Kaohsiung (Taiwan News) – At the start of the year Taiwan went through what was arguably the most important presidential election of the country’s democratic era, as Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) comfortably defeated the pro-Chinese populist KMT candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜).
Soon, another presidential election that could shape the immediate future of Taiwan is scheduled, as the U.S. chooses between incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Trump’s first term in office has been a volatile one. His domestic agenda has been controversial and his foreign policies erratic and inconsistent.
However, the one issue on which he has arguably been most consistent is China. Sure, he has hosted the Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, and there have been some reports from inside the Trump camp that his stance on China has wavered and that he might even be willing to sacrifice Taiwan if it proved to be in his own best interests.
Nevertheless, his actions have been steadfast throughout his first term of office. Trade tariffs have been put in place and sanctions against those within the CCP who are guilty of the regime's most heinous human rights violations have been implemented.
Trump has called out the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over its responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic, which has decimated the global economy and cost countless lives.
Trump's stance clear
Most importantly for Taiwan, it has been on his watch that we have seen a number of pro-Taiwan laws passed in the U.S., including the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act and the Taiwan Travel Act. Others, including the Taiwan Defense Act, which is designed to ensure the U.S. helps Taiwan counter CCP military aggression, are expected to make it into law soon.
Trump became the first U.S. president to speak directly with a Taiwanese president since formal diplomatic ties were severed in 1979, after he took a call from Tsai to congratulate him on his election. Furthermore, the Trump administration has completed more than a dozen arms sales to Taiwan over the past four years.
It is fair to conclude that Trump’s stance on China and Taiwan is reasonably clear. But this cannot be said of his rival, Joe Biden.
Biden was vice-president during the Obama administration, which consistently overlooked the CCP’s human rights record in pursuit of economic benefits. On Obama’s watch, U.S.-Taiwan relations were distant and military sales rare.
The question is whether Biden’s stance has changed, given increased global awareness of the CCP’s human rights record, the global pandemic it unleashed on the world, and its unashamed hostility toward the democratic nations.
There will be consequences
The honest answer is that we just don’t know. When it comes to China, the Biden team have kept their cards very close to their chest.
Biden did congratulate President Tsai at the start of this year on her successful re-election, which was welcome. His team has also referred to the current Uighur situation in China's Xinjiang as a genocide, which it is.
But can Taiwanese trust Biden to stand up for them when it really matters? Would a Biden administration continue to challenge China on human rights and support Taiwan’s right to self-determination?
In an interview given by President Trump to Fox News just this week, we were left in no doubt as to what he would do if the CCP were to attempt to annex Taiwan. Will Biden take a similarly unambiguous line?
Until he provides a more clear-cut answer to these questions, it will be difficult for anyone who cares about Taiwan to back him for president.
The U.S. is a beacon of freedom and democracy for oppressed people around the world. It is important, not just for the American people, but for the whole world, that there is a U.S. president in the White House who is prepared to stand up for those values come what may.
It is down to Biden and his campaign team to convince the world that he can be that president.
If he doesn’t, then regardless of their views on his domestic agenda, Taiwanese-Americans, and many other minority groups, will feel they have no choice but to vote for Donald Trump — even if they have to hold their nose while doing so.