Lin Shuling: ‘Taiwan Policy Act’ Means War for Taiwan

The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the “Taiwan Policy Act” on September 14, 2022. On September 22, over 30 members of the House introduced their version of the Taiwan Policy ActLin Shuling, editor-in-chief of Taiwan’s China Review News Agency and former chief reporter of the China Times, a pro-mainland newspaper based in Taipei, penned a commentary about the bill titled “‘Taiwan Policy Act’ Means War for Taiwan”. In the commentary, she urges the Taiwanese government to recognize current tensions and not to implicitly support the bill. 

Notably, some clauses in the version of the bill that was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee seem to have been watered down in response to concerns expressed by the White House and protests by the Chinese government. 

The following is a translation of her commentary by China Focus intern Vera X. 

‘Taiwan Policy Act’ Means War for Taiwan

The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will begin deliberation on the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 on September 14. On September 7, the White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that he would discuss the bill with members of Congress because of ‘concerns about some of its provisions’. Taiwan has lobbied actively behind the scenes in anticipation of a clearer U.S. policy towards Taiwan after the passage of the bill. However, once this bill, which ‘hollows out the one-China principle’, is passed, conflict across the Taiwan Strait is bound to break out, and the United States and China will inevitably confront each other, which is tantamount to throwing Taiwan into war. The executive branch of the U.S. Government should be nervous.

The ‘Taiwan Policy Act’ is divided into three sections covering major themes, including lifting all restrictions on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, specifying Taiwan as a ‘major non-NATO ally’ of the U.S., assisting Taiwan as it builds an ‘asymmetric strategy’, and setting up a ‘mutual office’ between Taiwan and the U.S., which is equivalent to a ‘quasi-embassy’, and so on. The bill will upgrade the Taiwan Relations Act, making relations between Taiwan and the U.S. more official. The draft also specifies sanctions to be imposed on China if it threatens Taiwan. These sanctions are designed not only to support Taiwan, but also to help Taiwan resist China. In short, if this law is passed, the ‘one China policy’ and the three joint communiques, which are the core of the U.S.-China relationship, will be destroyed.

Although high-level officials in Taiwan have kept a low profile and refused to admit that the bill was pushed by Taiwan, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has publicly expressed its hope for the passage of the bill many times through press conferences and other forms. Recently, the U.S. executive branch has warned against the bill. Even former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who has always been a strong supporter of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said that the bill could worsen the Cross-Strait relations. However, Taiwanese officials are indifferent to the warnings, saying that the bill is a piece of legislation by members of U.S. Congress who care about Taiwan, and they have no intention of backing down.

Was the Taiwan Policy Act pushed by Taiwan? Recently, a Taiwan scholar published an article claiming that many of the provisions were suggested by the Taiwan side, which was bitterly criticized by Green activists for fabricating rumors. But during a visit to Taiwan in April, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, who has been pushing the bill, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, explicitly asked Taiwan to buy Boeing 787 airliners in front of President Tsai Ing-wen. After Senator Graham returned to America, he issued a press release demanding Taiwan to purchase 787, specifying time, quantity and a total amount of $8 billion . The Taiwan Policy Act was then introduced. The linkage between the bill and the purchase of 787 have been hotly debated in Taiwan recently.

What is more, China Airlines was still assessing the need to purchase Boeing 787. However, after the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations decided to review the ‘Taiwan Policy Act’ on September 14, China Airlines suddenly held an extraordinary board meeting on August 30 and decided to purchase sixteen 787-9 airliners from Boeing with a price of no more than $4.608 billion. Whether there is a quid pro quo has sparked debate. In response, the KMT lawmaker Lai Shibao (赖士葆) criticized the DPP government, saying that it should not accuse the media of malicious slander for reporting that U.S. dignitaries are political salespersons.

Taiwan has been flooded with foreign visitors recently, sometimes more than one delegation a day. According to the budget from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2,368 foreign guests will be invited to Taiwan for exchanges next year, about 300 more than this year. The budget has grown by about 15%. Taiwan has done its best to woo foreign politicians and groups, and because some of these visits involve commercial interests, representatives of public opinion around the world are more enthusiastic about supporting Taiwan. But take the Taiwan Policy Act as an example. Though it is big and flashy enough, it crosses the red line in U.S.-China relations. The U.S. executive branch is well aware of the potential problems with the bill, and it’s not as simple as the one-off impact of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in early August. Mr. Sullivan has been tasked with negotiating with lawmakers to stop the bill from moving forward, with Taiwan playing a key role behind the lawmakers, but so far Taiwan has not said it will back down.

The median line in the Taiwan Strait has disappeared after Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. The Chinese military aircraft cross the median line every day, often dozens of them a day. This has become the new normal across the Taiwan Straits, and it is hard to guarantee that there will not be a day of misfire. Yesterday, Taiwan media broke an exclusive news that Taiwan’s security units, with Tsai Ing-wen as the core, issued special passes to important figures who are involved in decision-making during a war. In case of war, the holders of this pass will be led to a secret location by the security unit as soon as possible to assist Tsai Ing-wen in directing the war. There was no official response from Taiwan government, but it shows that the threat of war is looming across the Taiwan Strait, and that Taiwan society is not as calm as it appears. Yet, Taiwan continues to move in a direction that could lead to war.

The ‘Taiwan Policy Act’ appears to support Taiwan on the surface, but what is more profound is the intention of the U.S. to intervene in China’s internal affairs.  It intends to overturn the One-China policy and destroy the foundation of China-U.S. diplomatic relations, and it could lead to an overall breakdown in U.S.-China relations. In February this year, Ukraine insisted on joining NATO despite Russian objections, prompting Russia to invade. This ‘Taiwan Policy Act’ is more serious than Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, because it involves a head-on collision between the world’s two great powers. What will happen once the bill passes is hard to say.  If the DPP government really plays the role of the promoter of the Taiwan Policy Act, and is still promoting the legislation through its agents in the U.S. Congress, it is tantamount to initiating war.