China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the Foreign Ministry this week over a wording change on a Taiwan-focused agency webpage, calling it a “small act of imagination,” a new report says.
As of May 5, the State Department’s online fact sheet “US Relations with Taiwan” no longer states that Washington “does not support Taiwan independence.”
The previous version of the fact sheet — most recently updated in August 2018, according to recent screenshots obtained by the WayBack Machine Internet Archive — began by noting that Washington and Taipei enjoyed a “solid informal relationship.”
The most recent version of this fact sheet moves this statement into the middle of the second paragraph and begins: “As a leading democratic and technological power, Taiwan is a major partner of the United States in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Although the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, we enjoy a strong informal relationship as well as an enduring interest in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the statement continued. “In accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States shall provide defense materials and services as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain an adequate self-defense capability.”
The fact sheet also added language referring to the Six Guarantees – a set of Reagan-era promises made to Taiwan in 1982 that was only declassified in 2020.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian criticized the changes on Tuesday.
“This kind of political manipulation on the Taiwan issue is an attempt to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and will inevitably lead to a fire that will only ignite” the United States, Zhao told reporters, according to Reuters.
His spokesman went on to describe it as “a frivolous act of hollowing out the one-China principle,” referring to Beijing’s insistence that Taiwan rightly belongs to China.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday defended the updated wording, telling reporters there had been “no change” in US policy regarding Taiwan.
“All we did was update the fact sheet, and that is something we do regularly with our contacts around the world,” Price said. As far as Taiwan is concerned, our policy remains guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, three [US-China] Joint flyers, and six insurances, as noted in this factsheet.
“This fact sheet has not been updated for several years,” Price later said. “You know our technical papers are updated regularly. I think we care more about making sure that our relationships around the world are accurately reflected in our fact sheets.”
Speaking of Beijing, Price said the US “is not concerned about what other countries might pick up trying to create something like that.”
The anger comes amid rising tensions over a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
Last month, the Taiwanese military released an official guide to the survival of the war. Last weekend, Beijing conducted a series of military exercises near Taiwan, forcing Taipei to jam aircraft in response to the intrusion into its air defense zone.