The Trump administration has found Taiwan useful in its get-tough-on-China policy, pointing to a successful model of Chinese democracy while tweaking Beijing’s most sensitive nerve with gestures of support. This support has included roughly $12 billion in arms sales—comparable to the amountsold in Obama’s first term, but significant in allowing the sale of advanced F-16 fighter jets.
Whereas, in the past, the U.S. rarely announced its Navy ships’ transits of the Taiwan Strait, in 2019 alone at least eight such transits were actively publicized. China, meanwhile, sailed a flotilla through the Strait in April, led by its new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. And the PLA Air Force ramped up incursions into Taiwan airspace, crossing the “median line” that divides the Taiwan Strait and flying over the waters southwest of Taiwan.