It has been 50 years since then United States President Richard Nixon’s visit to China that led to a historic reconciliation between the two countries.
The two nations, which had until then been unfriendly with each other, suddenly drew close because they became aware of the common threat that the Soviet Union posed to them during the Cold War. The visit opened China’s doors to the world, and eventually led to normalized diplomatic relations between Japan and China.
The handling of Taiwan became a big hurdle in the U.S. and China shifting toward a peaceful coexistence.
In the Joint Communique of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China released in Shanghai in 1972 — also known as the Shanghai Communique — the U.S. only went so far as to “acknowledge” the “one China” policy claimed by China. It was an elusive agreement that placed a priority on relaxing tensions.
The expression was used when diplomatic relations were normalized between China and the U.S. in 1979. Even after that, the U.S. continued to provide support to Taiwan’s defense, leaving a source of controversy with China. However, the diplomatic wisdom of accepting ambiguity has allowed for stability to be maintained in the Taiwan Strait.
What worries us half a century later is the region’s shifting power balance that is occurring due to the rise of China and the decline of American influence.
China’s Xi Jinping and other senior officials, whose confidence has risen, are calling for the “unification of the motherland” and are putting more and more pressure on Taiwan.
China has built up its military arsenal with weapons such as hypersonic arms, and has been engaging in increasingly more military exercises in surrounding areas. It is also using its economic power as a weapon, urging Taiwanese companies operating in the Chinese market to support the “one China” policy.
The U.S., which sees China as its “only competitor,” feels a strong sense of impending crisis. If it takes one wrong step, it could lose its position as the world’s greatest superpower.
For the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, Taiwan’s importance as one who shares the values of democracy is growing increasingly important. Taiwan is important to the U.S. administration also from an economic security standpoint for its technology, of which semiconductor manufacturing is one representative example.
In the new Indo-Pacific strategy, the U.S. had made clear its line that it would collaborate with Japan and Europe to counter China, and support Taiwan’s self-defense abilities in order to secure an environment in which Taiwan’s future can be decided based on the wishes of its residents.
China has objected, but it must become aware that its unilateral actions that do not take the will of the Taiwanese people into mind are giving rise to concerns among the international community.
If peace in the Taiwan Strait — which is the foundation of U.S.-Sino relations — is put at risk, the impact will be felt around the world. It is time for both sides to make diplomatic efforts to fill in the chasm that has deepened through changes over time.