'No Turning Back' U.S.-China Relations Under Biden, Taiwan Security Analyst Says

There is "no turning back" relations between the United States and China even if President-elect Joe Biden is likely to seek cooperation with Beijing on certain issues, Taiwan's top security analyst said Monday.

Su Tzu-yun, a senior fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said Taipei could be assured of a "Taiwan consensus" on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

At a seminar hosted by the Institute for National Policy Research, a local think tank, Su and other thought leaders agreed that a Biden administration would continue to try and contain "Chinese expansionism."

"The bipartisan Taiwan consensus recognized by both the Republican and Democratic parties will not change," Su said, adding: "The post-Trump or pre-Biden period will follow a predictable path."

Based on American foreign policy under President Barack Obama, Biden is likely to continue a version of the "Pivot to Asia" strategy also followed by the Trump administration, Su argued. However, the president-elect's tactics would be less aggressive.

"American efforts to contain China will not change because there are still issues such as trade, technology and military safety," he said.

"In a manifesto-like essay in Foreign Affairs earlier this year, Biden had already identified China as a main challenge," Su added. "There is only one way to handle a challenge like this. That is to work together with allies and partners to resist China's bullying behavior and human rights abuses."

He said Biden would still compete with China on traditional issues such those relating to military and security, but would seek cooperation from Beijing when it came to non-traditional issues such as climate change.

"U.S.-China relations have undergone structural change," Su noted. "There's no turning back."

The senior national security researcher said he expected a Biden administration to follow a multilateral approach to foreign policy consistent with the Democratic Party. This would include more naval cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, as well as continued work with the Quad nations and Five Eyes.

He also expected arms sales to continue between Taipei and Washington.

"If Biden enters the White House, I don't think arms sales to Taiwan will change," Su said. "Those already announced by the Trump administration won't change, and future sales by a Biden administration won't be reduced in quantity or quality either."

However, during the seminar, Su noted the significance of Taiwan's own defensive capabilities.

"Most important of all, we cannot continue to rely on the goodwill of others. We must rely on our own ability," the expert said.

U.S.-China relations have undergone structural change. There's no turning back.
Su Tzu-yun

He added: "Strategically, cross-strait relations are, of course, linked to greater Asia-Pacific relations. Under these circumstances, Taiwan must find an equilibrium.

"We may not be able to effect any fundamental change in this structure, but we can at least do a meaningful job of defending our small nation."

Post-election uncertainty

Taiwan's seemingly undecided future relationship with Washington is currently top of the agenda for local thought leaders and political talk show panelists.

Even before the election was called for the former vice president, Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen had already issued a statement in the hope of calming her pro-Trump constituents. She assured them she could work with either candidate.

Now it is my turn to extend congratulations to @JoeBiden & @KamalaHarris on being elected President & VP-elect. The values on which we have built our relationship could not be stronger. I look fwd to working together to further our friendship, & contributions to int’l society. https://t.co/xIvit7emjH

— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) November 8, 2020

Many among the island's 23 million inhabitants appear unsure as to whether a Biden administration would continue to support Taiwan in its escalating stand-off with China, and whether he would take as hard a line on Beijing as President Donald Trump did.

In a recent survey by the Asia-Pacific Elite Interchange Association in Taiwan, conducted after Election Day, 22.7 percent of those polled said they believed U.S.-Taiwan relations would deteriorate under Biden, but 52.8 percent felt the relationship would remain unchanged.

Joe Biden President-elect
President-elect Joe Biden speaks to the media after receiving a briefing from the transition COVID-19 advisory board on November 9, 2020, at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Biden spoke about how his administration would respond to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by /Getty Images) Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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