United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken finally delivered his widely anticipated address on the Joe Biden administration's China policy. And while his speech was an outline of the Biden administration's approach to China, there was nothing in it that hasn't been heard before in one form or another.
Particularly when placed in the context of US President Joe Biden's just concluded Asia trip.
The diplomatic deployments Biden made personally in Seoul and Tokyo revealed the White House's fixation on containing China, which since the Donald Trump days has been identified as the US' foremost rival.
During his four-day visit to East Asia, Biden reaffirmed alliances with "like-minded partners" the Republic of Korea and Japan, and sought to solidify a trilateral alliance. He also launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, and participated in a Quad summit, all with the aim of pressuring China, as was obvious from Blinken's speech.
From Biden's remarks in Asia to Blinken's speech, it is increasingly clear that the current administration has by and large inherited the entire package of Trump's China policy, the difference being it has shifted the focus from Trump's infamous "America first" attacks on Chinese trade and technology to put greater emphasis and reliance on building a coalition of "values".
While Biden generated a frisson of excitement when he said that the US would "intervene" militarily for Taiwan's defense in the event of an armed "invasion", that too is nothing new. It was a repeat of what has been said before. Although the 1979"Taiwan Relations Act" was less explicit on the matter as a result of intentional ambiguity, Article b, Section 2 of the law had similar wording. And George W. Bush made an analogous statement during his presidency.
Yet there is a difference this time. Despite Biden's later clarification that US policy of "strategic ambiguity" over Taiwan has not changed, nor has its overall Taiwan policy, his latest statement further squeezed the space for any ambiguity. While removing the ambiguity over whether the US will intervene as had been done before, his words effectively removed any ambiguity as to how it would intervene.
Beijing has made it explicit that it takes Taiwan to be the most important and sensitive part of China-US relations. The clarity Washington just added to the matter may be meant to enhance deterrence against Beijing, but it also means higher risks of the two parties getting involved directly in an unwanted conflict.
Because no matter how well Beijing and Washington manage themselves in order to prevent that least desirable scenario, there is no guarantee "independence" seekers in Taiwan won't drag them into it. After all, the latest developments will inevitably embolden the latter into provoking the mainland.
It is dangerous to make a matter like Taiwan the focus of China-US relations. But that is where we are.
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