Combined with increasing US-China tensions in the South China Sea, where Beijing has established a strong and rising military presence on several disputed features and islands, and the ongoing US-China trade war, great power antagonism is arguably now at its highest level in the region since the last Cold War.
But America and China’s opposed positions on Taiwan have perhaps the greatest potential to tilt towards actual armed conflict. That’s in part because Taiwan is home to 24 million people in a democratic society that does not favor any “reunification” with the mainland.
In line with Washington’s more hawkish policies towards Beijing, US-Taiwan relations are drawing closer and becoming more obvious, despite Washington’s official policy of adherence to Beijing’s “one China” policy, under which Taiwan is not a separate country but rather part of China.
Not surprisingly, China responded angrily to Tsai’s US layovers. “China opposes official exchange between the US and Taiwan,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on July 12. Washington should not allow Tsai to transit and must “stop the official exchange with Taiwan.”