On the afternoon of January 9, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement announcing the lifting of restrictions on US-Taiwan official exchanges, which have been adhered to by the US Department of State for several decades, and demanding executive branch agencies should consider all "contact guidelines" regarding relations with Taiwan previously issued by the Department of State to be null and void. This announcement has triggered repercussions among scholars on US-China relations to some extent.
According to M. Taylor Fravel, an expert on China at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Pompeo has every intention of trying his best to highlight the fact of Taiwan as an independent sovereign country when he is still in power as the US Secretary of State. However, his move is sure to place Taiwan on the "crosshair" of US-China relations, leaving a pile of burning "diplomatic rubbish" to the new government while he could spare himself the aftermath.
As for whether the Biden administration can actually benefit from this announcement when conducting exchanges with Taiwan, M. Taylor Fravel believed that it depends on whether Joe Biden intends to seek political cover for changes in Taiwan policy by blaming the outgoing government. Nevertheless, the Biden administration is unlikely to make rash moves since this will involve the one-China principle.
As pointed out by Tom Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a US think tank, lifting the restrictions on the next administration instead of the present one is nothing but to leave a thorny issue to the new administration, and it will not get united in dealing with Taiwan. In essence, this is to politicize the previous cross-party consensus.
Wright believed that this shows how unqualified Pompeo is as Secretary of State. "If Pompeo is courageous enough to stick to his beliefs, he should do so when he himself can take corresponding consequences." Instead, Pompeo may just intend to embarrass Joe Biden, because if he re-imposes the restrictions in contacting with (Taiwan) after taking office, Pompeo can depict Biden as weak on Taiwan, or get him into a predicament earlier.
Joseph Cofer Black, a former CIA official who claimed to have been engaged in researches on Taiwan for 35 years, tweeted: "It would seem more principled if the announcement weren’t released during the final 11 days for the discredited incumbent president." "A government legal and responsible should have taken such a major move in coordination with the next government. This, however, seems to be creating chaos," added Cofer.
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