US Department of State spokesman Ned Price on Monday said that Washington does not take a position on the sovereignty issue between Taiwan and China, a position not often explicitly stated by US officials. Price was responding to a question at a news briefing on whether Washington’s “one China” policy supported the belief that “Taiwan is part of China and that the US respects Chinese territorial integrity and sovereignty over Taiwan.” The US “does not take a position on sovereignty,” Price said, adding that Washington’s “one China” policy has not changed and has been at the crux of the US’ approach to Taiwan since 1979, when the US’ Taiwan Relations Act went into effect.
Several important global and historical contexts usually missing in the general discourse on the Chinese communist problem. First, this “no position” position by the US, clearly stated, takes place a year after President Tsai’s significant democratic sovereignty Taiwan has never been a part of the PRC speech. The US, Japan, and EU did not respond to that speech – they neither endorsed, nor disavowed, President Tsai’s assertion that Taiwan has never been a part of communist China, that China and Taiwan exercise separate sovereignties, and that the future of Taiwan belongs exclusively to the twenty-three million citizens of Taiwan exercising their democratic sovereignty.
Since that speech, the emphasis of the US, Japan, and EU has been on the peaceful ‘status quo’ – meaning, as they see more and more menacing signs of Chinese communist plans for military options to annex Taiwan, the international line for acceptable behavior has been underlined and sharpened.
Finally, a more subtle but critical point. The US may have no “formal” position on Taiwanese sovereignty (and significantly, Price phrased this as sovereignty across the strait, meaning, Chinese communist sovereignty is also up for discussion ….) but the ‘body language’ of the US, Japan, and EU since the 2021 speech by President Tsai has been anything but position-less. The Taiwanese de facto embassy in Washington, DC, and Tokyo and major European capitals have been as active and public as they have been in decades. European and Asian diplomats visit the Taiwanese embassy in DC and Tokyo – Taiwanese diplomats meet regularly with their American, Japanese, and European counterparts across the globe. One may call all of this “unofficial” and “no position” and “no change in policy” all one wishes – what is one to make of all of this? A peaceful status quo marks the Chinese communist military option as a catastrophic international incident. No position on sovereignty saves a little bit of face for the Chinese communists – incidentally, President Tsai convincing her supporters to tolerate, for now, “RoC” does the same – while the US, Japan, and the EU in behavior push interactions with Taiwan up to the edge of all-but-formal-recognition.
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