An unprecedented public meeting between officials from U.S. and Taiwan has infuriated China but portends the Biden administration’s new plans for handling relations with the strategically consequential country Beijing considers a renegade province.
Chinese state media on Monday highlighted outrage from its government about a lunch meeting on Friday between the top U.S. and Taiwanese diplomats based in France.
“There is only one China,” China’s Embassy in France said in a statement released Sunday, according to a translation. “Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legal government representing all of China. This is a fact recognized by the entire international community and a fundamental norm in international relations.”
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In a tweet on Friday accompanying the meeting, U.S. Charge d’Affaires in France Brian Aggeler cited “our shared democratic values and the importance of Taiwan for security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.”
Pentagon officials have begun referring to the island nation as “Fortress Taiwan” in acknowledgment of its position as a front line against Chinese expansionism and among Beijing’s next targets in its apparent attempts to establish dominance in its region.
Beijing on Monday claimed that the meeting violates a series of agreements brokered between the U.S. and China beginning in the 1970s – known as the Three Communiques – that attempt to normalize relationships between the two economic superpowers while also allowing Washington to acknowledge Taiwan’s critical role as a friendly and increasingly significant democracy in East Asia.
The Chinese Embassy in France in its statement – seen as aligned with the Chinese Communist Party’s stance – demanded the U.S. cease any similar interactions in the future “and stop using the Taiwan question to undermine China-U.S. relations.”
Those who follow the issue closely say Friday’s meeting demonstrates the new tack the Biden administration has taken, shown through instructions it issued to U.S. diplomats in early April granting them greater leeway to meet with officials from Taiwan.
“It is likely the publicity of such meetings that Beijing most strongly objects to. China’s [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] is then compelled to make a response,” says Bonnie Glaser, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Asia Program.
Taiwanese diplomats and their American counterparts must have met many times in the past, though those meetings would have been shielded from public view to avoid Beijing’s ire.
“With the issuance of the new contact guidance, meetings like this will become routine,” Glaser says. “China will have to get used to the ‘new normal.'”
Taiwan has long sought stronger relations with the U.S., beyond the “interest stations” each country maintains in each other’s country – a symbolic step down from a traditional embassy led by an ambassador. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began chipping away at those norms in the waning weeks of former President Donald Trump’s tenure in January, following on the administration’s hard-line approach last year as it blamed China for the global pandemic and manipulative economic and military practices.