Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday once again affirmed the sovereignty of Taiwan apart from mainland China. Beijing quickly replied on Friday, threatening to take action against anyone in opposition to China's core objectives, and also congratulated Joe Biden on his presumed win.
Wang Wenbin, a representative of the Chinese foreign ministry, didn’t specify what kind of action China would take in reaction to Pompeo's statement that "Taiwan has not been a part of China," but directly addressed the US Secretary of State on behalf of Beijing.
"We solemnly tell Pompeo and his ilk, that any behavior that undermines China's core interests and interferes with China’s domestic affairs will be met with a resolute counterattack by China," Wenbin said.
Where the United States sees the island republic as an independent nation of its own, China contends that that Taiwan is rightfully a Chinese territory. Since Taiwan's independence in 1895, China has repeatedly attempted to bring the island back under its control. To Xi Jinping and the rest of Chinese leadership, matters concerning Taiwan aren't international relations, but domestic policy.
So when Pompeo recently stated in a radio interview that "Taiwan has not been a part of China," and asserted that the republic had been its own country for three decades—to China, that’s a direct challenge to one of the nation’s largest objectives.
It's an old trend.
In a recurring frustration to Chinese officials, the United States has been a major deterrent in preventing a Chinese absorption of Taiwan.
The Chinese government has tried to use political manipulation, economic incentive, and the threat of force to convince Taiwan to re-join under the authority of Beijing. But the people of Taiwan and its president remain resolutely committed to democratic independence. Moreover, the United States has directly addressed and countered each of those three strategies. Under the Trump administration, the United States has affirmed Taiwan’s national sovereignty, partnered with Taiwan economically, and strengthened the Republic’s military capabilities.
Most recently the two governments agreed to have economic talks later this month, discussing chains of trade supply and 5G security.
The Trump administration has resolutely stated they will stand by Taiwan should it come into conflict with China—an agreement that China has protested loudly against.
But the Trump administration, seemingly on its way out of office, will no longer be a problem for Xi Jinping. While Biden has called China, the United States’ “largest competitor” it would be difficult for his stance on China to be as resolute as President Trump’s. China may see an opportunity in a Biden administration to distance Taiwan from the United States.
The Chinese government congratulated the presumed president-elect, Joe Biden, on Friday. Wenbin once again represented China’s foreign ministry in a press conference, extending Beijing's well wishes to Biden and Kamala Harris.
"We respect the American people’s choice. We congratulate Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris," Wenbin said.
Taiwanese officials have expressed concerns behind closed doors about the United States’ change in administration. Reporting from the Washington Post notes that President Tsai and members of her government fear the United States might be less inclined to continue their partnership with Taiwan in favor of better relations Chinese leadership.