The Pentagon has made administrative changes in how it handles Taiwan policy, a shift that lawmakers and former officials say sends the wrong signal to Beijing as the Chinese military steps up drills around the self-ruled island. The move — which involves placing the Taiwan portfolio under the office responsible for China policy — could provide a new line of attack among President Joe Biden’s opponents who claim he is weak on China. The changes come as officials are increasingly worried about Beijing’s aggression toward Taiwan, particularly after a crisis erupted in the Taiwan Strait in August after China launched unprecedented military exercises, including sending missiles over the island, in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei. “Anything that dilutes America’s focus on helping Taiwan to defend itself is a really bad idea,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) told POLITICO. “Pulling Taiwan back into a portfolio dominated by China sends the wrong signal to Beijing — that they can dictate our relationship with the island democracy. Or worse, it will facilitate consultation with Beijing on our approach to Taiwan’s security needs.” “The Chinese will not interpret this as a coincidence,” said Heino Klinck, who served as the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for East Asia in the Trump administration. “I think unintentionally or perhaps naively, we are signaling that our relationship with Taiwan is a subset of our relationship with mainland China.”
I have confidence in President Biden and most of his national security liberal hawks. Unlike the corporate media and DC chattering class, I don’t think President Biden repeatedly committed Taiwan “gaffes” – any more than I believe he committed Ukraine “gaffes.” And most of the Biden national security officials are professional, competent, and for a Democratic administration, perhaps the most Taiwan conscious since 1979. And of all of the bureaucratic institutions in DC, the Pentagon is the one I worry the least about when it comes to what the Taiwan Republic means to American national interest.
This move, however, does fall into a worrisome pattern of Biden administration’s unforced errors re: the Chinese communists. Cutting through the useless and misleading constructs of hawks versus doves, provocation versus conciliation for the moment – this is not the first time where the Biden team has taken a status quo/reality and walked themselves back and twisted themselves in knots with little gained. A routine visit to the Taiwan Republic by the Speaker of the House turned, in large parts by the Biden White House and the DC chattering class, into an unnecessary international incident. The Biden State Department needlessly edited, multiple times, its Taiwan Policy webpage. And now, this superfluous – and easily misinterpreted by the Chinese communists – move by the Pentagon to place Taiwan underneath the China portfolio – whatever bureaucratic efficiency and “right-sizing” that may come from this move, it is difficult to argue that the damage to Taiwan and America is justified.
And this is where the establishment US-western – academia, media, think tanks, and officialdom – dealing with the Chinese communists remain blissfully, stubbornly detached from reality. To the Chinese communists and their struggle against the US and global democracies, the war is in all realms, in all ways – commerce, technology, higher ed, information, public, private, NGOs …. Name the realm, and for Beijing, it is just another battlespace. And so, for whatever reason and whatever purpose the Pentagon saw fit to make this change, the most disheartening part is that leading US national security officials remain ignorant of the type of struggle the Chinese communists are waging against the US and other democracies. To use a phrase favored by the Biden team – the Chinese communists are waging an “all of government/all of nation” war against the US and democracies. We cannot afford to not perceive this and adjust how we conceptualize the global geostrategic environment. The two key elements to deter a Chinese communist war of annexation against Taiwan. First, dictator Xi and the Chinese communists must be made to understand that a war of their own choosing will end their dictatorship. Second, the US, Japan and other democracies must internationalize Taiwan – separate it from China. This Pentagon move does the opposite of these two key prime directives. 19.9.2022
Additional reporting: Taiwan portfolio change in US prompts concern
WRONG MESSAGE? A regulatory change putting Washington’s Taiwan oversight into its ‘China’ office waters down focus on Taipei and is inappropriate, critics said
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