Name game just too dangerous for all
- Washington should think twice if it is seriously considering a proposal to rename the self-ruled island’s representative office in the US as Taiwan instead of Taipei
Worryingly, however, a report that the Biden administration is seriously considering a move to raise the profile of the self-ruled island’s representative office in the US by renaming it Taiwan instead of Taipei has not been denied. It this were to happen it would do incalculable damage to China-US ties and seriously destabilise cross-strait relations. The political reality is that whoever is in charge of China’s ruling Communist Party cannot lose Taiwan, or tolerate disrespect for its claim to sovereignty. Beijing has already protested at the report, warning the US not to challenge the one-China principle.
So if the US sees a name change as a manageable affront that is potentially a very dangerous miscalculation. If any conflict were to break out in the Taiwan Strait it would be devastating for this part of the world, not least because it is hard to see how there could be any real winners, only losers. There has to be a question whether everyone in the US understands the potential consequences.
Biden needs to weigh his options very carefully, given that he and President Xi Jinping agreed in their phone call to manage the growing rivalry between their two countries to head off an escalation into conflict. It is far from a question of what is in a name. The proposed renaming is a fundamental change that will affect the delicate balance of bilateral relations over cross-strait security and relations themselves. A similar move by Lithuania last month sparked an outcry in Beijing which disrupted ties. That is not to be compared with the possible consequences of a similar move by Washington.