Summary

A combination of events in East Asia are serving to highlight the delicate geopolitical balance that the incoming Biden administration must walk with regard to US-China relations, and particularly the status of Taiwan.

First is the daily encroachments into Taiwanese airspace by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft. 13 PLA planes entered Taiwan’s air defense zone on January 23, including eight nuclear-capable bombers. One day later, another 15 aircraft crossed into the zone, including 12 fighters. Both incidents took place near the Pratas Islands, which are around 550 km off the southwest shore of Taiwan’s main island, and are home to a small military base.

Second is the proximity of the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group, which is currently conducting ‘freedom of the seas’ operations in the South China Sea.

And so the stage is set for the Biden administration’s first test in handling the US-China relationship. It will surely be one of many.