Moves by US Congress to strengthen Taiwan, confront China spell rockier relations ahead


The United States House of Representatives on Thursday passed an omnibus military spending Bill with weapons funding for Taiwan and other programmes to help the island withstand pressure from Beijing, spelling choppier waters ahead for US-China relations.

The National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) contains the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act, which authorises up to US$10 billion in security assistance to Taiwan over the next five years and fast-tracks its weapons procurement.

The Bill also has provisions to counter China’s coercion of countries that increase their support for Taiwan, and promote Taipei’s inclusion in international organisations.

China views Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunited with it, and has not ruled out using force if necessary.

Top US lawmakers welcome the 350-80 passage of the annual must-pass Bill, which funds the Pentagon’s spending. It will next go to the Senate, where it is expected to pass, before President Joe Biden can sign it into law.

“This national defense Bill will be one of the most consequential in years… for setting the theater for real deterrence by implementing a more resilient strategy for Taiwan should China continue pursuing a collision course towards war,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Menendez, a chief architect of the legislation’s earlier iteration, the Taiwan Policy Act.

Some of its controversial clauses, such as designating Taiwan a “major non-Nato ally” and unofficially elevating the status of the US envoy to Taiwan were dropped over concerns they could provoke Beijing and were more symbolic than substantive.

Still, there is little sign that US-China relations are going to improve much, Columbia University international relations don Thomas Christensen said on Thursday at a Centre for Strategic and International Studies webinar on ties between the US, Taiwan and China.

He added: “The NDAA has lots of clauses from the earlier Taiwan Policy Act that will be considered abrasive in Beijing on cross-strait relations.”

On Thursday, the incoming Republican majority in the House also touted the new committee they plan to set up to investigate China and appointed a vocal China critic, Mike Gallagher, as its chairman.

The committee’s focus will be to “expose and fight against the Chinese Communist Party’s cyber, trade and military threats against America”, said Republican leader and front runner for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Gallagher, a former counter-intelligence officer with the US Marines, recently introduced a Bill to force public pension plans and other tax-exempt entities to divest from Chinese companies, called the Dump Investments in Troublesome Communist Holdings (Ditch) Act.

He has also championed a national ban on Chinese-owned app TikTok, which he called “digital fentanyl” that is “addicting our kids”.

On Tuesday, Gallagher responded to his appointment with a statement accusing the Chinese government of committing genocide, obscuring the Covid-19 pandemic’s origins and threatening Taiwan.

“The greatest threat to the United States is the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.

“The select committee will push back in bipartisan fashion before it’s too late. Even in a divided government, we have an opportunity to build a united front against CCP aggression.”




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