Joe Biden has dropped all ambiguity about Taiwan’s defense – Pierre Haski

24 maggio 2022 09:43

For several decades – five to be precise – the United States has maintained what is defined as a “strategic ambiguity” with respect to Taiwan. Washington has pledged to provide the island government with the means to defend itself, but has never made it clear whether her army would intervene in the event of an attempted conquest of the disputed territory.

On May 23, for the second time in less than a year, Joe Biden dropped this ambiguity by declaring that yes, the US military would intervene in the event of a Chinese aggression. In the midst of the war in Ukraine, this statement is far from irrelevant. This is a warning addressed to Chinese leaders, among other things launched in Asia, in Tokyo, while Biden had Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida alongside him.

The problem is that as in 2021 – in the aftermath of the retreat from Kabul, when the US president had included Taiwan on the list of countries with which the United States has a defense treaty (which is not true) – the White House was forced to dampen Biden’s statements.

Equation in change
On May 23, US spokespersons tried to convince reporters that the president had not said what he actually said, and that the US government still recognizes “one China”, that of Beijing. Was it a gaffe? Or did Biden say what he really thinks? Perhaps this is the new “strategic ambiguity”, but the fact remains that the regional equation is obviously changing.

This exit is undoubtedly linked to the war in Ukraine, because China maintains close ties with Russia and the whole world is observing its behavior in this crisis.

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The hypothesis of a possible war for Taiwan is first of all linked to a possible intervention by the United States

In the opposite sense, Beijing is in turn studying the war in Ukraine to learn about the sanctions that strike Russia and which it could also be a victim of, but also to ask itself, in the face of Russia’s difficulties, whether its army (which has not fought since 1979) is really as powerful as it is believed and to understand if the resistance of the Taiwanese could be as fierce as that of the Ukrainians.

But the hypothesis of a possible war for Taiwan is first of all linked to a possible intervention by the United States, which would make all the difference in the world. Biden’s words, in this sense, change the cards on the table.

Can China really attack Taiwan? The question is complex. Evidently, Beijing wants to take control of an island which it regards as part of China and which rejects any form of reunification, but this does not make armed conflict inevitable. The problem is that Xi Jinping, the Chinese number one, has declared that the Taiwan issue must be resolved by his generation and has not ruled out the use of arms. This is another source of ambiguity.


Announcing that the price to pay would be a war with the United States, Biden re-proposed the aggressive communication strategy he had adopted with Putin before the invasion of Ukraine and which clearly did not dissuade Russia. The risk with Beijing is first of all that of pushing Asia further towards the cold war, without however averting the possibility of a war but limiting itself to increasing the price for China.

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(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)

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