Deescalation in the Sino-American relations and around Taiwan?

Deescalation in the Sino-American relations and around Taiwan?


While China is beating the war drums around Taiwan on National Day due to AUKUS, the coming Summit of the Democracies, the renaming of Tawainse Representative Offices , the USA seems to be willing to deescalate tensions by offering trade talks with China. As the Global Times reports:

“’Frank conversations‘ sends positive signal for China-US trade relations: expert

By Global Times Published: Oct 04, 2021 05:29 PM Updated: Oct 04, 2021 11:34 PM

The US will hold „frank conversations“ with China on trade in the near future, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a speech on Monday, which is a positive signal indicating the two nations’ upcoming trade talks could be more constructive, as economic frictions between the world’s two largest economies have undercut both in the past three years, experts said.

Katherine Tai delivered a speech to the US think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, that she intended to have “frank conversations” with her Chinese counterparts, including talks over phase one trade agreement, noting that the upcoming talks are not intended to “inflame trade tensions with China.” 

Tai also talked about „a targeted tariff exclusion process“ for exemptions from customs tariffs imposed on $370 billion worth of Chinese goods a year by the previous Trump administration.

However, the Biden administration is unlikely to immediately lift tariffs on Chinese goods that were imposed by the previous Trump administration, although the tariffs are highly counterproductive and taking a toll on American consumers and manufacturers.

Tai said she is a “very practical” person, and the US will not seek an economic decoupling from China, and instead she will seek a “recoupling” that will bring more benefits to American businesses, including larger access to China’s huge market. 

Tai’s remarks on Monday is widely considered to be the most detailed assessment of the Biden administration’s economic policy towards China, and is also her first detailed remarks on trade between China and the US since she took office in March.

The “frank conversation” from Tai is a positive signal, since China-US trade talk mechanism is always there, while the word “frank” may indicate the US realized it has to resolve bilateral trade frictions in a more pragmatic manner, Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, also a close follower of China-US trade talk, told the Global Times on Monday.

This is also in line with China’s US strategy – China always says all differences should be resolved through candid talks, and maintaining normal trade between the world’s two largest economies is very important for both and the global economy, analysts said.

Gao added that the US proposal for future trade talks showed the levies the US imposed on Chinese products no longer have the designed big impact – the US has neither found alternatives for Chinese products nor forced industrial chains moving out of China.

Imposing tariffs on bilateral trade will definitely harm US consumers and manufacturers, and won’t help the Biden administration combat inflation, said an analyst.

“Any escalation of coercive trade measures from the Biden administration will cause heightened confrontation, and backfire on the US,” the analyst noted.

The Trump Administration imposed tariffs on nearly $370 billion in imports from China beginning in 2018. The Biden administration has yet to touch those tariffs.

When questioned about further talks related to the trade agreement, Gao said China has largely fulfilled its trade commitments.

Zhang Xiaoping, country director for China at the US Soybean Export Council (USSEC), told the Global Times in mid-September that Chinese companies „have newly ordered nearly a million tons of US soybeans.“ 

Chinese industry analysts also predicted that given booming domestic demand, China may step up purchases of US soybeans and corn after September.

Moreover, if China could miss out on buying $200 billion extra goods in 2020 and 2021, the reason is the pandemic-caused inconveniences, which the US is also fully aware of, said the analyst. 

“While in general, I would still hold a ‘cautious optimistic’ attitude toward future trade ties between the two countries, as there are a range of unresolved, complicated issues that’s far beyond trade,” Gao added.

China’s total trade volume with the US fell 9 percent to 2.42 trillion yuan ($340 billion), while trade surplus expanded 7.7 percent to 1.33 trillion yuan from January to August this year.

The US was China’s third largest trade partner in the first eight months, accounting for 12 percent of China’s total foreign trade volume, according to the data released by the General Administration of Customs.

And this is not the end of the initial efforts as the South China Morning Post reports:

China, US eye further talks with Yang Jiechi set to meet Jake Sullivan

  • Top Chinese diplomat Yang to hold talks with US national security adviser in Switzerland, sources say
  • They aim to rebuild communication channels and implement consensus reached between presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, one source says

5 Oct, 2021

Updated: 11:40pm, 5 Oct, 2021

China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi will hold talks with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Switzerland this week, according to sources familiar with details of the meeting.

The talks between the pair – said to most likely take place on Wednesday – will come less than a month after a telephone call between the two nations´presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden.“It can be seen as a meeting in which the two sides attempt to rebuild communication channels and implement the consensus reached between the two leaders,” a person familiar with the arrangements said.

However, while the Taiwanese government tries to rename its representative offices, and while China sees this as provocation and a further step towards secession, the next renaming of a Taiwanese institution is openly discussed in Taiwan:

“Mon, Oct 04, 2021 page1

Academia Sinica might change ‘confusing’ name

COMMITTEE FINDINGS: Most people approved of adding ‘Taiwan’ to the end of the name, which translates to ‘Chinese Academy’ in English

By Chien Hui-ju and William Hetherington / Staff reporter, with staff writer

Academia Sinica members are concerned the institution’s widely used Latin name might cause foreign researchers to mistakenly assume it is based in China, and it is deliberating a new name.

The institution plans to raise the issue at the legislature today, sources said, adding that Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Fan Yun (范雲) had also brought the issue up with Academia Sinica President James Liao (廖俊智) during a meeting of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee in March last year.

Academia Sinica has sometimes been confused with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as its Latin name translates to “Chinese Academy” in English, Fan said at the time.

Liao promised to ensure that Academia Sinica members discuss a name change, and has since formed an ad hoc committee for that purpose, which has met four times.

The committee in August drafted a report on proposed names, which was sent to researchers at the institution to discuss, sources said.

One proposal was to add the word “Taiwan” to the end of the existing name, so it would be titled “Academia Sinica, Taiwan.” Another was a direct translation of the institution’s Chinese name, making it the “Central Research Academy,” while other proposals were the “Taiwan Academy of Sciences” or the “Academy of Sciences Taiwan.”

In its report, the committee confirmed that confusion had been caused by the institution’s name, but said that there were some benefits to leaving it unchanged.

For example, the name is already associated with scientific achievements, so keeping it would ensure Taiwan’s reputation remains stable within the international academic community, whereas changing it would come with associated costs, the report said.

Changing it might also result in difficulties when cooperating with Chinese researchers, it said.

However, changing it would ensure that Taiwan receives credit for its outstanding research, the report said, adding that the committee found that most people asked about the proposals were in favor of adding “Taiwan” to the end of the name.

Fan on Saturday commended the institution for its progress on the matter, and said she welcomed further deliberation by all Academia Sinica members and researchers.

And secessionists and Taiwan independence supporters also published an article in the editorial of the Taipeh Times by Jerome Keating critizising the KMT´s 1992 consensus with China, quoting the Treaty of Shimonoseki and demanding an UN seat for Taiwan:

Tue, Oct 05, 2021 page8

„KMT’s legacy holding Taiwan back

By Jerome Keating

The main challenge Taiwan faces when applying for UN membership, or even to participate in any UN function, is that it would allegedly contravene UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 of Oct. 25, 1971. This is false, but it bears examination, especially as nations seek peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

First, look at what Resolution 2758 says and does not say as regards Taiwan. Then place that in the context of the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco that ended World War II and the earlier Treaty of Shimonoseki, by which the Manchu Qing empire gave Taiwan to Japan in 1895. With various nations taking sides for personal reasons, Taiwan’s relationship with the UN reads much like episodes from the soap opera As the World Turns. For Taiwan it has serious consequences.

Resolution 2758 is brief. In that brevity, it officially recognizes that the “representatives of the Government of the People’s Republic of China [PRC] are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations.” This confirms that the PRC won the Chinese Civil War.

The resolution then goes on to expel “forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek [蔣介石] from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it.”

Taiwan is never mentioned in the resolution. Therefore, crucial to understanding the above expulsion is the determination of who the representatives of former president Chiang are, what constitutes China and how this relates to Taiwan.

The representatives of Chiang are easily identified. They are the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) delegates who exited the UN before they were “officially expelled.” They were not the Taiwanese who at that time suffered under martial law, the White Terror and the one-party state domination of the KMT in exile.

As for what constitutes China, Taiwan’s separate status and role have certainly changed over the centuries, but at the end of World War II when the UN was formed, Taiwan was not part of “China.”

In 1683, after the Manchus conquered the Ming Dynasty’s China, Tibet, Mongolia and Xinjiang, they also pursued and repatriated Ming loyalists who had fled to Taiwan, which was then under Dutch control. To prevent any Ming loyalists from returning, the Manchus occupied the western half of Taiwan. As the Qing continued to rule, their empire was made up of many regions that were not part of Ming China.

By 1885, seeing Taiwan’s value, the Manchus declared Taiwan a province of their empire, even though they did not control the island’s eastern half. The Manchus then fought Japan and lost. This resulted in Japan taking full sovereignty of Taiwan in 1895, following the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

Fast-forward to the end of World War II in 1945 and the subsequent 1952 Treaty of San Francisco, under which Japan surrendered sovereignty over Taiwan, but did not name a recipient. The US as the chief victor in the war also did not name a recipient, although it delegated Chiang and his representatives to accept Japan’s surrender on its behalf.

Thus, today, 75 years later, the US continues to claim that it is “undecided” on Taiwan’s status. In 2019, then-US secretary of state Mike Pompeo confirmed this by saying that Taiwan does not belong to China.

In the previous half century (1895-1945) when Taiwan was a Japanese colony, the 1911 Xinhai Revolution split the Manchu Empire; and “Manchu China” went through its warlord period and civil war between the KMT, formed in 1911, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), formed in 1921. That civil war temporarily ceased in 1937 to fight Japan’s expansion into China, but resumed in 1945. By 1949, the CCP had won and the KMT government fled in exile to Taiwan.

Taiwanese have never claimed to be representatives of Chiang, but some members of the KMT in exile in Taiwan do make that claim. They are easily distinguished by their professing a belief in the bogus “1992 consensus,” a term invented by former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) in 2000.

An irony exists here, for although the PRC claims to be the only representative of China, it still accepts the bogus “1992 consensus,” because that lie provides the PRC with a fictitious link to claim Taiwan.

There is more. The UN, which was founded in 1945, has never attempted to make a definitive definition as to “what is and what is not China.” The KMT representatives of Chiang were founding members, although their Constitution went into effect in 1947 when they were still in a civil war on the continent. In 1949, they were driven from China and took refuge on Taiwan. The PRC formulated its constitution in 1954.

This is part of the past that the majority of Taiwanese seek to rid themselves of as they also seek to remove the statues of Chiang.

In 1971, Chiang was still alive and his KMT still controlled Taiwan through martial law and the White Terror. In 1979, the US would finally recognize that the KMT lost the Chinese Civil War and move its embassy to Beijing.

Taiwan does not want to enter the UN as a representative of China; Taiwan wishes only to represent Taiwan, Penghu and a few other islands that were part of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. At that time, the KMT and CCP did not exist and Ming China was part of a vaster Manchu Empire.

After 1979, the US has never used the name the Republic of China (ROC) when addressing Taiwan; it uses the more correct name of Taiwan.

For this reason, it is a shame that the KMT chairman-elect Eric Chu (朱立倫) once again dredged up the KMT belief in the bogus “1992 consensus.” This contributes to the popular saying in Taiwan that “for Taiwan to advance, the KMT must fall.”

Certainly, if Taiwan is to enter the UN, any relics of the KMT’s claims to represent China must be purged, in addition to the statues of Chiang.

The soap opera is not done. In 2007, then-UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon rejected a Taiwan membership application while confusing the difference between what is called the “one China policy” and the “one China principle” maintained and promoted by the PRC. I have written extensively on that difference in the past.

The US, while remaining in its “undecided” position, has often not helped Taiwan. It too often avoids admitting to the de facto independence of Taiwan. For reasons that promote other US causes, former US president George Bush expressed a mistrust and dislike of duly elected former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Similarly, when President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) visited Washington in 2015, it was leaked that there was “mistrust in her” as she ran for president.

The US expresses its feelings as regards Taiwan, not on the reality of Taiwan’s hard-won democracy, but on how that democracy serves or does not serve US purposes.

As the PRC increases its hegemony, the US is finally changing its tune. Taiwan is no longer seen as a problem in its relations with China. Instead, along with its allies, the US sees an independent and democratic Taiwan as an opportunity to advance its vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Surprisingly, Taiwan can now be a “beacon for peoples around the world who aspire for a more just, safe, prosperous and democratic world.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed how the hegemonic PRC is not a team player in the UN or the world. Thus the soap opera continues.

Democratic Taiwan has its own work cut out for it as it faces changing its ROC name and Constitution to avoid any accusation of being a “representative of Chiang Kai-shek.”

Regarding UN membership, there is no reason why newly democratic Taiwan should be kept out of its rightful place in that assembly. If a small nation such as East Timor with its troubled past can fit in, certainly Taiwan can as well.

Taiwan has every right to self-representation in the UN. In this, Taiwanese must repeat, over and over again: “For Taiwan to rise, the KMT must fall.”

Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.

It remains to be seen if a Taiwanese representative will be invited by the USA to the Summit of Democracies, how China will react to the efforts to rename Taiwanese Representative Offices and how the trade talks and the rebuilding of the communication channels between the USA and China will effect the Sino-American relations. However, Chinese experts claim that with the beginning of 2025 the power relations would shift to the advantage of China and would change the whole equation of possible losses.

“Taiwan-China situation ‚most grim‘ in four decades: minister

published : 6 Oct 2021

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s military relations with Beijing have plunged to their lowest point in four decades, the island’s defence minister warned on Wednesday, following a string of record Chinese jet incursions into Taipei’s air defence zone.

„For the military, the current situation is the most grim in over 40 years since I’ve joined the service,“ Chiu Kuo-cheng told parliament as some 150 Chinese warplanes have breached Taiwan’s air defence zone since Beijing marked its National Day on Friday.

The incursions have sparked criticism by Washington and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen warned in an article published on Tuesday of „catastrophic consequences“ if the island were to fall to China.

Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China, which views the self-ruled democratic island as its territory to be re-taken one day, by force if necessary.

President Xi Jinping, who has called the seizure of Taiwan „inevitable,“ also described the relations between China and Taiwan as „grim“ in a letter to Taiwan’s newly-elected main opposition leader last week.

Chiu warned that even „slight carelessness“ or „miscalculation“ could spark „a crisis“ in the Taiwan Strait, adding Beijing would be in a position to launch a full-scale attack in 2025.

„It is capable now but it has to calculate how much cost it will have to pay and what kind of outcome it wishes to achieve. After 2025 the cost and losses would be lowered to a minimum,“ Chiu said, without providing more details.

Beijing has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure since Tsai’s 2016 election, as she views the island as „already independent“ and not part of its „one China“.

Tsai said in an article published Tuesday that Taiwan would „do whatever it takes“ to guard against threats but the island hopes for peaceful coexistence with China.

Her government urged Beijing to stop „irresponsible provocative actions“ after a record 56 Chinese jets including nuclear-capable bombers crossed into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday.

The ADIZ is not the same as Taiwan’s territorial airspace but includes a far greater area that overlaps with part of China’s own air defence identification zone and even includes some of the mainland.

Last year, a record 380 Chinese military jets made incursions into Taiwan’s defence zone. The number as of October this year has already exceeded 600.”

Therefore Beijing might wait for any invasion after the Olympics 2022 in China. While the Chair of the Joint Staff Milley thinks that a war with China won´t happen in the next future, former US general Ben Hodges at an event of the British Council on Geostrategy claimed that he thinks of a Sino-American war within the next 5 years.

While most experts discuss the so called Thucydides Trap, on the basis of a rising China and some optimists believe that it could be a peaceful rise and power transition and that time is on the side of China, also in the case of Taiwan, Hal Brands and Michael Beckley question this assumption in an article in Foreign Policy September 2021  and see China under Xi Jinping in a coming crisis:

“China Is a Declining Power- and That´s the Problem

The United States needs to prepare for a major war, not because its rival is rising, but because of the opposite.

Why do great powers fight great wars? The conventional answer is a story of rising challengers and declining hegemons. An ascendant power, which chafes at the rules of the existing order, gains ground on an established power—the country that made those rules. Tensions multiply; tests of strength ensue. The outcome is a spiral of fear and hostility leading, almost inevitably, to conflict. “The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired in Sparta, made war inevitable,” the ancient historian Thucydides wrote—a truism now invoked, ad nauseum, in explaining the U.S.-China rivalry.

The idea of a Thucydides Trap, popularized by Harvard political scientist Graham Allison, holds that the danger of war will skyrocket as a surging China overtakes a sagging America. Even Chinese President Xi Jinping has endorsed the concept arguing Washington must make room for Beijing. As tensions between the United States and China escalate, the belief that the fundamental cause of friction is a looming “power transition”—the replacement of one hegemon by another—has become canonical.

The only problem with this familiar formula is that it’s wrong.

The Thucydides Trap doesn’t really explain what caused the Peloponnesian War. It doesn’t capture the dynamics that have often driven revisionist powers—whether that is Germany in 1914 or Japan in 1941—to start some of history’s most devastating conflicts. And it doesn’t explain why war is a very real possibility in U.S.-China relations today because it fundamentally misdiagnoses where China now finds itself on its arc of development—the point at which its relative power is peaking and will soon start to fade.

There’s indeed a deadly trap that could ensnare the United States and China. But it’s not the product of a power transition the Thucydidean cliché says it is. It’s best thought of instead as a “peaking power trap.” And if history is any guide, it’s China’s—not the United States’—impending decline that could cause it to snap shut.(…)

No doubt, counter-China cooperation has remained imperfect. But the overall trend is clear: An array of actors is gradually joining forces to check Beijing’s power and put it in a strategic box. China, in other words, is not a forever-ascendant country. It is an already-strong, enormously ambitious, and deeply troubled power whose window of opportunity won’t stay open for long.”

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