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'Biden will not be Obama 2.0': TaiwanThinktank scholar

New US administration's recent actions have assuaged Taiwan's fears of waning US support

President Joseph Biden. 

President Joseph Biden.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Scholars participating in a conference agreed on Saturday (Jan. 31) the Biden administration’s recent actions toward Taiwan have assuaged fears about waning American support under a Democratic president.

The Taiwan Security Association on Saturday held a symposium titled, “Taiwan-U.S. Relations in the Biden Era Taiwan,” which saw TaiwanThinktank member Lai I-chung (賴怡忠); Lin Yen-hung (林彥宏), assistant researcher at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research; freelance writer Wang Hao (汪浩); and others share their thoughts, CNA reported.

Lai reviewed the individuals on Biden’s White House team and pointed out that although many served in the Obama administration, they generally favored Democratic Party "reformers in terms of Washington’s China policies." This shows that some of former President Donald Trump’s “general foreign policies” were a step in the right direction, Lai stated.

The think tank scholar said he believed the Biden administration has so far reduced Taiwanese doubts about the strength of U.S. support, saying, "Biden will not be Obama 2.0."

Regarding the statement issued by the U.S. State Department on Jan. 23, which urged Beijing to stop exerting pressure on Taiwan and engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s "elected representatives," Lai said that some Taiwanese complained about the term "elected representatives." He stated that the focus of interpretation should be on the U.S. urging Beijing to "not only talk to specific parties in Taiwan."

Lai added the Biden administration attaches great importance to relations with Europe. If it is the case that the U.S. and Europe must face Beijing together, Taiwan can consider how to involve itself in that bilateral partnership and play a more strategic role.

Wang, meanwhile, expressed concerns about the Biden administration’s Taiwan policy, although he made clear this does not mean the U.S. is moving in toward a more China-friendly position. He pointed out that unlike Trump, Biden does not require Taiwan and its allies to choose sides.

This is worrying because the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) often calls on Taiwan not to choose sides between Washington and Beijing. The seemingly neutral statement will affect Taiwan’s determination to fend off the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and it will cause difficulties for the Taiwan government to maintain the Taiwan-U.S. strategic alliance and cross-strait relations, he suggested.

Wang added the CCP has been carrying out "unrestricted warfare" against U.S. domestic politics for a long time, and he is worried about the degree of Chinese infiltration in the Biden team. The writer mentioned that Biden’s multilateral approach is problematic when countering China, since America’s allies have their own China policies and varied stances on China-related issues. Taiwan must remain vigilant, Wang cautioned.

Lin said that it was reasonable to expect the Biden administration to ensure Taiwan’s security, but the East Asian nation should be serious about developing its military. The defense budget should go up to NT$450 billion (US$16 billion), which is approximately 2.5 percent of Taiwan’s GDP. There is still significant room for growth, he said.

Lin also stated that even if the Biden administration continues arms sales, Taiwan's defense budget may not be able to support its purchases. Military training and recruitment are a major challenge, and Taiwan must face these issues head-on.

Updated : 2021-04-23 10:14 GMT+08:00