By Hua Zhang
The US State Department informed Congress on August 30 of the Biden administration's approval of a first-ever military aid worth US$80 million to China's Taiwan region under the so-called Foreign Military Financing program, drawing close attention from the international community.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and US, the US has never earnestly abided by the three China-US joint communiques. It has never stopped arms sales to the Taiwan region. On the contrary, the sales value has grown to around US$1 billion annually in recent years. At the end of July this year, US President Biden granted a US$345 million package of military aid to the region using the presidential drawdown authority. In terms of numbers, the latest tranche of military financing to Taiwan isn't substantial enough to forge the region's asymmetric combat capability. But in a political sense, the fact that Washington granted aid to Taiwan under a program that's usually reserved for independent, sovereign states is a gross violation of the One-China principle and the three joint communiques, especially the August 17 communique. It is the latest move to hollow out the One-China principle and once again casts a pall over China-US relations that have just shown some signs of easing.
The US aims at three things through this military aid that is much more significant politically than militarily.
It intends to play the tough ball on China to appease criticism from anti-China radicals at home.
As the US takes China as "the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it", being more anti-China seems to have become the most important and right thing to do at the Capitol Hill. Last November, bilateral relations seemed to have turned for the better as the summit between Chinese and American leaders in Bali generated a series of essential consensus and saw Biden reiterating the five assurances. Yet, just one month later, the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, which made groundless accusations of China and included outrageous statements about the Taiwan question.
Now, with four US senior officials visiting China within three months, including Secretary of State Blinken, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and, most recently, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, the Biden administration is obligated to flex its muscles in order to quench the anger of anti-China politicians. Sure enough, the news about the "military financing" to Taiwan region found Michael McCaul, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who slammed Raimondo's China visit just days ago, change his tune, saying he welcomed and felt delighted at the move.
It wants to embolden "Taiwan independence" forces by reinforcing its commitment to the island.
Lai Ching-te, since he stepped in as head of the Democratic Progressive Party, has been trying hard to secure America's support to consolidate his position in the DPP and help him run for Taiwan leadership in 2024. However, to avoid infuriating China and keep the Taiwan Strait tension from getting out of control, the US side has kept a low profile in engaging with this "pragmatic Taiwan independence proponent".
But America's strategy to contain China with Taiwan remains unchanged, and giving the pro-US, anti-China Lai a leg up best serves its strategic interests. The FMF program is a gift from the Biden administration to him. At the moment, polls show Lai enjoying a slight edge in the ratings. While it's uncertain whether America's gift will further boost his ratings, it at least gives him more confidence or rather a nerve to keep singing the anti-China tune.
It intends to escalate the situation in the Taiwan Strait and double down on the containment and suppression of China.
America's aggressiveness on the Taiwan question has pushed the Taiwan Strait to the verge of a war. The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law last December allocated more than 50 pages to the Taiwan question – the longest in history, covering military financing to the region, accelerating arms sales to it, strengthening military ties with it, and so on. In particular, the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act (TERA) stated that the US, for the first time ever, would work out a specific national defense modernization program for Taiwan, accelerate its arms purchase, develop training plans to enhance its ability of self-defense and intensify their defense partnership. The high-frequency and institutionalized military collaboration with and arms sales to Taiwan indicate that Washington is viewing the island as a trump card in its strategic containment and suppression of China.
Now the US is applying the FMF program, which only applies to sovereign states, to China's Taiwan. Does that count as a total abandonment of the One-China principle and a de facto tearing up of the three joint communiques? The US State Department spokesperson said the grant doesn't mean a change in America's One-China policy – such a glaring lie is proof that Washington isn't fully prepared for a showdown yet, so it is still making dangerous moves, with the salami tactics, on issues concerning China's core interests without realizing it's only inches away from cutting itself.
America's aggressive and condemnable moves to repeatedly touch and trample on China's red line is telling the world, over and over, who is the real culprit if a war did break out in the Taiwan Strait.
Editor's note: Originally published on china.com.cn, this article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.