Home Taiwan Taiwan's Ties With US Military Remain Strong Amid Threats From Beijing

Taiwan’s Ties With US Military Remain Strong Amid Threats From Beijing

Even as tensions over Taiwan escalate due to diplomatic threats from mainland China, Taiwan’s leader states that Taiwan’s ties with America’s military remain strong.

Ever since one of the Chinese military’s H-6 bombers was seen flying over the air defense identification zone in Taiwan in September 2020, both China and the U.S. have stepped up military activity in the area. Military tension continued to build up during the U.S. presidential election, but Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-Wen has stating that their ties with the United States remain strong despite the shift from the Trump to the Biden administration.

While the new administration has rejected many of Trump’s foreign policies, the U.S. continues to extend support to Taiwan amid threats from authoritarian China. Addressing the issue, Tsai stated: “I would like to reiterate that Taiwan will not back down when receiving pressure and will not rashly advance when receiving support.” (The Washington Post)

After the U.S. Pacific Fleet conducted military exercises in the South China Sea involving two aircraft carrier strike groups, the Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army stepped up its activity as well. Wang Wenbin, the Chinese Foreign Minister, was quick to assert that the military exercises by the United States threatened China’s national sovereignty and regional peace.

A Nimitz-class aircraft carrier at sea.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet conducted military exercises in the South China Sea involving two aircraft carrier strike groups at the beginning of February. (Image: via Dreamstime.com © Vdvtut)

“China will continue to take necessary measures to firmly defend national sovereignty and security and work together with regional countries to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he said. (Newsweek)

Cross-strait relations in history

Tsai Ing-Wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been vocal for the official independence of Taiwan from mainland China. However, the history of cross-strait relations has gone through many peaks and valleys over the years and still has far to go before President Tsai could demand the secession of Taiwan from China.

After being a Dutch colony for almost four decades, China took control of the island during the Qing Dynasty. From the 17th century onward, Taiwan witnessed a large influx of migrants from China, mostly Hoklo Chinese from Fujian and the Hakka Chinese from Guangdong. Presently, a large chunk of the Taiwanese population consists of the descendants of these groups of Chinese ethnicities.

Taiwan was seized by Imperial Japan in 1895, but recovered by the Republic of China (ROC) after World War II. After the Chinese Civil War, communist forces under Mao Zedong took over mainland China, compelling the ROC to relocate to Taiwan.

Today’s Taiwan-China relationship

The unification of Taiwan with China began to be emphasized by Beijing in the late 1980s when they proposed significant autonomy for Taiwan under “one country, two systems.” Although Taiwan rejected the offer, Taipei showcased the spirit of a willingness to invest in China.

By the turn of the century, demands for Taiwan’s secession began to rise again with the election of President Chen Shui-bian as he spoke out for Taiwanese independence from China. After his re-election in 2004, China passed an anti-secession law in 2005 that provided authority for China to use non-peaceful means in dealing with any attempts at secession by Taiwan.

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁總統) giving a speech at the 228 Memorial in Taipei.
As the president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian spoke out for Taiwanese independence from China. (Image: david3108 via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Taiwan government openly backed secession from China after the election of Tsai Ing-Wen. Taiwan’s president had spoken to President Trump of the United States about requiring U.S. backing amid escalating tensions with China. The Trump administration, in support of the demands for secession, supplied Taiwan with military weapons and deployed troops to the South China Sea despite having no official relations with the island nation.

At present, Joe Biden’s administration has stated that it is committed to backing Taiwan even as the Chinese claims over Taiwan become more assertive.

Taiwan reported “large incursions” by Chinese warplanes during the first two days of the Joe Biden administration. In retaliation, Taiwan’s air force carried out exercises to warn Chinese aircraft and monitored the planes using the air defense mobile system.

As the Taiwan-China relationship has continuously soured since 2016, military actions taken by the U.S. in the region come as a reassurance that Taiwan does not stand alone as they resist Beijing in order to remain independent.

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  • Max Lu is an author who specializes in Asian geopolitics.

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