Will there be more 'clarity' in American strategic ambiguity over Taiwan question?
Updated 19:22, 20-Apr-2021

Whether it's the recent proposed bill "Strategic Competition Act of 2021" in which China is defined as a strategic competitor, or the recently issued U.S.-Japan joint statement focusing on a so-called Indo-Pacific alliance against China, the Taiwan question is again a topic of concern in China-U.S. relations. 

Speculation is rife that the American "strategic ambiguity" over Taiwan question is shifting to a clearer one, and if it is, how will Beijing react?

Strategic ambiguity on the edge 

The ambiguity is reflected in several aspects, like supporting Taiwan but not encouraging "Taiwan independence," and acknowledging that there is only "one China" in the world, but keeping its "unofficial ties" with Taiwan region closer.

However, some recent actions, both in policy and in military, signal a subtle change.

For instance, a U.S. Navy warship sailed through the Taiwan Straits on February 4, for the first time since President Joe Biden took power.

And it is reported that the latest U.S.-Japan joint statement mentions Taiwan for the first time in half a century, referring to the "importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits."

Su Xiaohui, a researcher of international strategy at the China Institute of International Studies, said that the move reflects a turn toward clarity in the U.S.' "Indo-Pacific strategy," in an analysis on television interview. "Targeting the third party is a clear message in the U.S.-Japan statement." 

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations of the U.S., wrote in an article last September that the strategic ambiguity has run its course, adding that "the time has come for the United States to introduce a policy of strategic clarity." 

It seems that the strategy will be tested by the new U.S. administration. Last week, President Biden sent a delegation of former U.S. officials to Taiwan, a move that Reuters reported as a "personal signal" of the president's commitment to the region quoting an U.S. official.

A red line should not be crossed  

It is worth noting that the price of the U.S. commitment is high, whether its strategy towards Taiwan is vague or clear.

The Trump administration began selling weapons to Taiwan just five months after his election victory and according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) of the U.S. Department of Defense, the United States has announced five separate arms packages to Taiwan in fiscal year 2021, totaling more than $4.7 billion.

Zhang Qingmin, professor at the Center for International and Strategic Studies in the School of International Studies at Peking University, wrote in an analysis published on the school website that the arms sales are a reflection of the U.S.' treatment of Taiwan as an independent political entity, and in facilitating military relations with the Taiwan authorities, it interferes in China's internal affairs. 

As for the Chinese mainland's reaction, the answer seems clear as its position on the Taiwan question is consistent and clear.

The U.S. should understand that Taiwan question is highly sensitive and that it should abide by the one-China policy and the stipulations of the three joint communiques, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said on many occasions when responding to U.S. actions on Taiwan island.

And when will the Chinese mainland bring Taiwan under its rule? "We are prepared to do everything we can for peaceful reunification. That said, we don't pledge to give up other options. No option is excluded," said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng in an interview with the Associated Press (AP).

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