Mar 22, 2018

U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan could heat up fast

Taiwanese sailors take part in a military drill. Photo: MANDY CHENG/AFP/Getty Images

As the US and China slouch towards each other’s throats over trade and technology, one of the issues that is set to get hot again is Taiwan. Late last week, President Trump signed a bill that encourages high-level official bilateral visits between Washington and the island nation of 23 million. Beijing, which considers Taiwan to still be a province of China, is not pleased. 

The big picture: Self-governing Taiwan is where the nationalist forces who lost the Chinese civil war to Mao set up shop in 1949. As part of a deal to establish formal relations with China in 1979, the US agreed to pantomime Beijing’s “One China” policy, while also maintaining a robust trade relationship with the island that includes more than $25 billion in arms sales since then.

In recent months, the temperature has risen as the US broadens its diplomatic support for the pro-independence leadership that won Taiwan’s elections in 2016, while China has increased its efforts to diplomatically isolate and militarily threaten the island. Chinese officials have warned that if the US keeps up its new overtures to Taiwan, Beijing could move to forcefully reunite the island with the mainland – a longstanding threat that carries new weight under the assertive leadership of President Xi Jinping.

Trump and Congress, for their part, seem unfazed. Set in the context of broader tensions between the US and China – over trade, technology, North Korea, and the South China Sea – this long-simmering point of contention between Washington and Beijing could get hot again, and fast.

Go deeper: U.S. official visits Taiwan amid tensions with China over travel act.

Sign up for Signal, a twice-weekly newsletter from GZERO Media, a Eurasia Group company, and follow @saosasha on Twitter.

Go deeper

In photos: India welcomes president with massive "Namaste Trump" rally

First Lady Melania Trump, President Trump and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the "Namaste Trump" rally at Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, on Monday. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump was addressing a massive rally after arriving with members of the U.S. first family in Ahmedabad, northwest India, Monday for a two-day visit.

Why it matters: The countries are forging deeper ties, particularly in the military dimension, as India’s location, size and economic growth making it the "obvious counterweight to China" for American policymakers, per Axios' Dave Lawler and Zachary Basu. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is demonstrating the importance of the visit by holding a "Namaste Trump Rally" at a packed 110,000-capacity Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad — the world's largest cricket venue.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 50 mins ago - World

Concern over coronavirus spread: Italy, South Korea and Iran report more cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The number of novel coronavirus cases in South Korea, Italy and Iran jumped on Sunday as infections in mainland China continued to grow, the latest figures show.

The big picture: As South Korea and Italy stepped up emergency measures amid rising case numbers, World Health Organization officials expressed concern about infections with no clear link to China. COVID-19 has killed at least 2,619 people and infected almost 80,000 others, with all but 27 deaths occurring in mainland China.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health

Sanders reveals free childcare plan for preschoolers

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally on Saturday in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Cengiz Yar/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders announced on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday a new plan to guarantee free child care and pre-kindergarten to all American children from infancy to age four.

Details: In the wide-ranging interview, Sanders told Anderson Cooper he planned to pay for universal childcare with a wealth tax. "It's taxes on billionaires," he said.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy