Chinese red line drawn

US statement

The US is lifting long-standing restrictions on contacts between American and Taiwanese officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on January 10, 2021. The “self-imposed restrictions” were introduced decades ago to “appease” the mainland Chinese government, as US state department said in a statement. These rules are now “null and void”.

The US decision comes as the Trump administration enters its final days ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as president on 20 January. The Biden transition team have said the president-elect is committed to maintaining the previous US policy towards Taiwan. Western analysts say they will be unhappy with such a policy decision being made in the final days of the Trump administration, but that the move could be reversed easily by Pompeo’s successor Antony Blinken.

Chinese reactions

According to Global Times, “Pompeo is once again straining the China-US relationship and pushing the Taiwan question deeper down the road of no return. The dire consequences will be beyond anyone’s predictions. If Washington arbitrarily removes these restrictions it had previously complied with, China-US relations will be totally redefined and the two countries will move into hostility. The international basis and foundation for a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan question will collapse.”   

According to Chinese assessment, there are two uncertainties: First, what attitude will the Biden administration adopt? Will it invalidate the incumbent government’s actions that stepped out of line? Second, will Pompeo make further provocations like his surprise visit to Taiwan before he steps down to make the upgrade of official exchanges between the US and the Taiwan island an established fact? China needs to clearly show its resolution to firmly oppose the US’ extreme provocations and counter the US head-on.  

Global Times states that “Beijing should let the US and Taiwan know that if they dare to stage a Pompeo visit to Taiwan before the end of the US secretary of state’s tenure, Beijing’s strong counteractions will fall like an avalanche upon them. The PLA fighters will fly over the island of Taiwan immediately, declaring Beijing’s sovereignty over the island in an unprecedented way. If the US and the island of Taiwan dare to overreact, war will be sparked. China will punish the Taiwan authorities which cooperate with Pompeo’s final show of madness. “ 

Ominous words

As an ominous event, just five days ago, China’s President Xi Jinping has directed the military to bolster training in 2021 and use more hi-tech in its drills. Xi ordered PLA to maintain “full-time combat readiness and act at any second. The commanders and the soldiers of the whole army must… carry forward the spirit of combat without the fear of hardships and the fear of death.” This instruction deviates from previous such orders issued by Xi, in which the PLA was told to “manage crises and deter war.”

As another “curious coincidence”, just at the end of December, a former Australian Major General, Jim Molan stated that “war with China is much more likely than is currently recognized” and he urged the Australian government to immediately prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Next steps in the escalation will be taken very soon.