China Warns U.S. As Taiwan Makes Overtures to Biden Cabinet

China's defense ministry had a few choice words of caution for the United States and Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen expressed confidence in Washington's continued support for her country under the Biden administration.

Tsai had "face to face" meetings in the past with both Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan—Joe Biden's top picks for secretary of state and national security adviser. Channels of communication between Washington and Taipei were "smooth," she told reporters Wednesday.

Speaking before a meeting of her Democratic Progressive Party's Central Standing Committee, President Tsai said the progression of U.S.-Taiwan relations and the American government's support for Taiwan have been "clear for all to see."

She cited bipartisan support in Congress and the striking of 10 arms deals with the Trump administration in the last four years as proof of the democratic island's standing among both Republicans and Democrats.

Taiwan would endeavor to achieve cross-party support from the United States, while Taipei and Washington would continue their exchanges based on an existing foundation of shared values, democracy and freedom, she stressed.

True friends

President Donald Trump sent Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to Taiwan in August, while Undersecretary of State Keith Krach visited just one month later.

Both trips angered Beijing, which responded by flying warplanes across the Taiwan Strait median line and into Taiwan's national defense airspace.

Tsai said the cabinet-level visits—the highest diplomatic calls since 1979—showed that the U.S.-Taiwan partnership was one of "true friends."

Alex Azar Tsai Ing-wen
File photo: Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar (L) looks on as Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (R) speaks during his visit to the Presidential Office in Taipei on August 10, 2020. PEI CHEN/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, China on Thursday described Tsai's government as "plotting independence" by relying on the West, Ministry of National Defense Spokesperson Ren Guoqiang said.

Ren said China strongly opposes official communications and military exchanges "of any form" between the United States and Taiwan, before calling reunification the "will of the people."

"We will not allow anyone or any force to infringe upon and divide China's sacred territory," he said, adding that the People's Liberation Army was determined to meet "head on" any threat to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Rolling the dice

At the Wednesday briefing, Taiwan's first female president also addressed her nation's most pressing issue, the relaxing of U.S. pork and beef imports to its shores starting January 1, 2021.

Her policy, which will allow American pork containing traces of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine to enter the domestic market, is currently universally unpopular due to health concerns.

Tsai called her government's decision one for the "greater good" of Taiwan, saying it showed Taipei's determination to resolve issues preventing the signing of a long-awaited and historic bilateral trade agreement with Washington.

Despite the many dissenting voices in the country, she believed the majority of Taiwanese would opt for an avenue which led to more international support for the island, she said, suggesting the loosening of beef and pork regulations could lead to more than just a trade in goods, but possibly security, too.

When Tsai announced the revised import policies in August, Secretary of State-designate Blinken described it as a positive step forward for U.S.-Taiwan relations.

Taiwan's move to lift trade barriers is good for American farmers, ranchers, and our economy. Stronger economic ties with Taiwan also support our shared democratic values and our common commitment to regional peace and stability.

— Antony Blinken (@ABlinken) August 28, 2020

She said she was "calm, cautious and confident" about Taiwan's future.

One of President Trump's final acts in support of Taiwan was the sanctioning of the U.S.-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, which saw Tsai administration officials travel to Washington for a meeting on November 20.

The talks concluded with a memorandum of understanding, allowing for yearly meetings for the next five years, and a possible five more after that.

Chinese optimism

Across the Taiwan Strait, Beijing's tightly controlled state media has also expressed positive sentiments toward Blinken, who China sees as more moderate and predictable than Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

There is hope among Chinese analysts that Biden's top diplomat, who knows Beijing from his time working under President Barack Obama, could help stabilize relations between the two economic powerhouses as both governments seek common ground on issues such as climate change.

At the same time, Chinese President Xi Jinping will be conscious of the fact that Biden, himself a foreign affairs veteran, views China as America's greatest strategic threat, and will likely attempt to reassert U.S. dominance in the Asia-Pacific with the help of allied democracies.