Weeks after the AUKUS pact President Biden has ratcheted up tensions with China again by committing the US to defending Taiwan

Chris Nineham

There has been some talk about improved US/China relations recently. The last few days have indicated, however, that hawkish demands for ‘strategic clarity’ in Washington are dominant. For ‘strategic clarity’ read ‘threat of war’.

Just weeks after the provocative AUKUS pact, President Biden has ratcheted up tensions with China again. This time he has committed the US to defending Taiwan against any attack from China. He was asked on a CNN discussion programme on Thursday whether the US military would defend the country in the event of a Chinese attack. His answer was unambiguous.  “Yes,’ he said, ‘we have a commitment to do that.”

Despite claims to the contrary, this statement signals an alarming break with existing US policy. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, which was passed when Washington normalised relations with Beijing in 1979, the US provides Taiwan with support to defend itself, but the legislation does not contain a formal defence pact.

For decades, the US has in fact been following a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ which analysts say has been aimed at trying to discourage Taiwan from declaring independence while at the same time dissuading the Chinese government from taking military action on Taiwan, which it views as Chinese territory.

Biden’s new position can only be taken as a direct military threat to China. Some of the media are reporting that he made a similar statement last month. But this week’s statement is much more explicit.

As if to prove the point, the statement has been accompanied by an increase in the US military presence in the region, facilitated by Britain. This week, B-1 Lancer bombers were deployed to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean for the first time in more than 15 years, accompanied by 200 extra US service personnel. This move increases the already enlarged presence of US bombers on the British-held island.

The B-1 bombers don’t carry nuclear weapons, but they can deploy the Air Force’s largest payload of guided and unguided conventional weapons. The US military uses Diego Garcia as a key strategic point for launching operations in the Indo-Pacific.

Even Washington insiders are concerned at this new approach. Senior figures in the administration have been briefing that this new policy turn might embolden President Xi Jinping to take action against Taiwan sooner.

These moves underline the importance of building the movement against Biden’s new Cold War on China. Stop the War is asking all its supporters to lobby MPs to support an Early Day Motion against AUKUS and to try and get the resolution from Labour’s conference passed in union branches and in political party bodies. Stop the War is holding meetings on the issue around the country.

There is widespread anxiety about the escalation against China. We need to turn that mood into a real movement.

22 Oct 2021 by Chris Nineham

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