2021 in review: Tensions between US and China rise over Beijing’s aggression against Taiwan

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Tensions between the US and China continued to rise in 2021 over Beijing’s aggression against Taiwan as well as signs that the US government is ready to help Taipei if it is invaded or attacked by China.

China claims that Taiwan is part of its own territory and has rejected its claim to independence. The two countries parted in 1949, and China has been increasing pressure on the self-governing nation, while opposing its involvement in international organizations such as the UN. The United States does not formally recognize Taiwan, but maintains an unofficial relationship and supports its democratic government.

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The duel policy has for years led to a diplomatic tightrope, which both sides have had to navigate. But in 2021, the tension was further tightened.

Change of US administrations

The year started with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lifting rules which prevented interactions between US and Taiwanese diplomats, a move that led to a reprimand from the communist regime in Beijing.

If China was hoping for a softer stance from the forthcoming Biden administration on the difficult issue of Taiwan, it was probably disappointed when Taiwan’s top representative was invited to the inauguration of President Biden.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin via video link from the Great Hall of the People on December 2, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin via video link from the Great Hall of the People on December 2, 2019 in Beijing, China.
(Noel Celis, Pool / Getty Images)

Only a few days after the inauguration, China sent fighter jets into the Taiwan Strait in what was seen as a demonstration of power to the new administration, which showed no sign of dropping the Trump administration’s broader pro-Taiwan policy.

The Biden administration made a number of pro-Taiwan statements in the following months, including Foreign Minister Antony Blinken’s call for Taiwan to join the World Health Organization, something that Beijing furiously opposed.

The rhetoric escalated from Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping claiming that China has a “historic mission” to control Taiwan and urges other countries not to interfere.

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In August, the White House clarified comments made by Biden, suggesting that the United States has a “sacred obligation” that “if anyone were to actually invade or act against our NATO allies, we would respond. Same with Japan, same with South Korea, the same with Taiwan. ”

The remark quickly made headlines because U.S. policy for decades has been a “strategic ambiguity” as to how it would respond to such an attack. The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 obliges the United States to support Taiwan, including providing it with defensive capabilities, but not necessarily engaging in a military conflict. An administration official later said the policy had not changed.

China is increasing aggression

Simultaneously with the disastrous US withdrawal from Afghanistan, China again began to increase its aggression in Taiwan. Some experts linked the two actions.

In October, China sent more than 80 aircraft, including fighter jets and bombers, to Taiwan over a two-day period. It happened a few days after China marked the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 by sending two waves of planes. This led to Taiwan distorting aircraft in response.

The bite clarified again

When tensions escalated again, Biden was asked if the United States would defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

“Yes,” Biden replied, “yes, we have an obligation to do so.”

A White House spokesman later told Fox News Biden “did not announce any change in our policy and there is no change in our policy.”

This photo released by Xinhua News Agency shows Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and US President Biden on a screen as they meet via video link in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.

This photo released by Xinhua News Agency shows Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and US President Biden on a screen as they meet via video link in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.
(Yue Yuewei / Xinhua via AP)

“The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is governed by the Taiwan Relations Act,” the spokesman said. “We will uphold our commitment under the law, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self – defense, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral change in the status quo.”

China responded quickly with its own stinging statement.

“No one should underestimate the strong determination, determination and ability of the Chinese people to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, according to the Chinese Global Times. “China has no room to compromise.”

Both sides keep the heat up

As 2021 nears an end, both sides have kept the rhetoric warm, indicating that tensions are likely to continue to bubble throughout 2022. In December, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said there would be “terrible consequences” if Beijing invaded or attacked Taiwan. .

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“We have been very clear and consistently clear for many years that we are committed to ensuring that Taiwan has the means to defend itself and … we will continue to live up to this commitment,” Blinken said on the subject of committing military forces in the event that China invades Taiwan.

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi claimed that the United States “has backed down on its commitment as it established diplomatic relations with China, tolerated and supported ‘Taiwan’s independence’ forces and sought to distort and undermine the one-China principle.”

“This will put Taiwan in an extremely precarious situation and bring an unbearable cost to the United States itself,” he said.

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