Taiwan’s election on January 13 had positive result. The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate Lai Ching-te, known as William Lai won, and so the DPP will keep the presidency. The election was significant for its results but also for the appalling response by the Biden administration. Post-election, Taiwan has entered a new period of danger from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and from Biden.
The threat from the PRC’s dictator Xi Jinping is transparent. Xi has consistently stressed that he will conquer Taiwan. The last two months have witnessed numerous occasions where Xi has emphasized his intention to do so. Xi stated that unification of the PRC and Taiwan would occur in his New Year’s address, describing it as a “historical inevitability.” Xi warned President Biden in November at their meeting in San Francisco that “China will realize unification, and this is unstoppable.” On December 26th in Beijing at a symposium in the Great Hall of the People honoring the 130th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth Xi stated his intent to conquer Taiwan by stating that “no one will split Taiwan from China.” The correct response to this bullying is historical fact, the PRC has never in its history had control over Taiwan. U.S. officials should repeat this fact without end. Thus, there is no “unification.” Full stop. There will be only an invasion of Taiwan when Xi chooses to attack. Only the Qing dynasty had a type of control over Taiwan, and the Qing were Manchu, not Chinese.
The PRC’s political warfare campaign against Taiwan has been unrelenting and will only intensify now that Lai won. The lamentable decision by the Pacific Island nation of Nauru to change diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing is a blow to Taiwan. Nauru’s decision reduces the number of countries that recognize Taiwan to twelve. This was a calculated move to signal to Taiwan that it is isolated and cannot depend upon support from its few remaining allies or partners, like the United States.
While the hostility of the PRC is a given, the actions of the Biden administration have been inexcusable. The abysmal and feckless actions of the Biden administration can only be designed to reinforce the sense of isolation. There have been three major failures by the Biden administration.
First, before the election a strong U.S. military presence should have been present in the waters around Taiwan, in conjunction with allies like Australia, the Philippines, and Japan, and partners like India. This would have conveyed strong support for Taiwan in the last days before the election.
Second, Lai’s victory should have been triumphally noted by the Biden administration and U.S. allies, including among NATO allies—unfortunately only the Baltic states conveyed a strong message of support to Taiwan. This was a unique opportunity to back Taiwan and to illuminate what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) most fears, the comparison of a democratic, prosperous, and vibrant Taiwan with the tyranny of the CCP’s rule in the PRC. The PRC knows that it is illegitimate, and democratic Taiwan’s existence is a daily reminder for the Chinese people, the world, and the CCP itself, that China can and should be democratic. Instead, the Biden release a milquetoast statement acknowledging that Lai won. To borrow from baseball, this was a slow pitch right over the plate and the Biden administration should have hit the ball out the park. Instead, they struck out.
Third, this week’s mission to Taiwan by James Steinberg and Stephen Hadley is intended to convey messages to Lai regarding U.S. expectations. It is likely that the Biden administration is telling him not to proclaim Taiwan’s independence but to stay in the lanes defined by the Biden administration. That is another error.
What this mission, and the Biden administration as a whole, should convey is that Biden will back Lai’s government every step of the way, from diplomatic and military support, up to and including if Taiwan were to proclaim independence, with immediate U.S. recognition. The message should be that Taiwan shows democracy works in China, the CCP is illegitimate, and the CCP’s tyranny must be overthrown. In consultation with Great Britain, India and Japan, Biden should announce that Taiwan is the newest member of the Quad, to be renamed the “Quint.” Lai’s election provides a unique opportunity to act boldly in the face of the realities of the 21st Century. U.S. foreign and military policies must be updated to reflect those realities. Regrettably, the Biden administration will do none of these things, and so this will be another set of lost opportunities to defeat the CCP. Biden will suppress the light from Taiwan’s democratic beacon. That is, de facto, support for the CCP. The necessary changes will have to wait for Lai’s administration to work with Biden’s successor—that is, if a PRC invasion does not occur before then.
Bradley A. Thayer is a Contributing Columnist for Warroom and is @bradleythayer on Gettr and Truth, and @bradthayer at X.