Host: So, you’ve backtracked through history, the 1979 Relations Act then just before the close of the year the Taiwan Assurance Act as well, and you are talking about the risks involved here. Do you think the incoming Biden Administration is going to so far,or as far, to explicitly guarantee the US protection or the US coming to the aid of Taiwan if indeed it does come under attack or perhaps even ‘invasion’ of China, or would that be not just a step too far, but would that literally be considered by China as almost a declaration of war.
Rudd: I think it’s important to understand what are Mike Pompeo’s motivations right now. What Pompeo is doing is laying a whole series of landmines for the incoming Biden Administration,and what his doing is, in fact, is to paraphrase the analogy with the Carthaginian wars of the second and the third centuries B.C.,is salting the earth in the US - China relationship in general, and laying landmines on Taiwan in particular. And the politics of it is to ensure any change to any of those hardline positions put in a one minute to midnight by Pompeo and his team if those changes are embraced by the Biden Administration. Then Pompeo will be free to attack Biden, and attack the administration as having gone ‘soft’ on Beijing, and become accommodation of Beijing’s security concerns for the next four years. Because Pompeo himself wishes to be a candidate for the 2024 Republican Nomination. I don’t think that’s the right way to conduct the national security policy of the United States of America, because the reason I can say that in my judgement is that I come from a country which is a close ally of the United States: It’s just irresponsible.
On the second part of your question which is, what will the Biden Administration do, I do not see the Biden Administration adopting a new policy of explicit military support for Taiwan, and the long-standing tradition between administrations of both colorations (Republican and Democrat) on Taiwan has been strategic ambiguity —— that is to cause sufficient doubt in Taipei and not to cause the Taiwanese to embrace any reckless policies, like a unilateral ‘declaration of independence’on the assumption that America would immediately send in the fifth cavalry and defend Taiwan.
While at the same time, ambiguity in Beijing’s strategic calculus that if Beijing was to assume that the United States would never act under any military scenario involving a mainland military action against Taiwan, that assumption by the Chinese would be severely misplaced. So, in other words, that’s the strategic ambiguity up until now, I do not think that as changing.
Host: Kevin, we will probably see the customary responses of outrage from Beijing after these pronouncements from Secretary Pompeo. But do you think broadly, the leadership in Beijing does understand that these actions are from Pompeo are the last gasps of a twilight administration, and Biden will adopt a more pragmatic (if not nuanced) approach to resetting relations？
Rudd: I think it is really important to understand the fundamental importance which the Chinese Communist Party attaches to all Taiwan policy-related matters. This (Taiwan) is the ‘holy grail’ of internal Chinese Communist Party politics, it’s the unresolved question in the Communist Party’s mind from 1949 revolution, it’s not just like anything else which may become a problem in the US-China relationship. This (Taiwan) is front and center,the number-one, national security and political concern on the part of the Chinese Communist Party. And the reason I say that is we can’t just assume that they will all sit back, pull out a panda cigarette, and sort of relax in their armchairs, with their animaguses and a cup of Chinese Tea, and say: ‘Well, that’s just American politics at play.’
I wish I could assure everybody that’s the case, but I am not necessarily of that view. I think we could be in, for some serious instability in the week to ten days ahead. And remember in internal Chinese politics there are also many fault lines, and no one wishes to be seen to be weak on Taiwan when you have such a direct provocation such as we’ve just seen now from Pompeo.
Host: Kevin, very interesting comments that and we will continue to talk about the potential for both US and China to be on that collision course that you warned about later on in the programme.