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May 23, 2024

Blinken Urges China to Maintain Stability Across Taiwan Strait as Island Holds Critical Election

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Jan 13, 2024

Blinken Meets Top Chinese Diplomat Liu Before Vote, Discusses Human Rights and Regional Tensions

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on Friday in Washington, just days before Taiwan’s critical parliamentary and presidential elections on Saturday. Blinken urged China to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as Taiwan voters head to the polls. The high-stakes elections could raise further tensions between China and the self-governing island.

Blinken raised human rights concerns about China’s policies in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong during the meeting, the U.S. State Department said. He also asked Beijing to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage the U.S.-China relationship. According to Japan’s Foreign Ministry, Blinken emphasized the importance of preserving stability around Taiwan.

The talks come before Taiwanese head to the polls on Saturday, with voting set to begin at 8 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. A record 21.4 million Taiwanese citizens are eligible to take part in selecting Taiwan’s 15th president along with all 113 seats in Taiwan’s Legislature.

Taiwan Braces for Chinese Interference in Pivotal Vote

Taiwan has prepared its defenses against potential Chinese interference, cyber attacks or disinformation campaigns ahead of Saturday’s voting. President Tsai Ing-wen has accused China of ratcheting up military intimidation of Taiwan over the past three years to coerce voters, saying just days before the election that “over the past few years, China’s military activities frequently breached the median line of the Taiwan Strait and approached Taiwan’s territorial waters and air space to intimidate Taiwan’s people”.

Taiwan Presidential Candidates Party Policies Towards China
Tsai Ing-wen (Incumbent) Democratic Progressive Party Maintain Taiwan’s de facto independence
Eric Chu Kuomintang More open to dialogue with Beijing

Tsai’s main challenger for the presidency, Eric Chu of the Kuomintang party, has advocated resumption of talks and confidence-building steps between Taiwan and China. But even Chu has rejected Beijing’s overtures for reunification under the “one country, two systems” framework imposed in Hong Kong.

Whoever wins, tensions seem set to persist between Taiwan and its giant authoritarian neighbor China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory. Beijing has vowed to one day seize Taiwan, by force if necessary.

Blinken Underscores U.S. Opposition to Any Unilateral Changes from Beijing

The United States has urged China in the meetings not to take any unilateral action to change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. According to Japan’s Foreign Ministry readout, Blinken said democratic processes and results in Taiwan need to be respected. Liu said to Blinken that Taiwan belongs to China, but that China is willing to pursue peaceful reunification.

Blinken responded that the U.S. remains committed to its longstanding one-China policy, under which it recognizes Beijing but allows for unofficial ties with Taiwan. He stressed that peace and stability must be maintained in the Taiwan Strait, a message he had delivered also to the Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2022 on the sidelines of G20 Summit meeting in Indonesia.

Meanwhile Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori, who also took part in the trilateral talks, called for a peaceful resolution to issues surrounding Taiwan. Japan hopes the U.S. and China will keep up close communication, a Japanese official said.

U.S. Walks Fine Line on Supporting Taiwan Without Antagonizing China

While the U.S. has voiced clear opposition to any forceful takeover of Taiwan, Washington must also tread carefully due to its complex relationship and increasing rivalry with China. The U.S. does not have official ties with Taiwan and is not bound by treaty obligations to defend it from attack. However, Washington is Taipei’s main international backer and arms supplier, and U.S. law requires it to provide means for Taiwan to defend itself.

Any military conflict over Taiwan risks dangerous escalation between nuclear-armed powers China and the United States. U.S. President Joe Biden has made it repeatedly clear that American forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, but the White House has also stated that U.S. policy on Taiwan remains unchanged.

Taiwan Strengthens Defenses But Military Gap With China Still Significant

Taiwan has stepped up its alertness levels and combat readiness in light of rising military intimidation from China. Its armed forces have ramped up training as China regularly flies military planes near the island.

Still, Taiwan’s military capabilities and technological weapons systems lag far behind China’s People’s Liberation Army. Military experts estimate that Taiwan’s forces should be able to hold off China for a few weeks at best under present capacity.

Taiwan will need to rely heavily on assistance from key partners like the United States and Japan if conflict does break out with China at some point. American and Japanese officials have warned that time is running short for Taiwan to boost its defenses before China masters the capability to launch a full-scale invasion across the Taiwan Strait.

Election Outcome Could Sway Taiwan’s Future Trajectory

If the pro-independence incumbent Tsai is re-elected, it could aggravate tensions with Beijing further. China cut off formal talks with Taiwan after she first became president in 2016. Over the past few years under Tsai’s leadership, Taiwan has strongly pushed back against China’s diplomatic isolation and military harassment campaigns.

However, a win by the opposition party Kuomintang candidate Eric Chu could possibly lead to stabilized cross-strait ties. Chu has signaled more willingness to work towards mutual understanding with authorities in Beijing.

Either way, China looks determined to accelerate its timetable and options for asserting control over Taiwan based on President Xi’s directives. Xi is expected to receive a norm-breaking third term in power at a major Communist Party congress at the end of 2022. How Taiwan’s leaders and its allies counter China’s pressure will impact whether the island maintains its present grip on de facto self-rule for the foreseeable future.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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