The United States is picking a fight with China by tugging on Taiwan

China launched air and sea military exercises around Taiwan to send a “stern warning” to separatist forces on the island following a recent visit to the United States by Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai, who is the Democratic Progressive Party nominee to succeed Tsai Ing-wen, who has served as the president of the Republic of China since 2016.

Lai returned to Taipei after making two stops in the United States as part of a trip to Paraguay, angering China which views him as a separatist and a “troublemaker”.

Taiwan responded on Saturday saying the drills highlighted Beijing’s “militaristic mentality” and that combat aircraft, naval ships and land-based missile systems had been tasked with monitoring Chinese forces.

Taiwan is a deeply emotive issue for China’s ruling Communist Party, and for Chinese President Xi Jinping. The People’s Republic of China has claimed Taiwan as its territory since the defeated Republic of China government fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong’s communists.

China has repeatedly called on U.S. officials not to engage with Taiwanese leaders or allow them into the country under any guise, viewing it as support for Taiwan’s desire to be viewed as separate from China.

Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) transits through the South China Sea on Jan 12, 2023 US Navy Photo
Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) transits through the South China Sea on Jan 12, 2023, in this US Navy Photo
Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning is part of the world’s largest navy, according to the US Department of Defense

China has never renounced the use of force to bring democratically governed Taiwan under its control, and in 2005 passed a law giving Beijing the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes or seems about to.

China believes Lai to be a separatist for his previous comments about being a “worker” for Taiwan independence, though the vice president claims the Republic of China they are already an independent country.

Lai has been the Vice President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) since 2020. He served as a legislator in the Legislative Yuan from 1999 to 2010, and as Mayor of Tainan from 2010 to 2017, prior to taking office as premier of Taiwan

A delegation of six United States lawmakers led by vocal China antagonists Bob Menendez and Lindsey Graham arrived in Taiwan for a two-day junket last year as Beijing threatened “strong measures” in response. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other American politicians have intentionally rankled the Chinese by visiting Taiwan.

Bob Menendez, chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, greets Taiwan Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Wu as a US delegation arrives at Taipei Songshan Airport [Photo credit: Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

The politicians faced criticism for trying to instigate conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan, the breakaway island province that both governments claim is part of one nation.

“The United States is China’s biggest customer. China is Taiwan’s biggest customer and the US is second. After Canada and Mexico, China is America’s third largest customer,” said Lisa McCormick.

“Starting a war between Taiwan and China is not in the best interests of the United States or the human race but that’s what some ‘foreign policy experts’ are trying to do,” said McCormick. “Senator Bob Menendez is trying to get the United States, Taiwan, and China into a war with deliberate violent provocation that has angered the communist government.”

McCormick said, “Senator Menendez and other foreign policy experts have squandered many opportunities to drive China toward better policies on human rights, but profit has been their priority.”

“We are in business with these people,” said McCormick. “It would be crazy to convert Sino-U.S. competition into a 21st-century Cold War. Instead of plotting to kill each other, we should encourage China to advance freedom and democracy while Americans might learn to embrace their values of harmony and peace.”

Chinese J-10 fighter jets shown flying in formation

Politicians in the United States claim they are concerned about China’s human rights record, particularly its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.

“The Chinese government has engaged in mass detention, forced labor, and other abuses against Uyghurs, but this has not been an obstacle to American trade,” said McCormick. “The Trump administration imposed tariffs on Chinese goods and President Biden has continued to talk tough on trade with China, but empty rhetoric has had no impact on our trade deficit.”

The United States is concerned about China’s cyber activities, China is not doing enough to protect intellectual property rights that cost American businesses, billions of dollars each year, and China has asserted claims in the South China Sea that conflict with those of several other countries.

The United States has an obligation to exhibit strong resolve with China, but it is as silly to think we can bully them into different behavior as it would be for them to try pushing us around on domestic affairs.

 The United States is committed to the One China policy at the same time it has a commitment to help Taiwan defend itself, so we should tread lightly rather than provoke either side to employ violence.

China has threatened to use force to take control of Taiwan if the United States interferes with the situation, so we should be diplomatic and help maintain the status that has existed since 1950 or so.

China’s Communist Party has never controlled self-ruled Taiwan but it views the island as part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary. Those threats have become more bellicose under President Xi Jinping, making the security of Taiwan a rare subject of bipartisan support in Washington.

China’s posture has spurred greater US diplomatic support for Taipei and prompted visits from Western politicians shaken by Beijing’s more muscular tone.

Menendez, who chairs the influential Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, was among a group of lawmakers who introduced a bill to rename Taipei’s de facto embassy in Washington the “Taiwan Representative Office” and he inserted into a law signed by President Joe Biden $10 billion in military aid that prompted renewed incursions into Taiwan airspace from Chinese military planes.

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