Chinese state media has lashed out at the Biden administration over reports the US is "seriously considering" allowing the Taiwanese government to rename its representative office in Washington to include the word "Taiwan".
Currently Taipei's representative office in the United States formally goes by the name "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office" - however, there's a current proposal to change it to "Taiwan Representative Office" in direct defiance of the mainland's claims of sovereignty over the island.
Though an official reaction out of Beijing wasn't forthcoming, the typically outspoken editor of state-run English publication Global Times voiced what top communist party officials are surely thinking, warning of "full scale" sanctions and stepped up military patrols directly over Taiwan aimed at keeping Taiwan in check should the renaming happen.
Hu Xijin wrote that "If this happens, diplomatically, China will at least recall its ambassador to the US." Such a scenario would dramatically worsen already deeply strained US-China relations and comes just days after a reportedly contentious phone call between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping on Friday.
The GT Editor warned further that if the renaming goes through China will take bold action on the economic front as well, following years-long efforts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically:
Economically, it will shift from "preferential policies" for Taiwan to full-scale sanctions. Militarily, the PLA fighter jets will surely fly over the island, and start to patrol Taiwan.
Already for much of the past year Chinese PLA jet and bomber formations have routinely breached Taiwan's Air Defense Identification zone, in what's become a near weekly exercise. Typically Taiwan scrambles jets to mirror and chase off the Chinese formations.
But the scenario of Chinese fighters "flying over" the island - as opposed to merely breaching remote claimed air boundaries - would mark a huge escalation that could spark war should Taiwan choose to respond directly with anti-air fire. A Monday Global Times editorial is essentially vowing as much (i.e.: serious military escalation over Taiwan)...
#环球时报Editorial: Sending PLA fighter jets over the island of Taiwan is a step we must take. The move will pose a fundamental warning to the Taiwan authorities and bring about reconstruction of the situation across the Taiwan Straits. https://t.co/HvCiThnC4y pic.twitter.com/VoUtMaiLZj— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) September 13, 2021
The new GT op-ed makes the following threats:
Sending PLA fighter jets over the island of Taiwan is a step we must take. The move will pose a fundamental warning to the Taiwan authorities and bring about reconstruction of the situation across the Taiwan Straits. It will be a clear declaration of China's sovereignty over Taiwan island, and create unprecedented conditions for us to further implement this sovereignty.
The "airspace" over the Taiwan island belongs to the airspace of China. The so-called middle line of the Taiwan Straits has never been recognized by the Chinese mainland. Therefore, there is sufficient legal basis for the PLA fighter jets to fly over the island.
It's not the first time there's been a move to rename Taipei's diplomatic offices abroad in an attempt to assert national sovereignty; however, China has in the past successfully pressured host countries to force Taiwan's missions to drop the word "Taiwan".
If this happens, diplomatically, China will at least recall its ambassador to the US. Economically, it will shift from “preferential policies” for Taiwan to full-scale sanctions. Militarily, the PLA fighter jets will surely fly over the island, and start to patrol Taiwan. https://t.co/B9CUirweYt— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) September 12, 2021
It competes as "Chinese Taipei" at the Olympic Games and also uses that name to participate in the World Trade Organization -- an arrangement designed to overcome China's objections to any international recognition of its sovereignty.
According to the Financial Times, between 2017 and 2019, seven of Taipei's missions in countries without diplomatic recognition, including Nigeria, Jordan and Ecuador, had "Taiwan" or "Republic of China" forcibly removed from their names by their host countries under pressure from Beijing.
And yet for the first time the US is "seriously considering" allowing it, which means if the trigger is pulled the US administration would stand behind it, no matter the pressure. The question remains whether the White House will wish to see this escalation unfold, including the perhaps unpredictable Chinese response, over what would largely remain a deeply "symbolic" assertion of sovereignty flying in the face of Beijing's claims.
China has without doubt long considered Taiwan and US efforts to recognize and back it a "red line" issue, declaring it won't hesitate to act militarily if the issue of "independence" is openly provoked from Washington.