What you need to know
While all the US presidential candidates have been bringing up issues regarding terrorism and ISIS, Taiwan has only been mentioned once in the presidential debates so far. However, a US scholar working for a research organization has called on the candidates to pay more attention to cross-strait issues.
Translated and compiled by Yuan-ling Liang
On March 15, Eric Gomez, research associate for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, a US public policy research organization, published an article urging the US presidential candidates to put more emphasis on Taiwan, especially issues related to China.
In the article, Gomez mentions the ignorance in recent presidential debates on Taiwan’s situation. Even if cross-strait relations are becoming tenser, Taiwan has only been brought up once so far in the nineteen presidential debates.
Recent unstable cross-strait relations could be attributed to the economic turmoil in China, including the decreasing economic growth and the equity market crisis, and Taiwan’s political changes. Xi’s territorial policies also lead to further concerns.
“With China flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and renewed uncertainty about the future of its relationship with Taiwan, the next president of the United States won’t have the luxury of ignoring China,” writes Gomez.
►Related News: China Deploys Missiles On South China Sea Island
Non-acceptance of the 1992 Consensus leaves concerns in cross-strait relations
On March 15, a report conducted by the USCC (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission) mentioned, “The most salient challenge to Chinese interests perceived by leaders in Beijing relates to sovereignty vis-a-vis Taiwan.” It also says it is possible that China uses military force to tackle the sovereignty issue as Beijing also expects to weaken Taiwan’s military morale.
The sovereignty controversy between Taiwan and China is evolving to a direct contradiction after Taiwan’s election and China’s recent foreign policies.
Taiwan’s president-elect Tsai Ing-wen says that she would try her best to remain the status quo between China and Taiwan, but never referenced the 1992 Consensus during her presidential campaign. Since Chinese officials highly expect Taiwan to accept the consensus, the relationship between the two countries may become antagonistic if Taiwan does not commit to it.
How cross-strait relations might affect the US
Regarding this issue, several impacts on the US are also mentioned in Gomez’s article.
China’s restrictions on cross-strait tourism and diplomatic pressure against other nations may lead to escalated tensions, which is likely to bring about military exercises that worry nearby countries. Also, since China is seeking for a dominant position in the South China Sea, its moves will pressurize the harmony in the area. With several allies, such as Japan, in the area, the US needs to help stabilize regional conditions when asked to utilize its power.
According to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US is required to aid Taiwan if China poses threat to the island. Actions to be taken include intervention in military or armed-support, which has existed for decades. There are concerns that such confrontation may bring direct conflict between the US and China.
In the USCC report, it is also said that China would strive to become the Asia Pacific countering power to the US. If China employs any military force that generates unstable conditions in the Asia Pacific, the US cannot just sit on the sidelines.
“Taiwan may not be the primary foreign policy issue of the campaign,” says Gomez, “but generating more debate about how the United States should respond to China/Taiwan issues is imperative for U.S. national security in the long run.”
Edited by Olivia Yang
“China sees Taiwan as key security threat: US report" (Taipei Times)