2024-0314: Biden Backs Peace Across Taiwan Strait; U.S. House Passes “TikTok Ban” Bill

Biden Backs Peace Across Taiwan Strait in His State of the Union Address

During his State of the Union address on March 7, U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to support peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and stand up against China’s unfair economic practices.

“We’re standing up . . . for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Biden said.

It was the first time that security in the Taiwan Strait had been mentioned in a Biden State of the Union address, his third since taking office in 2021.

Regarding China, Biden said that the U.S. wants “competition . . . but not conflict,” adding that “we’re in a stronger position to win the competition for the 21st century against China or anyone else for that matter.”

While “standing up against China’s unfair economic practices,” the U.S. has reduced its trade deficit with China to a decade-low and ensured that none of the most advanced U.S. technologies are used in China’s weapons, he said.

Meanwhile, the White House’s 2025 fiscal budget proposal, released on March 11, includes a US$100 million request to assist Taiwan in enhancing deterrence capabilities, and maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of State described the US$100 million request as a “historic investment in Taiwan’s security” through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) mechanism “to strengthen deterrence and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

During a press briefing on March 11, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Richard Verma said the request was “historic” because it would create a dedicated funding item for Taiwan.

“We break out Taiwan for the first time and have a specific line item for it. It reaffirms our commitment to security assistance for Taiwan and to a free and open Indo-Pacific. I think it’s very clear. I think it stands on its own,” Verma said.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202403080012
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2024/03/09/2003814657
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202403120006
[4] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2024/03/13/2003814842

U.S. House Overwhelmingly Passes “TikTok Ban” Bill

On March 13, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” (H.R.7521), which would give TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, six months to sell its controlling stake or the popular short-video app would be banned in the U.S.

The bill passed the House 352-65, with bipartisan support, but it faces a more uncertain path in the Senate where some favor a different approach to regulating foreign-owned apps that could pose national security concerns. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has not indicated how he plans to proceed.

The vote came just over a week since the bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on March 5. The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 50-0 in favor of the bill on March 7, setting it up for a vote before the full House.

Last week, President Joe Biden said that he would sign the bill.

On March 12, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the goal was ending Chinese ownership, not banning TikTok.

“Do we want TikTok, as a platform, to be owned by an American company or owned by China? Do we want the data from TikTok — children’s data, adults’ data — . . . to be staying here in America or going to China?” Sullivan said.

It is unclear whether China would approve any sale or if TikTok’s U.S. assets could be divested in six months.

If ByteDance failed to do so, app stores operated by Apple, Alphabet’s Google and others could not legally offer TikTok or provide web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications.

Any forced TikTok divestment from the U.S. would almost certainly face legal challenges. In November 2023, a U.S. judge blocked a Montana state ban on TikTok use after the company sued.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2024/03/14/2003814895