ANALYSIS: After 2 Years, Any Changes in the US-China-Taiwan Relationship?

In engaging with the US, Tsai Ing-wen has stuck to the same script as previous Taiwanese leaders. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The News Lens
Date: 2018/09/17
By: Mark Lai

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Last month, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) visited Paraguay and Belize, two of the 17 countries that still have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It was her fifth overseas trip in office, all of which have been at the heart of a bid to deal with Taiwan’s diplomatic crisis.

In the two years since Tsai replaced her pro-China predecessor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Taiwan has lost five allies in Sao Tome and Principe, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso, and El Salvador, lured away by financial incentives from Beijing as part of its stated pledge to force Tsai to accept the “1992 consensus.”

To this end, China has also used hostile language, issued threats, and repeatedly conducted military exercises around the island. Lacking the political and economic chips to play the retaliation game, Tsai has to rely on U.S. support to help maintain her administration’s stance.

Luckily for her, the political winds have been shifting in Washington. The Donald Trump administration is waging a trade war against China, and fear of “the China threat” hasn’t been this popular in decades. It seems that many Americans are ready to embrace the enemy of their enemy, which in this case is Taiwan. Indeed, earlier this year Trump signed into law a bill that encourages high-level communication between the U.S. and Taiwan. Named the Taiwan Travel Act, it is a follow-up of sorts to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. Both acts ambiguously and loosely imply a U.S. guarantee of maintaining Taiwan’s political status and military ability to maintain its national security.

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