Blinken's Weak Taiwan Remark Paves the Way for Chinese Invasion, Critics Say

(Olivier Douliery/Pool via Reuters)
June 20, 2023

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s declaration this week that the United States "does not support Taiwan independence" could pave the way for a Chinese invasion of the contested island, according to leading Republican lawmakers.

"Joe Biden’s weakness led to disaster in Ukraine and Taiwan easily could suffer the same fate," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Select Committee on China, told the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday, just as Blinken wrapped up a two-day tour through China meant to thaw chilly diplomatic relations with the communist regime. "Blinken basically promised the current embarrassment of an administration will do nothing to safeguard Taiwan’s independence and gave Chairman Xi a two year window to invade."

Blinken’s statement on Taiwan, while consistent with longstanding U.S. policy, rankled China hawks in Congress who see the Biden administration kowtowing to a ruthless regime that continues to spy on America, create economic havoc, and position its military for a siege on Taiwan. For these lawmakers, Blinken’s trip did little to assuage concerns that the United States is being bullied by Beijing.

The secretary’s closely watched trip to China was initially postponed in February, after U.S. officials discovered a Chinese spy balloon traversing the country and surveilling sensitive military sites. The Biden administration waited days to shoot down the balloon, drawing widespread criticism from Republicans who saw the delay as a boon to China’s spy efforts. Four months later, Blinken finally arrived in China, where he held high-level talks with Communist Party leaders but failed to secure any significant diplomatic breakthroughs. This outcome has left lawmakers and regional experts questioning the costs of Biden’s outreach to China.

"PRC diplomats told Secretary Blinken that the United States must choose between cooperation with China and conflict," Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.), chairman of the House Select Committee on China, told the Free Beacon. "The CCP seeks to paint any competitive action that does not further its authoritarian vision as a provocation. The Biden Administration must push back against this insidious framing, and not-so-veiled threat."

"Only one party," Gallagher said, "seeks to upend the peaceful status quo in the Taiwan Strait, only one party is committing genocide, only one party is militarizing islands in the South China Sea—the Chinese Communist Party."

Blinken struck a conciliatory note on every leg of his trip and emphasized the need to deescalate tensions between the world’s two largest economies. However, he offered little substance in his attempt to fulfill this mission, relying instead on platitudes about the "importance of responsibly managing the competition between the United States and the PRC through open channels of communication." In a media interview on Tuesday, Blinken also gave China a pass on the spy balloon, saying that chapter in U.S.-China relations "should be closed."

President Joe Biden praised the visit, saying Blinken "did a hell of a job."

A State Department spokesman declined to comment on Blinken’s remarks about Taiwan and the administration's adherence to the "One China" policy, which recognizes Taiwan as part of the CCP’s domain. While this has been the official United States position for decades, Blinken’s decision to emphasize the policy while standing on Chinese soil drew outrage among many Republicans.

"Blinken flew to Communist China to appease Xi Jinping and state the Biden administration does not support Taiwan’s independence," Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) wrote on Twitter, echoing the sentiments of many GOP legislators. "Why won't this administration stand up to bullies and stand for freedom?"

When asked if Blinken privately addressed China’s threats to invade Taiwan, a State Department spokesman pointed the Free Beacon to the secretary’s Tuesday afternoon press conference.

"I raised U.S. concerns—shared by a growing number of countries—about the PRC’s provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait, as well as in the South and East China Seas," Blinken told reporters. "On Taiwan, I reiterated the longstanding ... policy."

"That policy has not changed....we do not support Taiwan independence," Blinken said. "We remain opposed to any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side."

These comments conflict with earlier promises by Biden to defend Taiwan’s borders if China launches an invasion, which the United States estimates could occur anytime within the next two years.

Michael Sobolik, senior fellow in Indo-Pacific studies at the American Foreign Policy Council think-tank, said Blinken’s "trip was a disaster," and noted that the secretary failed to secure any of the bilateral deals he hoped for.

"Blinken did not secure the primary deliverable he hoped to secure: a bilateral military hotline. Beijing shot the proposal down yet again," Sobolik said.

This failure came after the Biden administration offered several concessions to China in order to secure a face-to-face with Chinese Communist leader Xi Jinping, including: "Lying about China's spy balloon, blocking the release of the FBI's investigation into the balloon, freezing human rights sanctions, and delaying export controls on Huawei," Sobolik said.

"This is not ‘responsible competition.’ This is not ‘managed competition,’" he added. "The Biden administration is detering itself from actually competing with America's greatest geopolitical adversary."