The United States has dismissed China’s claims over Taiwan following the head of the US diplomatic mission to Taiwan’s visit to the island. The US Department of State insisted that Director Brent Christensen’s presence in Taiwan reflected democracy, a shared vision of regional security and common economic interests, and was not a challenge to Beijing’s sovereignty claims over Taiwan. Diplomatic ties between the US and Taiwan have been complicated by a policy set in 1979 to only recognise the government of China, with Beijing seen as the sole authority over the Chinese-speaking island. However, the US has remained a steadfast ally to Taiwan, protecting the island from threats from Beijing since the late 1970s.
It has become increasingly challenging for the US to strike a balance on its stance towards Taiwan and China, with the Chinese government becoming more assertive about its sovereignty and territorial claims. Beijing has always insisted that Taiwan is part of its territory, to be regained by force if necessary, putting the US in a difficult position in striking a balance between its support of Taiwan and maintaining good economic and diplomatic relations with China. The US maintains that it adheres to a “One China” policy in which it recognises Beijing’s government as the sole legal government of China, but accepts unofficial relations with Taiwan.
China-US relations have been on a downward spiral recently, with a trade war between the two escalating, and tensions arising over issues such as Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and Taiwan, as well as allegations of human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, home to the Muslim Uighur minority. In response to the visit of US envoy Brent Christensen to Taiwan, China said it had lodged a complaint with the US, warning it to stay out of its domestic affairs or “bear the consequences.” China has consistently upped the ante on its stance towards Taiwan, including increasing its military presence near the island, and viewing any diplomacy with Taiwan, such as the US envoy’s visit or increased arms sales, as threats to its sovereignty.
Taiwan’s relationship with China and other countries remains a sensitive and complicated issue, with Taiwan boasting a strong military force but a limited diplomatic footprint due to China’s insistence on countries recognising it as the sole authority of the Chinese-speaking island. While the US has dismissed China’s complaints over the US envoy’s visit to Taiwan, it is likely that the strained relationship between China and the US will continue to complicate Taiwan’s position in the region.