Envoy Sees ‘a Lot of Continuity’ in Biden’s Early Taiwan Policy
(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan is likely to be a major point of contention when top U.S. and Chinese diplomats meet later this week. Taipei’s envoy to Washington is confident that the new U.S. administration will show support for its democratic partner.
Hsiao Bi-khim told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday that President Joe Biden had maintained much of his predecessor’s approach to Taiwan. Former President Donald Trump approved a series of moves supporting the island, pushing ties to their highest level since Washington switched formal diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei more than four decades ago.
“There has been a lot of continuity” in the Biden administration’s approach to Taiwan, said Hsiao, who officially heads the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington. “This is a very critical time in our relationship with the United States.”
Top Biden aides are on weeklong trip that’s expected to culminate in Alaska with talks between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese diplomats. Washington’s approach to Taipei will likely be high on agenda, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi warning the U.S. earlier this month to stop “crossing lines and playing with fire” on Taiwan.
The Communist Party claims Taiwan as its territory despite having never ruled it, and has threatened military action to force unification. Beijing has stepped up pressure on Taipei since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who maintains that Taiwan is already sovereign and has sought greater economic and security ties with the U.S.
Taiwan’s role as a leading producer of semiconductors and other technologies that are vital to U.S. industry and defense has raised its profile in Washington. Hsiao reaffirmed Tsai’s desire for a trade deal with the U.S., which already counts Taiwan as its ninth-largest trading partner.
“We do believe that a trade agreement with the United States would be a signal of confidence to businesses in both our economies to further deepen that economic partnership,” Hsiao said.
One of the key personnel moves Tsai made after her re-election last year was to send Hsiao, a trusted confidant, to Washington. Last month, she met with Sung Kim, acting assistant secretary of the state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, just hours before Biden’s first official call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“The security and the defense relationship with the United States is one of the most important relationships that we have,” Hsiao said. “It is critical to Taiwan’s continuing survival as a democracy.”
Biden rarely mentioned Taiwan on the campaign trail, fueling speculation that he might be less supportive than Trump. State Department statements have helped quiet such concerns, with Blinken praising Taiwan in congressional testimony last week as a “strong democracy” and a “country that can contribute to the world.”
Beijing has refused to open talks with Tsai unless she accepts its bottom line that both sides are part of “one China.” Hsiao said that Taiwan would be willing to speak with China as sovereign equals, adding that Taiwanese people have rejected any offer of a “one country, two systems” framework similar to Hong Kong.
“Our doors have been open to talks as long as the other side respects the will of the people of Taiwan,” she said.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.