On July 6, US National Security Council Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Kurt Campbell told a virtual meeting of the Asia Society that the US does “not support Taiwan independence.”
His remark was met with dismay by those who were hoping the momentum of increased US support for Taiwan would lead to a more full-throated advocacy for independence, as well as anger among those who thought it morally reprehensible that US President Joe Biden’s administration is not more explicitly getting behind Taiwan.
Analyses of Campbell’s words have since proliferated. However, before hackles are raised, it is important to consider the context in which they were said.
Campbell was responding to a question from Asia Society Policy Institute vice president Daniel Russel, who asked: “How much love is too much love for Taiwan?” now that incremental moves toward increasing engagement with Taiwan mean that the US is edging closer to the line separating unofficial and official relations, “which in effect hollow out America’s ‘one China’ policy.”
Campbell predicated his answer by saying that he needed to be very careful, as the US is dealing with a “delicate and dangerous” balance, and has extraordinarily important interests in the maintenance of peace and stability. He added that other nations are coming to realize that, too, naming Japan and the UK.
Voicing support for Taiwanese independence would disturb this delicate balance.
Campbell had to be careful because he was not offering a personal judgement or official desired objective. He was maintaining official US policy, as a representative of the US administration. He would have been keenly aware of the audience he has beyond the three other participants in the virtual meeting. His words were designed to send a signal to Beijing, Taipei and members of the US Congress pushing for more official support for Taiwan.
Russel’s point about the blurring of the lines between official and unofficial US-Taiwan ties is central. Starting with the administration of former US president Donald Trump, Washington has made incremental moves to increase engagement with Taiwan, and the Biden administration has continued on this trajectory of blurring official/unofficial exchanges with Taipei, doing away with the appearance of clearing these with Beijing first, as would be expected if the US recognized Beijing’s jurisdiction over Taiwan.
The US’ donation of COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan is a good example of this.
In addition, with the Biden administration’s encouragement, a G7 communique last month stressed the importance of maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait, as did the joint statements from meetings between Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in April and with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in May.
Much has been made of the Chinese Communist Party’s “salami slicing” in the South China Sea, achieving its aims by incremental steps that individually do not constitute a provocation. The Biden administration is slicing some salami of its own by getting more countries to support peace across the Taiwan Strait. The more voices speak up for peace, the more difficult it would be for Beijing to direct its anger at any one actor.
While Campbell did not voice support for Taiwan’s independence, neither did he say the US supports unification, a position far more consistent with adherence to a “one China” policy.
This is how the policy defended by Campbell seeks to protect Taiwan without risking regional, and perhaps global, disruption — or even war — that nobody in their right minds would want.
Many Taiwanese would like independence for their country. However, would they want to risk war, especially when it is by no means the only solution? It is easy commenting on Taiwan’s problems when you do not live in Taiwan.
As the incursions by China into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone intensify, the international community’s anxiety has risen over the question of whether the US military would become directly involved in the case of an attack on Taiwan. Washington’s long-held policy of “strategic ambiguity” does little to ease the trepidation. The rationale universally espoused on “strategic ambiguity” is that an announced commitment from Washington to directly defend Taiwan would encourage Taiwanese independence and consequently bring forth a Chinese military attack and a possible nuclear confrontation between two superpowers. However, this line of argument could soon lose steam if the subject is viewed from
Having deceived the world about its nuclear capabilities while preparing for an arms race, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now using its increasing nuclear forces for virtual nuclear coercion. This new threat will continue until the United States, Japan, and Taiwan can restore the CCP’s sense of fear. This dynamic is a familiar one for Taiwan. As the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) capabilities have grown, its inhibitions about conducting larger and more frequent coercive military demonstrations have shrunk. The PLA now more openly practices for the destruction of Taiwan’s democracy and the murder of its citizens. In the nuclear realm,
In an unprecedented move, a group of democratic nations led by the US, UK and EU in a joint statement on Tuesday accused the Chinese Ministry of State Security of having carried out a major cyberattack earlier this year and stealing data from at least 30,000 organizations worldwide, including governments, universities and firms in key industries. Western officials were reportedly perplexed by the attack’s brazen execution and unparalleled scale. In an article on the attack, BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera wrote: “Western spies are still struggling to understand why Chinese behavior has changed.” The attack raises the fear “that they [China]
At the conclusion of the G7 Leaders’ Summit on June 13, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who participated virtually, called for the reform of multilateral institutions as the best signal of commitment to the cause of open societies. His comments are significant in light of China’s ongoing and successful efforts to control international organizations, and, in particular, to keep Taiwan out of critical health agencies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. China’s influence over the WHO is well known. It has used this control to deny Taiwan a place at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decisionmaking body of the WHO. Taiwan’s absence