Not once, not twice, but at least three times, President Joe Biden has said America will defend Taiwan if China invades, only for its masters to return.
Does this reflect”strategic confusion“, or is it part of a larger Chinese policy that is strategically incoherent on the face of it?
The apparent chasm between President Biden and the rest of his executive branch alone raises alarming questions about who is really in charge and what that will mean in a crisis. These questions transcend Taiwan and deserve careful consideration.
But America’s commitment to the security of free and democratic life berates the Chinese Communist Party – that is, Taiwan – is a huge problem in itself. If Joe Biden’s words are ultimately to control — and the question remains whether they will — he has made a massive commitment.
Consider Biden doing it at a time when his party leaders have said “we are at war” with China’s weaker but to the hilt nuclear-armed junior partner, Russia, in Ukraine; at a time when we are spending tens of billions of dollars on this conflict; and at a time when Biden has spoken of a desire for regime change in Moscow.
Biden handlers say our Taiwan policy hasn’t changed, implying “strategic ambiguity” – hiding from Beijing the when, where and how we might react if he moved on Taipei – still reigns.
But China is already engaged in saber-rattling.
Are we ready for two wars? If so, as noted earlier in NewsweekShouldn’t the administration explain to the American people why we are compelled to fight, how far our commitment could go, and why it is clearly in the national interest to do so?
I write this as an ardent Chinese hawk, because the war is simply too important to engage in without our consent. For decades, our leaders have ignored us, at the cost of blood, treasury and legitimacy, undermining our national interest.
Biden delivered his Taiwan remarks alongside his Japanese counterpart, on the eve of a meeting with the Australia, Japan and India triumvirate which, alongside the United States, forms the “Quad” – a partnership that should are aimed at countering China, but which the Biden administration has pointed out are not actually doing so.
And he made the remarks as the administration announced a Indo-Pacific economic framework with a dozen partners, Quad members included, just before Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a sweet talk about china before a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) friendly locationin which he reaffirmed that US policy in Taiwan had not changed.
From now on, the strengthening of relations with foreign countries close to China would be an important element in countering Chinese hegemony. But the conspicuous absentee from the twelve-nation pact was none other than Taiwan itself. Curious, that.
There are myriad other indicators that President Biden is talking loud and carrying no sticks.
As Joshua Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a United States Army officer, asks thought-provoking questions. Sub-stack messagehow can we reconcile an avowed American seriousness in defending Taiwan with a lack of commitment to significantly develop our navy and purge it of corrosive Woke-ismor to reprioritize our military budget and shift resources accordingly, or to make all other necessary preparations for battle?
As Treviño notes, Biden has said he is reviewing and may repeal the Trump administration’s China tariffs. How to reconcile this with a policy of struggle against China?
Consider another pressing issue that challenges the administration’s practical seriousness in the face of its deadly serious rhetoric.
The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) controls the Thrift Savings Plan, “a retirement savings and investment plan for federal employees and uniformed service members.”
At the end of 2021, there were some 6.5 million participants who had a total of $830 billion invested in the to plan.
The FRTIB plans to open a “Guichet Fonds Commun de Placement” which could allow participants to invest up to 25% of their savings in one or more of the approximately 5,000 funds.
Here’s the problem: within those wallets, there may well be Chinese companies making products aimed at brutalizing the Chinese people and burying ours. As a group of concerned members of Congress, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), wrote in letters at FRTIB, government employees and fighters could inadvertently invest in companies “currently sanctioned by the U.S. government for human rights abuses or otherwise blacklisted for the threat they pose to U.S. national security “, or involved in human rights abuses by the CCP. We cannot be sure because, as the members of Congress write, “the FRTIB explicitly recognized…that ‘monitoring approximately 5,000 mutual funds for any investment in Chinese entities would prove too costly for the plan “.
Therefore, lawmakers are asking the board to delay the “mutual fund window” until it can consider these potential issues.
When the Trump administration faced a similar threat to change FRTIB’s investment options to include one that would fund some of China’s most notorious companies, it ordered the plan halted. Then he called for a broader examination of Chinese companies’ exploitation of US capital markets, later signing of legislation threatening to pull Chinese companies en masse from US stock exchanges.
This is essential because Chinese companies exist to serve the CCP and its army, the People’s Liberation Army, in line with China’s strategy of civil-military fusion. Access to US capital markets is vital to the operations of these companies.
Some 148 of the more than 250 Chinese companies listed on US stock exchanges are would have delisted because they do not provide financial audits for inspection by the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, as other foreign companies do, thereby exposing investors and markets more broadly to significantly greater risk .
China is said to be working to reach an agreement with the American authorities to avoid such a fate.
Chinese companies have been able to circumvent these requirements, i.e. receive preferential treatment, in part because of a toothless memorandum of understanding struck under the Obama administration, would have following Chinese lobbying by then-Vice President Joe Biden.
If the Biden administration is serious about dealing with China, both in Taiwan and elsewhere, it should leave no stone unturned to ensure that no penny goes from the federal government and its employees to Chinese entities.
It should be adamant that Chinese companies be delisted from US stock exchanges and on an accelerated schedule. Access to our capital markets has proven to be one of the greatest contributors to China’s rise to become our most formidable geopolitical adversary.
Aspiring Emperor Xi Jinping may have myriad flaws, but he will grasp the weakness of an American Emperor who wears no clothes.
Ben Weingarten is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, Fellow of the Claremont Institute and Senior Contributor to The Federalist. He is the author of Ungrateful American: Ilhan Omar and the progressive-Islamist takeover of the Democratic Party (Bomber, 2020). Ben is the founder and CEO of ChangeUp Media LLC, a media consulting and production company. Subscribe to his newsletter at bit.ly/bhwnewsand follow him on Twitter: @bhweingarten.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.