea, but on an agreement where they have a unity government that, in fact, is trying to keep bad guys from doin’ bad things to them,” Biden said, presumably referring to Taiwan.
Biden emphasised that the US had “made a sacred commitment to Article Five” (the article of NATO’s charter outlining collective defence), and that this commitment applies to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan as well.
© AP Photo / JEROME FAVRE
A senior Biden administration official walked back on the president’s remarks on Thursday, telling Reuters that US “policy with regard to Taiwan has not changed,” and that Washington will continue to recognise the People’s Republic as the one true China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reacted to Biden’s comments on Friday, telling reporters that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China and that “no one should underestimate the Chinese people’s resolve, determination and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Chinese English-language media offered a sharper rebuke, with the Global Times, a paper published under the auspices of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily, calling Biden a “dotard” and accusing him of making “empty, reckless” remarks on Taiwan in the wake of the US’s “embarrassment” of a defeat in Afghanistan.
The newspaper warned Washington that if the Biden administration did not back away from the president’s apparent commitments to defend Taiwan, it would “have to prepare for much greater storms in the Straits.”
The paper also warned Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party “secessionists” not to “swim in the sputum that Biden carelessly spits out” and suggested that the US would never “defend” Taiwan, but only seek to use it to try to “contain” China’s development.
Taiwan became a sore point in China-US relations immediately after Biden stepped into office, with the decision to invite Taipei’s de facto ambassador to his inauguration in January angering Beijing. The continuation of US Navy ‘freedom of navigation’ missions in the Taiwan Strait, US arms sales to Taipei, and the State Department’s plans to invite Taiwanese officials to its upcoming virtual “Summit for Democracy” have exacerbated tensions further.
Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, severed its ties with mainland China in 1949 after Communist forces defeated the Kuomintang nationalists and forced them to flee to the island. The People’s Republic considers Taiwan to be an integral part of China, and has committed to a policy of peaceful reunification under a ‘One China – Two Systems’ type model applied to Hong Kong. Between in the 1980s and 1990s, Beijing and Taipei improved economic and informal diplomatic relations. However, Taiwan’s current ruling party – the centre-liberal left Democratic Progressives, have expressed opposition to unification, leading to seething tensions, back-and-forth threats, and a series of diplomatic and military emergencies.
* Recognised as a terrorist group in Russia and other countries.