Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China of speeding up plans to seize Taiwan as Chinese President Xi Jinping looks set to secure a precedent-breaking third term at a Chinese Communist Party congress this week.
“There has been a change in the approach from Beijing toward Taiwan in recent years,” Blinken told an event at Stanford University on Monday.
This includes “a fundamental decision that the status quo was no longer acceptable and that Beijing was determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline,” he said. Blinken did not provide details about the claim of a shorter timeline and said China may be willing to use coercive means, a prospect that is “creating tremendous tensions.”
Responding Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry described Blinken’s comments as an example of the United States reneging on its commitment to the one-China policy, which acknowledges Beijing’s position that there is only one China.
“The U.S. has time and again broken its word,” ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters. He said Washington had “substantially relaxed restrictions on official interactions” with the self-governing island, citing an August trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Taiwan that Beijing staunchly opposed.
“Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese,” Wenbin added.
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Tensions between Washington and Beijing have simmered as China faces criticism from Western governments over Taiwan and its partnership with Russia.
China has refrained from publicly criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine. The conflict has stoked fears among Taiwanese residents that it could embolden their neighbor China, which claims the island — which it has never controlled — as part of its territory.
U.S.-China frictions also heightened after President Biden’s remark that the U.S. military would defend Taiwan in case of an attack by China — comments the White House later played down. While Taiwan does not have U.S. diplomatic recognition, it maintains substantial ties with Washington, including arms sales and trade.
Biden delivered straight talk on Taiwan — contradicting a deliberately ambiguous U.S. policy. Did he misspeak?
In a speech Sunday at his party’s congress, which takes place every five years, Xi said the “wheels of history are rolling toward China’s reunification” with Taiwan. He repeated intentions of taking the island of more than 23 million people, and he said that while China preferred peaceful measures, it would reserve “the option to take all necessary measures.”
Xi did not mention the war in Ukraine or China’s ties with the United States, which ordered export bans this month to hit China’s tech and military ambitions.
Xi’s looming third term in China raises threat of war over Taiwan
He also described China’s “great rejuvenation” — Xi’s vision of putting the nation at the center of global affairs — as an “irreversible historical process.” Unification with Taiwan is a core part of that vision.
In an uneasy stalemate between the two sides for decades, Taiwanese leaders have vowed to defend the island, while Chinese leaders are adamant that it is part of China.
Last year, the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that the threat of China’s targeting Taiwan was “manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years.”