China Warns Joe Biden Administration Against Further Taiwan Pronouncements

China issued choice words of warning to the incoming administration of Joe Biden on Monday after a transition official said the president-elect would ensure U.S. support for Taiwan remained "strong, principled and bipartisan."

The unnamed Biden official, who added that the incoming president was committed to the Taiwan Relations Act, made the comments to media outlets including Taipei's government-funded Central News Agency (CNA) on Saturday.

The statement from President-elect Biden's team came hours after outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the unexpected late move of announcing a major foreign policy shift on relations with Taiwan, removing what he called "self-imposed restrictions" on U.S.-Taiwan exchanges and communications.

Beijing's response was expectedly stern. On Monday, its foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian described Pompeo's pronouncement on Taiwan as "manipulation" of the democratic island nation.

The policy would cause a further "regression" of already strained U.S.-China relations, Zhao said. The Trump administration's involvement in what Beijing sees as a "core interest" would elicit "resolute countermeasures" from the Chinese government, he added, without elaborating.

When asked at the foreign press briefing about the comments made by the presidential transition official, Zhao—choosing not to name the incoming Biden-Harris administration—called on the U.S. to "stop official exchanges and military ties with Taiwan."

According to CNA, the Biden spokesperson said the president-elect would seek "a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan."

"[Biden] has long said that American support for Taiwan must remain strong, principled and bipartisan, and he plans to work to ensure that," the official added.

Parting surprise

Pompeo's announcement on Saturday rocked social media channels as long-time Taiwan observers began commenting on the implications of the surprising move.

Washington severed ties with Taipei in 1979 and switched formal diplomatic allegiances to Beijing the same year. On the sensitive issue of Taiwan, the U.S. has maintained its own "one China" policy, which strategically acknowledges—but does not recognize—Beijing's claims over the island.

Taiwan has remained an "unofficial partner" of the United States ever since, with exchanges facilitated by the Taiwan Relations Act—supported by, among others, then Senator Joe Biden. However, with just over 10 days left in government, the Trump administration's announcement deemed over 40 years of communication protocol "null and void."

"The United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing. No more," wrote Secretary Pompeo, who said the statement "recognizes that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship need not, and should not, be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy."

Previous contact guidelines placed restrictions on venues and the manner in which officials from Taiwan and the United States could meet, analysts in Taipei revealed. Taiwan's national flag and symbols of its sovereignty were forbidden from U.S. government premises.

Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu welcomed the State Department's announcement in a tweet thanking Pompeo.

On Monday, Pete Hoekstra, the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, extended an immediate invitation to Chen Hsin-hsin, from the local Taipei representative office, for an unprecedented meeting at the American embassy in The Hague.

Made some history today: Welcomed Taiwan Representative Chen to our Embassy. Glad that our @StateDept colleagues around the world will now be able to host our friends from this vibrant democracy on our Embassy grounds. Thanks @Taiwan_in_NL for your friendship.

— Ambassador Pete Hoekstra (@usambnl) January 11, 2021

Foreign policy experts are largely in agreement that Pompeo's late moves were an attempt to force the hand of the incoming Biden administration, effectively shaping the next government's toughened stance on China. Any reversal of the wider anti-China position, which currently includes a range of sanctions and bans on Chinese companies, could be perceived as weakness on the part of the next president.

Top security analysts in Taipei, however, felt the Biden administration was unlikely to reverse course—at least on the subject of Taiwan—given strong bipartisan support for the island in Congress.

Commentators have nonetheless noted that the timing of the announcement was poor. It suggests the Trump administration was using Taiwan as a tool to provoke China, Taipei-based Professor Yeh-chung Lu told Newsweek.

In a tweet issued Sunday, Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the move was "long overdue," but "shouldn't have been done in this way."

The Taiwanese government under President Tsai Ing-wen has enjoyed growing support from the United States under Donald Trump, whose administration has approved multibillion dollar defensive weapons packages to Taipei in his four years in office.

Tsai and her cabinet are scheduled to welcome Kelly Craft, Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, in another high-profile visit to the island on Wednesday.

It would be the first visit by a serving U.S. ambassador to Geneva, Taiwan's foreign ministry told Newsweek in a statement confirming Craft's itinerary.

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