In 2020, The Trump administration has dramatically increased the number of Freedom of Navigation missions.
Over the past two years, the United States has dramatically increased the number of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and destroyers sent into the South China Sea as a freedom of navigation show of force missions to remind the Chinese government that the U.S. considers the Western Pacific and the South China Sea as a part of the oceans of America and its allies. Additionally, in 2020, the Trump administration ratcheted up tensions with China over Taiwan by sending to Taiwan the highest-ranking U.S. officials in over forty years. The Chinese government has responded with the largest naval exercises in its history and sending flights of 18 aircraft to the edge of Taiwan’s air defense zone.
U.S. Pressure on China through Actions in Taiwan
China considers Taiwan as a renegade province that will be eventually subsumed by China. In 1979, while President Jimmy Carter severed formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan and formally recognized the People’s Republic of China, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which is the basis for Washington’s relationship with Taipei. It includes the provision of selling military weapons for Taiwan’s self-defense. The law does not require the United States to defend Taiwan if China attacks, but it also doesn’t rule it out—a policy known as strategic ambiguity.
To the anger of the Chinese government, the Trump administration has increased contact with Taiwan in a variety of ways. After the 2016 election, President Trump spoke by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in what is believed to be the first time a U.S. president or president-elect has spoken directly with a Taiwanese leader since at least 1979.