SINGAPORE – Cross-strait tensions are escalating and Beijing has developed military might.
While a high-profile official visit by the US State Department to Taiwan last week angered China, it likely did not cross a “red line,” said Kelsey Broderick, China analyst with Eurasia Group.
“Red lines are tricky. The only real red line that we know for sure from Beijing is when Taiwan declares formal independence,” Broderick told CNBC’s Squawk Box.
“Anything that accepts or turns to Taiwan̵
US Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Keith Krach was in Taiwan last week. It was the highest visit to the island in decades and followed another high profile visit from US Secretary of Health Alex Azar in August.
The visits drew protests from China, which Taiwan regards as part of its territory that will one day have to be reunited with the mainland and therefore has no right to participate in international diplomacy.
“For China, it was pretty escalating from their point of view and something they reacted to. Was it a red line? Probably not,” Broderick said.
Keith Krach (top center), US Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, gestures after landing at Sungshan Airport in Taipei on September 17, 2020.
Pei Chen | AFP | Getty Images
Taiwan has been building closer ties with the US recently and has sparked the wrath of China.
Last week on Friday and Saturday, Chinese planes crossed the center line and entered Taiwan’s air defense zone, causing the island to crawl jets to intercept them. The Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen described China as a threat to the entire region. Taiwanese and Chinese fighter jets typically do not cross the center line of the cross-strait and the rule is unofficially observed by both sides.
“If (the visit) were a red line, we would see more than Chinese flights over the Taiwan center line, we could see potential missiles or something more destabilizing,” Broderick said.
Since “many” orange lines have been crossed lately, the question now is, “How many of these will cumulatively become a red line?” She added. “And currently only Beijing knows that.”
“The Taiwan region is an inalienable part of Chinese territory,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Monday after an official protocol. He added that the “so-called” center line of the cross-strait does not exist.
Washington does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but it is the most powerful international donor and largest arms supplier to the island.
Broderick said China’s aggressive stance on Taiwan poses an increasing risk that is “worrying and worth watching.”
In the run-up to the US presidential election, Washington could take further action on Taiwan to further anger Beijing amid US-China tensions, Broderick said.
Even if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins the election, immediately after the election, the Trump administration will have several months before the new president is sworn in to change the status quo.
So China’s recent actions are a “warning to the Trump administration and the Tsai administration what they might do during this period”.