U.S. support for Taiwan would remain strong under Biden: expert

10/29/2020 09:34 PM
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Bonnie Glaser / CNA photo Oct. 29, 2020
Bonnie Glaser / CNA photo Oct. 29, 2020

Washington, Oct. 28 (CNA) The United States will continue its policies supporting Taiwan and strategic competition with China in the event that Democratic challenger Joe Biden defeats President Donald Trump in the country's Nov. 3 election, an American scholar said Wednesday.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said recent U.S. steps to strengthen Taiwan are in large part a reaction to the growing pressure Taiwan and other countries face from China, and are therefore likely to continue under a Biden administration.

For this reason, "there should be no concern in Taiwan that the policies of the United States will return to the policies of an earlier era under Democrats," she said, adding that "this is a different world now."

Asked if Biden, like Trump, would approve arms sales to Taiwan and allow visits by high-ranking U.S. officials, Glaser noted that every U.S. president since 1979 has made arms sales to Taiwan in compliance with the Taiwan Relations Act, though the timing and content of such packages have varied.

The difference with Biden is that there may be less visibility, Glaser said. "Things may be done in a somewhat less public way...because they'll be concerned about not provoking China in a way that is harmful to Taiwan."

Despite the countries' strong security ties, Glaser argued that the U.S. has not done enough to develop its trade relationship with Taiwan, and said it's an open question how this issue would be handled by Biden.

"I think an FTA (free trade agreement) might be more likely under a Biden administration," Glaser said, in part because Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has taken the "politically courageous" step of lifting restrictions on U.S. pork and beef imports.

Another reason is that the Trump administration's U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, has put "a lot of focus" on negotiating a trade deal with China, which he views as his "legacy," she said, adding that he does not want to do anything to undermine that legacy.

However, Biden could also face challenges from some in his Democratic Party, who oppose free trade agreements because of their perceived impact on organized labor and the environment, she added.

In terms of U.S.-China relations, Glaser said, the concept of "strategic competition" is now accepted by the mainstream in both U.S. political parties, and will not disappear under a Biden administration.

"A large percentage of Americans now see China as posing the biggest challenge to the United States. So any president is going to be tougher on China, the only question is how," she said.

In terms of Taiwan, Glaser said it had earned recognition in Congress and among the American public for its successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had created "a desire to work with Taiwan on a range of issues."

This has coincided with a number of other factors, she said, such as the attention now being paid to global supply chains and the importance of Taiwan semiconductor companies to 5G network security in the U.S.

"Taiwan is looked at through a very different lens today than it was even just a few years ago. So I have no doubt that this relationship is going to remain strong," she said.

(By Stacy Hsu and Matthew Mazzetta)

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