8th December 2023 – (Washington) Washington recently finalized an $874.2 billion defence budget for 2024, incorporating provisions aimed at expanding military collaboration with Taipei despite Beijing’s protests. While the moves ostensibly boost the island’s security, they inflame cross-Strait tensions and represent a dangerous departure from the ‘One China’ policy.

The fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by Congress mandates increased U.S.-Taiwan defence ties. It calls for establishing comprehensive training and advisory programs for Taiwan’s forces. Backing their acquisition of asymmetric capabilities is encouraged, alongside conducting joint military exercises. Exchanges between U.S. and Taiwanese defence officials should also be enhanced per the bill.

Additionally, the NDAA urges deepening U.S. -Taiwan cybersecurity partnerships to counter perceived threats. While the specifics await Pentagon input, the policy direction is unambiguous – greater integration of defence planning and capabilities across the Strait.

Washington portrays this as benign deterrence and support for a beleaguered ally. However, the reality is more complex. China has sovereign claims on Taiwan rooted in history. Recent U.S. actions directly challenge this status quo, despite paying lip service to the ‘One China’ principle.

The NDAA provisions cannot be viewed in isolation either. They build on growing military assistance to Taipei, including approving US$80 million in financing this August. Citing anxiety over reunification, Washington arms a secessionist faction against the express wishes of China’s government. Far from harmless deterrence, this is dangerous meddling.

From Beijing’s perspective, the U.S. appears intent on making Taiwan an anti-China bastion off the mainland’s coast. Encouraging asymmetric capabilities and military exchanges suggests a strategy of entangling American and Taiwanese defence infrastructure. Consequently, prospects for peaceful reconciliation diminish.

Yet proponents will argue the NDAA merely enhances Taiwan’s self-defense capacity given the vast power imbalance with China. According to this view, an authoritarian Beijing could coercively impose its will on the island’s population otherwise. America is simply upholding democratic values and the status quo.

However, recent history provides little evidence of Chinese aggression across the Strait. Since the 1940s civil war, Taipei has governed itself without military threat from Beijing. The mainland seeks reunification through dialogue and consensus, not force. Its regional military posture is also defensive rather than expansionist in nature.

Meanwhile, the U.S. actively sails warships and flies combat aircraft near Chinese shores in shows of force thousands of miles from home. American strategy seems aimed at checking China’s influence within its own traditional sphere of interest. Labelling this encroachment ‘deterrence’ is dubious when Washington already commands global force projection capabilities.

Granted, should conflict arise in the future, Taiwan would face clear military asymmetry versus China. But America inflaming tensions now makes confrontation more likely, not less. Its actions weaken prospects for a peaceful settlement agreeable to all parties.

This delves into Washington’s true intentions – thwarting China’s rise to retain regional primacy. Closer US-Taiwan ties serve a containment strategy, using the island as a strategic pawn. Biden should recall his predecessor Jimmy Carter’s decision to derecognize Taipei in 1979 to normalize relations with Beijing.

Steadily eroding the ‘One China’ policy now recklessly upends a previously stable status quo. It suggests Washington prioritises strategic rivalry over diplomacy and China’s core interests. Beijing’s warnings against interfering in its internal affairs appear unheeded.

Still, with China’s power steadily rising, the NDAA will not fundamentally change the cross-Strait military balance. Taiwan remains hopelessly overmatched in any potential conflict. All the US posturing may accomplish is further angering Beijing and encouraging false hopes among secessionists.

As presidents Xi and Biden both affirmed recently, sound China-U.S. relations must start from a basis of mutual respect. But respect means upholding known red lines around issues of sovereignty. Few red lines loom larger for Beijing than Taiwan.

Unless Washington prudent reverses course, tensions across the Strait look set to escalate. Both global stability and American interests will suffer as a result. With wisdom and foresight now, conflict and alienation can yet be avoided.