This week, Joe Biden responded to questions about China’s aggressive acts toward Taiwan by saying that he and Chinese President Xi have agreed to follow their “Taiwan agreement.” The only problem with that statement is that no one has ever heard of a Taiwan agreement between the U.S. and China.
Biden told the press that “we made it clear” that Xi should be following the agreement when asked about Chinese military operations near Taiwan airspace. While no one is aware of any such agreement on record, it seems that Biden might be referring to the U.S. policy of recognizing Beijing rather than Taipei in diplomatic relations regarding Taiwan.
American foreign policy regarding Taiwan is also governed by the Taiwan Relations Act, which formalizes the decision that America expects that Taiwan’s future will be established through peaceful negotiations by forming diplomatic relations with Beijing regarding Taiwan.
As a result, the U.S. does not take a position on Taiwan’s independent sovereignty but promises to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself. China is not a party to the Taiwan Relations Act. Biden is referring to it as an “agreement,” it has nothing to do with anything China has promised to do.
Biden may have referred to his September 9 phone call with Xi, which focused on economic competition between the U.S. and China.
To date, the only official action the U.S. has taken is issuing a State Department release warning the Chinese government about its activities near Taiwan. The statement says that the U.S. is “very concerned” by China’s military exercises near Taiwan, calling those acts destabilizing and threatening regional peace and stability.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has been aggressive toward China, indicating that she may be moving toward declaring some level of independence for her country. China has responded by increasing its actions that violate the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone.
Taiwan has been mobilizing its aircraft when Chinese military aircraft enter the defense zone. The risks of misunderstood signals that could result in active conflict are increasing as a result.