Is America Taking Sides in China vs. Taiwan?

“Words matter.” That was how then-Senator Joe Biden ended the op-ed quoted above, in which he faulted the Bush administration for going back and forth in its position on the defense of Taiwan. Now his own administration seems to be having a similar problem with words mattering, as he says one thing and then his aides say something
different. (It is not only in regard to Taiwan that the White House’s messaging has been self-contradictory. A recent op-ed by Biden in The New York Times on Ukraine policy was criticized by some for contradicting things the president himself had said just weeks earlier.) The truth is that—as Biden stated in his 2001 oped— since 1980 the US hasn’t been bound by any agreement to step in militarily to defend Taiwan. But if Taiwan was attacked, it is likely that the US would step in. How likely is it that China will try to invade Taiwan? What really is US policy in regard to an invasion? And how is all of this affecting these countries right now?

From 1928 to 1949, the Chinese Nationalist Party—a socialist but eventually anti-communist political party that had first been formed to depose the Chinese monarchy—
ruled mainland China. But the party’s defeats in the Chinese Civil War caused its
leader, Chiang Kai-Shek, to pull his forces out and retreat to the island of Taiwan. The
Chinese Communist Party, under Mao Ze-Dong, took over mainland China, and
both groups claimed that they were the true government of China. Each one stated that
both mainland China and Taiwan were actually one country; the only question was
where its government was. Because of its anti-communist stance,
Taiwan was the favored partner of Western powers during the early years after the civil
war. In 1954, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the US signed what is known
as the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan, guaranteeing that the US would come to Taiwan’s aid if China attacked.

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