The change of guard at the White House that has brought about a Joe Biden-led Democrat government is feared to be the less supportive of Taiwan.

However, the strong US-Taiwan relationship is expected to remain unaffected thanks to anti-China sentiments in the US, and Beijing’s imperialistic ambitions which have created tension in the Indo- pacific Region.

Although Biden has been supportive of normalising relations with China, he has also been a staunch, if not overt, supporter of the democratic nation of Taiwan.

Biden as vice-president

Biden is expected to continue with the long-running US policy of arms support to Taipei, bolstering Taiwanese defences against a possible invasion by China. 

Biden was of course one of the crucial players behind the Taiwan Relations Act 1979, which allowed the US to maintain unofficial relations with Taipei while also formally recognizing the Beijing government.

Over the years, Biden’s love for China and its supreme leader XI Jinping appears to have faded.

In 2013, Xi Jinping had called Biden, then US Vice President, an “old friend of China” for his help in the growth of China in international politics.

However, Biden chose to use the word “thug” earlier this year in the wake of presidential elections, and the Biden-led Democratic Party’s 2020 platform document removed all mention of a “One China” policy, which gave clear signs into the mindset Biden now holds towards the Taiwan Strait crisis.

Under the policy, the US acknowledged that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of it.

The document further warned Beijing of repercussions, saying “Democrats will be clear, strong, and consistent in pushing back where we have profound economic, security, and human rights concerns about the actions of China’s government.”

Although Biden did not touch upon Taiwan during the actual election campaign, he has given no indication about backing down on President Trump’s policies.

He is in favour of maintaining strategic ambiguity, but this does not mean he is less supportive of Taiwan than Trump. 

And, interestingly, Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to congratulate Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen when she re-elected in January this year.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen
C: MOFA

Biden told Tsai “You are stronger because of your free and open society. The United States should continue strengthening our ties with Taiwan and other like-minded democracies.” It was enough for the world to see that Biden may speak soft but would act hard on the Taiwan issue.

Chinese tabloid Global Times, which is used by the Beijing government to present its views unofficially, has expressed concerns over the US being unlikely to ease pressure on China on key issues even after Biden becomes the president.

China should not harbour any illusions the CCP mouthpiece said, adding that Biden’s election will not ease or bring a reversal to China-US relations, nor should China weaken its belief in improving bilateral ties. US competition with China and its guard against China will only intensify…(and) Biden is highly likely to continue Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign, but probably without the same reckless gambling-style moves.

Biden will maintain a tough attitude on China.

On what the US defines as “human rights” issues such as the Xinjiang and Hong Kong affairs, the possibility cannot be excluded that a Democratic government would go even further,” the state-run tabloid said in its editorial.

  • Military comparison 

In the backdrop of world media reporting that Biden would try to rebalance relationships with China and Taiwan, the elite American military forces continued to be ready to enter the island nation if need be.

US Marines have friends in the Taiwanese forces where they instruct in combat capabilities in assault boats and boat infiltration techniques. 

This send a message to Beijing and the world that Taiwan has the support of the US under both Democrats and Republicans.

Although Biden opposes both a unilateral declaration of independence by Taiwan and any military attack on the island nation by China, he supports boosting Taiwan’s military through sale of arms and military equipment.

His strategic ambiguity policy still keeps the US open for use of force in case of Chinese attack.

And the chances of the US defending Taiwan proactively are higher since anti-China sentiments are running high in the US.

Total value of US trade in goods with Taiwan

A Biden government is also expected to keep and maintain Taiwan-friendly bills introduced by Trump administration, such as the Taiwan Travel Act and the National Defence Authorisation Act which facilitate exchanges of diplomats and military officials.

A researcher at the Institute for National Defence and Security Research in Taipei has expressed confidence that a multi-billion dollar arms deal with the US would not be affected during Biden’s presidency. “In the next four years – or even in the next 10 years – the People‘s Liberation Army does not have full confidence of a decisive victory in the event of a military offensive against Taiwan,” the researcher said.

“Besides, the Taiwan Relations Act makes it obligatory for the US to ensure Taiwan’s peaceful way of life is not upset by force.”

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