One of the fault lines of the “New Cold War” simmering between the U.S. and China is undoubtedly Taiwan. The 180-kilometer strait between mainland China and the Island nation is located in an extremely strategic position in terms of international trade routes. Regarding the island of Taiwan as part of Chinese territories, Beijing maintains its official position in accordance with the "One China" principle, which the U.S. accepts. However, what Washington opposes is the escalation of the current situation by the use of military force.
The U.S.’s Taiwan policy is dubbed as "strategic ambiguity." This policy leaves it unclear whether the United States would actually intervene if China invades Taiwan.
U.S. Republicans want this policy abandoned in favor of a more hawkish line that would let America spring to Taiwan’s rescue if need be.
According to Republicans, Beijing should have no doubt that the U.S. will intervene with boots on the ground if Taiwan is occupied by China.
With the exception of a handful of hawkish centrists, Democrats argue that the policy of "strategic ambiguity" must continue.
According to those very Democrats, the United States should not commit to militarily defending Taiwan against any Sino invasion. Instead, they argue that Washington must only continue to strengthen Taiwan's defense capabilities.
Taiwan, which was established as a result of the civil war in China after the Second World War, is not officially recognized by any country. Taiwan opens representative offices in countries that recognize Beijing diplomatically, under the name of the "Taipei Economic and Cultural Mission." China is not exactly pleased with the establishment of these representations either.
Lithuania's August decision to allow for the opening of a mission titled the "Taiwan Representation Office" elicited a strong reaction from China. Stating that Vilnius has violated the "One China" principle, Beijing withdrew its ambassador from the tiny Eastern European country.
Approximately $800 billion was projected for the U.S.’s 2022 Defense Budget. Although Democrats wanted a more modest budget, they had to increase the amount after bowing down to pressure applied by Republicans.
Republicans and hawks find even this inflated budget lacking. The most important Republican argument behind the increase is, of course, China. Meanwhile, Trumpist Republicans are working day and night to nominate hawkish anti-China Republicans in the 2022 elections. The policy of strategic ambiguity will be difficult to sustain if Republicans gain a majority in both houses of the U.S. Congress by 2022.
Both the anti-Beijing Taiwanese politicians and U.S. hawks, who lobby for a tougher stance against China, argue that Beijing is preparing to invade the island in the near future.
Earlier this month, four Senators and two House of Representatives lawmakers visited Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. The visit of this all-Republican delegation infuriated Beijing.
As the visit’s repercussions continued to unfold, a second delegation from the U.S. went to Taipei. This time, five lawmakers, four Democrats, and one Republican from the House of Representatives traveled to Taipei and met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday.
Republican Deputy Nancy Mace, who is part of the delegation, said in a statement on her Twitter account that the U.S. had received a message from the Chinese Embassy in Washington asking them to cancel the trip.
Mace also tweeted the following after the delegation’s visit to Taipei: “As the first bipartisan U.S. House of Representatives delegation since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we made a fruitful and meaningful visit to the Indo-Pacific region, this is just the beginning.”
According to Beijing, increasing U.S. contact with Taiwan under the Biden administration means that Washington is violating its "One China" policy.
The U.S. also has troops deployed in Taiwan. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, in a statement last month, argued that American soldiers were on the island for training purposes, but that the number of these soldiers is not as many as previously thought.
In a nutshell, it's not about Taiwan. It is not at all about the preservation of Taiwanese democracy, as American lawmakers claim. Taiwan is just one tiny element of the "great power struggle" between the U.S. and China. Therefore, the Taiwan issue will not be going anywhere anytime soon as tensions continue to mount.