Biden voices strong support for Taiwan in congratulating Tsai

Biden's congratulatory message to Tsai sign of new Taiwan strategy

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Joe Biden. (Facebook, @joebiden photo)

Joe Biden. (Facebook, @joebiden photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday evening (May 19) in the U.S. congratulated President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on her second inauguration as president, as part of a shift away from "engaging" with China and toward supporting Taiwan.

At 8:46 a.m., Tsai on her Twitter page on Wednesday morning (May 20) announced that inauguration activities were underway, and she welcomed followers to join her as she took her oath of office. At 9 a.m., Tsai was sworn into office to begin her second term as Taiwan's president.

Two hours later, Biden retweeted Tsai's post and congratulated the president on her second term. He wrote that Taiwan's "thriving democracy and response to COVID-19 are an example to the world."

Biden then closed by emphasizing that U.S. support for Taiwan "must remain strong, principled, and bipartisan." Within four hours, the tweet gained 6,261 likes, 1,327 retweets, and 559 comments.

The former vice president has many decades of experience in shaping America's foreign policy toward Taiwan. In 1979, Biden voted in favor of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

Over the decades, he was an advocate of the "engagement with China" doctrine, while at the same time practicing a policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan. In an op-ed posted in the Washington Posted titled "Not So Deft on Taiwan," Biden defined his strategy as one in which "we reserved the right to use force to defend Taiwan but kept mum about the circumstances in which we might, or might not, intervene in a war across the Taiwan Strait."

Biden had maintained his engagement doctrine with China throughout his years as vice president in the Obama administration.This continued as of May of last year, when he mocked Trump's trade war with China and famously said: “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man… they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what: they’re not competition for us."

In recent months as the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) has ravaged the U.S. and American public opinion has turned against China, Biden has jettisoned the engagement doctrine and has shifted to a strategy of attacking Trump for not being tough enough on China at the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Biden is also becoming more overtly supportive of Taiwan, as evidenced by the fact that he was the first Democratic presidential candidate to congratulate Tsai on her successful reelection in January, tweeting that "The United States should continue strengthening our ties with Taiwan and other like-minded democracies."