A U.S. Senate committee last week approved a bill to dramatically boost American military support for Taiwan, a move that prompted warnings from both China and anti-war voices in the United States that such a policy increases the likelihood of armed conflict.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 17-5 in favor of the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, which according to its text "promotes the security of Taiwan, ensures regional stability, and deters People's Republic of China (PRC) aggression against Taiwan. It also threatens severe sanctions against the PRC for hostile action against Taiwan."
The bill comes during a period of heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing and follows U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 's (D-Calif.) provacative trip to Taiwan last month, a visit the Chinese government answered by suspending climate and military cooperation with the United States and forging closer ties with Russia.
Dave DeCamp, news editor at Antiwar.com, tweeted that if passed, the bill "will be the most radical change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan since the 1970s and will make war much more likely."
China vigorously protested the proposed legislation. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said during a Wednesday press conference in Beijing that "if the bill continues to be deliberated, pushed forward, or even signed into law, it will greatly shake the political foundation of China-U.S. relations and cause extremely serious consequences to... peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."
Meanwhile, observers asserted that China may ramp up military measures in response to the bill. In addition to authorizing $4.5 billion in military assistance, $2 billion in loan guarantees, and boosting "war reserve stockpile" funding for Taiwan by hundreds of millions of dollars, the bill also grants Taiwan many of the benefits of being a "major non-NATO ally" without officially designating it as such.
Furthermore, it establishes a "robust sanctions regime to deter PRC aggression" against the island that most of the world—including the United States—recognizes as part of "one China." Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who introduced the bill with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), said that the proposed legislation "makes clear the United States does not seek war or increased tensions with Beijing."
"Just the opposite," he claimed. "We are carefully and strategically lowering the existential threats facing Taiwan by raising the cost of taking the island by force so that it becomes too high a risk and unachievable."
The Taiwan Policy Act has passed a vote in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Its sponsors say it could transform U.S. policy toward Taiwan, but critics say it could stoke already tense relations between Beijing and Washington. pic.twitter.com/GUZgABNSnM— TaiwanPlus (@taiwanplusnews) September 15, 2022
While acknowledging that "we're doing something highly provocative and bellicose," Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) nevertheless voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) voted against the bill, explaining in a statement that while he supports "strengthening Taiwan's ability to defend itself," he has "serious concerns about provisions that, in my view, upend strategic ambiguity, undermine the U.S. One China policy, and threaten to destabilize the region."
"We have a moral responsibility to both stand up to authoritarianism and military aggression, as well as to do everything we can to avoid a situation that could draw two nuclear-armed countries into a conflict. Diplomacy must remain central to our Taiwan policy," added Markey, who was criticized by the peace group CodePink for taking part in last month's congressional visit to Taiwan.
Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also voted against the measure.
"Biden administration officials have said the bill risks upending the US’s carefully calibrated 'one China' policy, under which the US has for more than 40 years built ties with Beijing by avoiding formally stating its position on Taiwan’s sovereignty." https://t.co/c8rGTk9F3R https://t.co/Muzf0x0KDi— Quincy Institute (@QuincyInst) September 14, 2022
It is unclear whether U.S. President Joe Biden would sign the bill if it is passed by Congress. While the White House says it supports parts of the measure, Biden administration officials told Bloomberg that the bill "risks upending the U.S.' carefully calibrated One China policy, under which the U.S. has for more than 40 years built ties with Beijing by avoiding formally stating its position on Taiwan's sovereignty."