South China Sea: Taiwan fears Biden would bring LOSS of US support against Beijing

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The former Vice President beat President Donald Trump in the US election by 290 electoral college votes to 214, according to the Associated Press. Now Taiwan has expressed concerns that a Biden presidency will see them lose out on the Trump administrations close partnership with the country. Mr Trump’s hardline stance against China led to arms deals with Taiwan, and sanctions levied against Beijing for human rights violations and other infractions.

Due to Mr Biden’s less-severe tone on China in the lead up to the election, Taiwan officials fear a Biden administration would be more conciliatory towards Beijing at the expense of Taiwan.

Kerry K Gershaneck, a visiting scholar at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University, told Al Jazeera Mr Biden has no specific policy for deepening ties with Taiwan.

Gershaneck expressed concern about Washington’s Taiwan policy if Biden were to pick a similar team of advisers as those who served during the Obama administration.

Some critics believe the Obama administration delayed arm sales to Taiwan and largely stood by as China increased its military activities in the South China Sea.

He added: “There is little in Biden’s campaign rhetoric or party platform that tells us how his administration will deal with democratic Taiwan or the increasingly threatening, totalitarian China.

“No one from the campaign would go on record with policy specifics, although at the last minute when, under great pressure, his campaign put online a very generic statement of support for Taiwan.”

Taiwanese fears of China gave been sent into high alert this year as Beijing becomes increasingly more aggressive with military drills in preparation for an invasion the island.

In October, China carried out an extensive military drill simulating an all-out invasion of Taiwan on islands near the country in the South China Sea.

State media outlet CCTV issued a report which detailed how Chinese forces, including drones and airborne troops moved in from multiple locations to demonstrate their preparedness for an invasion.

The report added: “The exercise, with the effective integration of multiple new combat forces, increased the actual combat capability of the troops in joint landing and three-dimensional assault.”

Taiwan also revealed they have spent more than 8 percent of their military budget for the year in scrambling jets to combat Chinese Air Force incursions over the island.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, anticipating concern over the result of the US election, took to Facebook to reassure the population ties with America would remain strong.

She said: “The United States is an important ally of Taiwan, and I believe everyone is very concerned about the result of the US presidential election. (…)

“We are confident that Taiwan has become a consensus between mainstream American public opinion and cross-party parties.

“On this basis, we will continue to work hard to strengthen the support of mainstream American public opinion for us and promote Taiwan-US relations based on common interests and values.”

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Mr Trump forged close ties with Taiwan over the course of his presidency, which is in part due to tensions with China.

The Trump administration launched the Taiwan Travel Act in 2018 as a follow-up to the existing Taiwan Relations Act 1979, which allowed US officials to visit the country without restrictions and vice versa.

China viewed the legislation as an infringement on the “One-China” principle and protested the legislation.

The Trump administration has also approved the sale over more than $15 billion in arms sales, with $7 billion in weapons being sold just in September.

Mr Biden has stated however he will maintain his predecessor’s hardline stance on China in his presidency.

Beijing has refused so far to congratulate Mr Biden on his victory over Mr Trump, but their foreign spokesperson has acknowledged his victory.

William Reinsch, trade expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said to CNN: “Biden has been pretty clear about how he wants to proceed, and there has been bipartisan support for a tough line.”

Alex Capri, research fellow at the Hinrich Foundation and senior fellow and lecturer at the National University of Singapore, added: “We have a fundamental, systematic rivalry between these two systems. In many ways, that rivalry is going to intensify.”

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