World Politics

Biden could struggle with Taiwan issue rocking U.S.-China relations, says political risk expert

Key Points
  • The Biden administration "is certainly going to struggle with the conduct of relations with Taiwan," said Ross Feingold, an expert on political risk.
  • President-elect Joe Biden will take over from an a predecessor who broke with decades of U.S. foreign policy on Taiwan.
  • Among other things, the Trump administration conducted high-level visits to Taiwan — angering Beijing which considers the island a runaway province that must be reunited with the mainland.
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What a Biden administration could mean for U.S.-Taiwan relations: Analyst

The incoming Biden administration could struggle in managing its relationship with Taiwan — a precarious issue that has contributed to worsening U.S.-China relations, an expert on political risk said on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump broke with decades of U.S. foreign policy by moving his country closer to Taiwan over the last four years — angering Beijing which considers the democratic and self-ruled island a runaway province that must one day be reunited with the mainland.

The Chinese Communist Party has never governed Taiwan.

"The Biden administration is certainly going to struggle with the conduct of relations with Taiwan," Ross Feingold, director of business development at security advisory firm SafePro Group, told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia."

"Over the past four years, the Trump administration has taken many steps to really engage with Taiwan in the same way that United States would engage with other foreign countries even if they're still not using the terminology or having formal diplomatic relations," he said.

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Steps taken by the Trump administration include conducting high-level visits to Taiwan. Before the State Department on Tuesday canceled all travel, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft had been scheduled to travel to Taipei this week and was expected to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Over the weekend, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the lifting of all "self-imposed restrictions" on contact between U.S. officials and their Taiwanese counterparts. That's a move that former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd — who's also an astute China observer — said could put an end to the "one China policy" underpinning U.S.-China relations.

Beijing, as expected, slammed all of those moves by the Trump administration.

It is currently unclear what President-elect Joe Biden's stance is on Taiwan, said Feingold. He told CNBC in an email that Biden may simply continue with policies that the Trump administration has implemented.

"The enthusiasm for new or bold additional moves might be different, or non-existent," he said.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Ross Feingold is no longer associated with DC International Advisory.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect that the U.S. State Department has canceled all travel this week, including a planned visit to Taiwan.