The fear of the Vatican’s eventual recognition of China is a growing concern, especially given that the Holy See is the most important embassy in Taiwan among the remaining fifteen.
The National Interest
Date: October 3, 2020
By: Patrick Mendis
When President-elect Donald Trump accepted a phone call from President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan just before his inauguration, “political warfare” between China and the United States had already begun. Now, evolving evidence suggests that Washington has departed from its 1972 “one China” policy and 1979 “policy of ambiguity” to one of resolve on defending Taiwan, leading to a “policy of strategic clarity.”
The sales of advanced weaponry to counter perceived China threats and the two recent visits of high-profile American officials—who heralded the technologically advanced island as the model for controlling the spread of the coronavirus pandemic—have deepened the bilateral relationship between the United States and Taiwan. The path that began with the Taiwan Travel Act of 2018 and the signing of a Consular Agreement in 2019 now makes China increasingly apprehensive of Trump’s next move: a possible unilateral diplomatic “recognition” of the democratic island-nation.
These events coincided with the Holy See’s announcement of the upcoming renewal of the Vatican-China agreement in October, which the Catholic Church assured to Taiwan was “pastoral rather than political.” The fear of the Vatican’s eventual recognition of China is a growing concern, especially given that the Holy See is the most important embassy in Taiwan among the remaining fifteen. Countering its political warfare, Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, noted that the Taipei administration is “not seeking full diplomatic relations with the United States at this moment,” which signals a forthcoming bilateral approach to undermine China’s “core interests” and cross-Strait ties.
The alignment of political warfare between and among China, the United States, and the Holy See in Taiwan could easily be the epicenter of the warning that UN Secretary-General António Guterres gave in his prophetic “Great Fracture” of the world speech at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations. Nonetheless, similar to the use of President Ronald Reagan’s political strategy against the Soviet Union, the White House may have discreetly employed the Holy See to constrain the Chinese calculus of exercising power over its geostrategic space. The strengthening of ties with the Holy See in an effort to counter China’s renewed relationship with the Vatican may—in part—explain the recent nomination of the conservative and Catholic Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court Judge, making her the “sixth Catholic” on the nine-member court. [FULL STORY]