By Xiong Xing
The US has been releasing all kinds of supportive signals to Taiwan this year, with the level and frequency of their so-called interactions flagrantly enhanced. While those in Taiwan’s green camp jump at such signals, they’d better think long and hard whether the signals are sweet poisons from the US for Taiwan.
In view of the political polarization and social divide within the US, how its 2020 presidential election, which will come up in November, will turn out will have far-reaching effects not only on itself, but also on global politics. Faced with superimposed problems including the COVID-19, economic slowdown and racial conflict, certain American politicians are trying to hype up the so-called “China issue” on the eve of the upcoming election so as to create anxiety among the voters, deflect attention from domestic troubles and secure more votes.
The Trump administration’s COVID-19 response fiasco and the outbreak of racial conflicts have spurred Trump’s election team to highlight the “China topic”, adopting all kinds of aggressive China policies while desperately trying to scapegoat it. It has taken a series of insidious moves in economy and trade, science and technology, and people-to-people exchanges, and made constant provocations on the Taiwan question in a bid to stimulate the voters’ anti-China sentiments. Recently Trump’s poll numbers have improved and approached his opponent Biden’s in some key swing states, making him even more eager to secure more votes by all means in hopes of a so-called “October surprise”.
Although the “China topic” seems to have drawn a lot of attention, to what extent it will affect the results of the election is still uncertain.
In American politics, the constituents are less concerned with diplomatic issues than with domestic issues directly related with their own interests, such as traditional topics like economy, livelihood, tax and gun control, and also this year’s new additions like public health, racial problems and social order. The Trump administration has made many moves on the diplomatic front since taking office, for example, his so-called achievement of facilitating Israel's diplomatic progress, given the great Jewish influence in American economy and society.
Although Trump’s election team sees China as an important campaigning strategy, even a life-saving straw, it is barely effective in reality. Trump’s aggressive adventures on the China-US relation and the Taiwan question aimed to incur more intense conflict may even be a poison instead of a push for his election, which will exert profoundly negative effects on bilateral relations.
The recent intimacy between Washington and Taiwan Regional authorities has invigorated certain people on the island so much that they begin to have the illusion of gaining unprecedented support from the US side. Yet even though the Taiwan authorities have put the island on the forefront of China-US tension and actively followed America’s lead in provoking the mainland, they have never obtained any substantive benefits from Washington. This point has been proven by the TAIPEI Act, a symbolic bill passed by the US House of Representatives unanimously yet never put into practice.
The US Under Secretary of State Keith Krach’s visit to Taiwan is perhaps not much different. Krach is in charge of Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment in the Department of State, but while in Taiwan, his talks with the local officials are not about the two sides’ free trade negotiation that Taiwan authorities are most concerned with. Instead, he have been so focused on such topics as the “Indo-Pacific strategy”, “New Southern Policy”, “5G Clean Network” and “industrial chain restructuring”, which the US side is more concerned about .
Besides, Taiwan authorities’ recent decision to import American pork and beef regardless of local residents’ health and wellbeing has met with continuous public opposition. Moreover, in several previous arms deals, Taiwan authorities bowed to the US for political interests, but what they got in return was nothing substantial except oral support and empty promises. It is typical of Washington to pay lip service only. Especially when its own interests are involved, the US would take Taiwan as a pawn at best without second thought.
(The author is a research fellow with Center for Taiwan and East Asian Studies, Central China Normal University)
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