The very first interaction between China and US at the Shangri-la started over the heated issue of Taiwan wherein the US claims that Beijing is trying to change the status quo over the island and Beijing condemning the arms sales to Taipei. China considers the democratically self-ruled Taiwan as its very own territory and has vowed to seize the island, even by the use of force if deemed necessary.
Secretary Austin represents Washington’s voice and states that the Taiwan Strait is not international waters and does not belong to the People’s Republic of China, to which Wei made a point by warning the US that it will be considered a big mistake if it tries to cross China over the fact that Taiwan island is a part of China and the one-China principle is the political basis of China-US ties. During the meeting, Wei confronted Austin and stated that the Chinese military will not hesitate in crushing any attempt of “Taiwan independence” to defend its national unity and he made it clear that China will right away start a war, irrespective of the cost if any country tries to intervene in preventing it from claiming Taiwan. Whereas, the US warned the world that the Chinese military, under the garb of a one-China policy, has become aggressively unsafe to deal with in the region.
Fumio Kishida, The Japanese Prime Minister in his Keynote address at the Shangri-la dialogue encouraged the US and China to engage in a bilateral dialogue on nuclear disarmament and arms control as he hinted at a probable Chinese attack on Taiwan in his speech. He stated that “the world must be prepared for the emergence of an entity that tramples on the peace and security of other countries by force or threat without honouring the rules.” Even though he did not mention China by its name in his address, he repeatedly appealed to uphold the rules-based international order.
The Shangri-la Dialogue 2022 witnessed a clear-cut confrontation between the US and China as both the countries were seen giving each the cold shoulder through back and forth confrontations in Singapore. The U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin focused on America’s positive vision for the region, whereas his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe addressed how China will be crucial for the future of Asia and why it would be a mistake for any country to even think of confronting China at present. He stressed on the fact that Taiwan is China’s Taiwan, this statement was a counterargument to US President Joe Biden, when he said that the US would respond militarily if China attacked Taiwan. Wei also made it clear that the party politics of the US in the name of the so-called coalition-building nation does not affect China because “No one and no country should impose its will on others, or bully others under the guise of multilateralism.”
The $120 million arms sale deal by the US to Taiwan, covering its spare parts for naval ships and related technical assistance was also discussed at the dialogue. China firmly condemned this US intervention of supplying arms to Taiwan, as this strategy turns out to be a threat to the sovereignty and security concerns of the country. Wei ended his point on a positive note and said that China-US relations are at a critical juncture but the ball is in the court of the US to resolve their differences by refraining from interfering in China’s internal matters and concluded that If Washington can treat Beijing with “mutual respect,” there is room for both nations to prosper.
[Photo by the U.S. Department of Defense]
*Harsh Mahaseth is an Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean (Academic Affairs) at Jindal Global Law School, and the Assistant Director at the Nehginpao Kipgen Center for Southeast Asian Studies, O.P. Jindal Global University, India. Sanjana Chib is a third-year law student at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.