Beijing on Tuesday asked the US to stop upgrading its unofficial diplomatic relations with Taiwan, after Washington’s announcement of a new economic dialogue with Taiwan.
“We called on the US to ... stop official interaction with Taiwan in all forms,” said Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.
Hua described the US Taiwan Relations Act, which allows for de facto diplomatic relations, as “illegal” and “invalid”, adding that it violates the one-China principle.
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On Monday, US assistant secretary of state David Stilwell said that the United States and Taiwan would establish a new economic dialogue focused on semiconductors, health care, energy and other technology sectors.
He added that while the US was updating its engagement with Taiwan, its actions were “still well within the boundaries of our one-China policy” and did not take a position on Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over Taiwan.
Stilwell’s comments were welcomed by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen who faced criticism over her decision to lift a ban on American beef and pork imports from next year.
The self-ruled island’s presidential office and foreign ministry both issued statements supporting the move, which analysts say will ease pressure on the Tsai government.
Ni Feng, a US specialist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said the new economic dialogue was a long-term strategy rather than a short-term election gambit by the White House.
“The impact of a new economic dialogue on US voters is minimal , and it will take months before it could achieve any outcomes,” said Ni.
Ni added that Stilwell’s announcement built upon recently passed laws –including the 2018 Taiwan Travel Act and the TAIPEI Act – that enjoyed bipartisan support.
“It’s part of a comprehensive approach to upgrade US ties with Taiwan that the Democrats will agree to,” said Ni, who noted that the party’s 2020 election platform had omitted any mention of the one-China policy.
Li Zhenguang, a professor at the Beijing Union University’s Institute of Taiwan Studies, said the concessions on beef and pork imports were a necessary “pay back” for US support.
“To put it nicely, the US is establishing this bilateral economic dialogue with Taiwan, but in actuality its intentions are to see what material benefits Taiwan can give to the US,” he said.
On Monday, the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy in Taipei, commended the island for taking steps to fulfil its commitments on market access for US beef and pork.
It said Tsai’s announcement on Friday allowing imports of US pork containing the additive ractopamine and beef from cattle older than 30 months affirmed Taiwan’s position as a “reliable trading partner”.
Ractopamine is used to enhance leanness but is banned in Taiwan and many other places because of safety concerns.
The AIT also announced that Washington would establish a new economic and commercial dialogue with Taiwan, without saying when the first talks would be held.
But Li of Beijing Union University warned: “This dialogue earns Taiwan political points on the surface, but there are also hidden losses.”
The dialogue could pave the way for a trade deal with the US, but Li cautioned it could be a long time before one could be signed, citing the Trump administration’s aggressive trade negotiations even with its allies in Europe.
Li also noted that Washington’s increased support for Taiwan had not deviated from the fundamentals of US policy.
“The risk of confrontation over the Taiwan issue has always been there, especially ahead of the US election, since [US Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo and Trump have played the Taiwan card,” Li said.
“We cannot rule out that strong tensions could flare in the Taiwan Strait, but I think China and the US are still major countries with diplomatic teams that are not that childish. Both sides’ policies will still remain within a controllable framework.”
The AIT said the new platform would be led by Keith Krach, the undersecretary of state for economic growth.
Analysts in Taiwan said it was a positive development for Tsai amid a backlash over the beef and pork imports.
“This timely US response will come as a relief to Tsai since she suggested that her decision to lift the ban could help Taiwan achieve its goal of signing a bilateral trade agreement or free-trade pact with the US,” said Li Da-jung, a professor of strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taipei.
But Li said Washington was also sending a message to Beijing that it would not violate the US one-China policy.
Additional reporting by Sarah Zheng
More from South China Morning Post:
- US moves bolstering Taiwan are meant to ‘restore balance’, US diplomat David Stilwell says
- Taiwan’s move to ease US beef and pork imports for potential future trade prompts claim of about-face
- China’s foreign minister says Czech senate president will ‘pay heavy price’ for visiting Taiwan
This article China tells US to stop building relationship with Taiwan after economic dialogue announcement first appeared on South China Morning Post