The People’s Republic of China is sharpening its rhetoric on the possibility of any future attempt by Taiwan to secure independence. Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian issued the following statement at a press conference held Thursday: “We are seriously telling those Taiwan independence forces: those who play with fire will burn themselves, and Taiwan independence means war.” Quian also spoke of recent Chinese military activity that’s taken place in close proximity to Taiwan as being “necessary actions to address the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and to safeguard national sovereignty and security.”
The United States responded with a statement of its own. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said, “We find that comment unfortunate and certainly not commensurate with our intentions to meet our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act.” This was the Biden administration’s first public statement on China-Taiwan relations, which have seen tensions rise in the past few years with China not ruling out military action to retake the island, which it considers a breakaway province and not a sovereign nation-state.
The responding statement by the Biden administration was rather inconspicuous and does not support the more direct expectations on the new administration with regards to China. The Biden administration is expected to keep pressure on China over a number of issues from human rights to Hong Kong, and Taiwan as well as trade disputes. Relations between the United States and China are deteriorating at a rapid rate and closer ties between Washington and Taipei have added fuel to the fire.
Taiwan’s economic resurgence is also serving as a thorn in Beijing’s side. In 2020, Taiwan’s GDP grew faster than China’s for the first time in thirty years. This is mainly due to Taiwan gaining early control of the COVID-19 virus and enjoying a phenomenal export performance. Official data is expected to be released on Friday and is expected to show Taiwan’s GDP growth at 2.55% for 2020 compared to China’s 2.3% increase. Not a significant difference between the two figures but enough to affect tension between the two nations.