US presidential election: Will strategic ambiguity on Taiwan be restored?

US presidential election: Will strategic ambiguity on Taiwan be restored?

  • Trump administration’s close links with Taipei have encouraged anti-mainland sentiment and thoughts of independence
  • A Biden presidency is likely to bring a cautious approach from Washington towards the self-ruled island

A consequence of the Trump administration’s China policy has been a rising confidence in Taiwan that its American allies will shield it from any attack from the mainland, which regards the self-ruled island as a renegade province, to be recovered by force if necessary.

Decades of a carefully cultivated strategic ambiguity by the US over its stance on Taiwan appeared to be in doubt when newly-minted President Donald Trump broke with protocol to take an early congratulatory call from the island’s independence-leaning leader Tsai Ing-wen four years ago.

Since then, a raft of pro-Taiwan legislation and billions of dollars in arms sales have bolstered the view on the island that the US will come to its defence in any military action, along with a surge in anti-mainland sentiment.

National Taiwan University student Lee Mu-wen, 19, has no doubt that the US has Taiwan’s back, in contrast to the days of the Obama administration, when pro-mainland Ma Ying-jeou was the island’s president.

“The US certainly will come to our rescue as our relations with Washington are so much better than that of Ma Ying-jeou’s time as president, as evident by what Trump has done for us in recent years,” he said.