The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made it clear during meetings with the United States a while ago that “the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway, and China has sovereignty and control over the Taiwan Strait.” The U.S. disagreed and expressed its dissatisfaction, and Beijing said immediately that “China will not impede the normal navigation and air traffic rights of the relevant countries in the Taiwan Strait,” which is nonsense.
Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission General Office, dared not to make irresponsible remarks about the Taiwan Strait in his meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan later in Luxembourg.
Over the past year, the CCP has been making statements about the Taiwan Strait, such as “not recognizing the centerline of the Strait.” However, warplanes harassing Taiwan would not cross the central line. They occasionally crossed only to return immediately. It indicates that they recognize the boundary without acknowledging so verbally.
They also know that if they ignore warnings and trespass Taiwanese airspace, the ramifications would be severe. The central line is applied to both air and sea and should not be violated. Not only is there military defense on the surface of the sea, but submarines under the sea are always ready to defend. Usually, when we see the United States and European carriers passing through, they declare that the Taiwan Strait is a high sea, international water for free navigation.
The Taiwan Strait became a part of international waters when the U.S. 7th Fleet patrolled it during the Korean War in the 1950s. Both U.S.-Taiwan joint defense and the cooperation and security between the U.S. and Japan guaranteed that the waterway connected the East Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and the South Sea for free passage. Particularly in the 1970s when Four Asian Tigers’ economy was boosting, the trade volume transported via the three seas accounted for half of the planet’s GDP. The airspace and water transported high-tech chips, critical parts, and products made in Taiwan. Every year, 1.7 million airplanes fly across Taiwan ADIZ, and 550,000 ships transit through the Taiwan Strait carrying passengers or goods.
There are over 1,000 carriers, including cargo tankers, oil tankers, coal carriers, and chemical carriers transiting through the three seas from the 1970s to the present. It is the pipeline sustaining Asia’s energy and economy.
The free world cannot tolerate the insane argument that the Taiwan Strait is China’s inland sea. The CCP is currently unable to control the waters and is unlikely to do so in the future due to the lack of airspace advantage. This empty rhetoric of sovereignty and control leads to neighboring resentment. Recently, China launched the 003 “Fujian” aircraft carrier to threaten neighboring countries, which backfired into more grievances. At the end of June, the United States immediately discussed with Taiwan’s national security team the list of new weapons to be purchased in response to the Chinese government’s unreasonable threats.
This conduct reveals the apprehension and recklessness of Xi Jinping. He has gradually lost control over the Party with domestic issues, the pandemic, the economy, Russia, and U.S.-China relations, which are dismal. He faces escalating domestic pressure every day, so the only way for him to take a breath is to maneuver nationalism using the Taiwan topic, but it turns out that he got hurt this round. History will define him as a troublemaker.
China has been a quasi-enemy and competitor of the United States since the onset of their trade war. The word “competition” indicates that “the U.S. fights but does not destroy, competes but does not decouple,” and the policy change is consequential in the fight between the GOP and Democrats every four years. The United States fixes its mistakes and keeps its leadership flexible and resilient in the shifting process.
The competition with the CCP is between democracy and totalitarianism, and there is no turning back. In the past 30 years, the United States tried to guide the CCP to democracy by providing economic support. This misguided policy has been reversed. By not seeking to change the Chinese system, the U.S. means that it will not stop the CCP from taking this suicidal path. Meanwhile, other democratic countries achieved consensus against China by strengthening their ally relations. Their agreement was grounded in China’s messy “One Belt One Road” project and the Taiwan Strait. Interestingly, the United States had no part in this consensus, nor did they even initiate it.
From the Trump administration to the Biden administration, China’s relationship with the United States has been like a collapsing building. The CCP demolished the foundation and pillars while the U.S. strived to maintain what was left. Now, the China-U.S. mansion seems to have cracked doors and broken windows, and the U.S. does not plan on repairing it.
Seasoned diplomat Yang Jiechi may intend to save this disaster, but the real issue is Chinese President Xi Jinping. The United States does not plan to give China opportunities as they have in the past 30 years. Yang Jiechi is worried about decoupling the two nations and hopes it will not happen during his term. However, it is out of his hands. Xi Jinping has inflicted irreparable damage, but Yang Jiechi remains responsible for the result.
While the U.S. reiterates that it does not support Taiwanese independence, the CCP is not satisfied. U.S. policies were recently altered for the State Department regarding Taiwan. “Taiwan is a part of China,” was removed from their website’s fact sheet. The United States abides by the Taiwan Relations Act, so it cannot support Taiwan’s independence nor support a Chinese invasion. However, the United States must endeavor to protect Taiwan from a global strategic standpoint. Taiwan is a critical island, and it is vital to the U.S. in terms of the military, science, business, trade, democracy, and liberty. Diplomatic maintenance between China and the United States cannot trump an extension of domestic policy.
Japan’s late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said explicitly, “The U.S should have a certain strategy. If the U.S. makes it clear that they will intervene militarily, China will avoid the war against the U.S. and will not mobilize military force. I think it should be confirmed now.” Not only should the U.S and Japan be determined, but other democratic countries in the alliance should join them as well.
Shinzo Abe delivered an address titled, “How Japan should cope with the intension in the Taiwan Strait.” He said that the goal of the United States and others should be to “deepen their friendship and alliance and make China abandon the idea of unifying Taiwan using force.”
Abe was glad to hear remarks from President Joe Biden in Tokyo that the U.S. would intervene militarily in the event of an invasion. The White House later clarified there was no change in U.S. policy.
The global alliance of democratic countries echoes Japan’s stance: Taiwan is a part of democracy and freedom and should not be invaded by totalitarian China.
On the global stage, what Yang Jiechi said is correct. The high-stake U.S.-China relations will face collapse and catastrophic risks sooner or later. China deserves it.
Dr. Sen-Hong Yang is the Founder and President of Taiwan Association for Human Rights in China.
Rev. Bob Fu, Ph.D. is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council.