Donald Trump has enacted a law requiring Washington to help build international support for Taiwan, putting the United States on a collision course with China as the two countries try to stabilize relations that have deteriorated during the pandemic. of coronavirus.
The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act (TAIPEI), a law passed with strong bipartisan support, requires the Trump administration to reward third countries that have strengthened or improved their relations with Taiwan.
The law also stipulates that the United States must “modify its economic, security and diplomatic engagement with the countries which take serious or important measures to undermine the security or the prosperity of Taiwan”, and calls Washington to plead for the participation of Taiwan to international organizations.
The move elevates U.S. support for Taiwan’s international recognition to a level rarely seen since Washington broke off diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979.
Analysts see the new law as an open rebuke from China’s intensified efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally. Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and threatens to invade if Taipei formalizes its de facto independence or resists unification indefinitely.
Mark Harrison, a Taiwan expert at the University of Tasmania, said that while the law was not a change in American policy, it “went very far in the context of the parameters of American policy.”
More international support for Taiwan touches on a problem that Beijing considers to be one of its most sensitive national interests, just as it is already trapped in a spiral of titanic clashes with Washington. In recent weeks, US-Chinese tension – already exacerbated by a trade and technology war – has included Beijing’s decision to expel American journalists and a propaganda battle over the origin of the coronavirus.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for the first time since the epidemic began on Friday, after the President sparked controversy for calling the pandemic “the Chinese virus.”
Since the transfer of diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, the United States has maintained a carefully calibrated ambiguity over its relations with Taiwan. This meant responding to Beijing’s request that the island not be recognized as a country while continuing to support its defenses.
The two powers also took turns to demonstrate their strength around Taiwan, the Chinese army intensifying the maneuvers of bombers and fighters at the edge of Taiwan airspace, and the United States Navy sailing a destroyer in the Taiwan Strait this week.
The TAIPEI law “is a response to Beijing’s tougher and fairly belligerent stance over the past four years,” said Harrison.
Since Tsai Ing-wen, who refuses to describe Taiwan as part of China, was elected president in 2016, Beijing has cut communications with the Taiwanese government and stepped up military threats. He also convinced seven of Taipei’s diplomatic allies to change their support, reducing the number of countries that recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state to 15.
Beijing has also waged a relentless campaign to deny Taiwan’s participation in international organizations – most recently during the coronavirus pandemic. Beijing objects to direct contact between the World Health Organization and Taiwan and, due to pressure, WHO lists epidemic data reported by Taiwan as a region of China under the name “Taipei and the surrounding area” .