Last week, the United States officially unveiled a multimillion-dollar new complex for its de facto embassy in Taiwan — the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which underwent a $255 million renovation.
The building was opened on June 12, the same day as the historic Singapore summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
According to the Washington Post, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou attended the opening ceremony, which was seen as a symbol of America’s ongoing commitment to Taiwan.
“I offer you this, a tangible symbol that the United States is here to stay,” said AIT director Kin Moy.
China was not happy with this so-called symbolism.
“The US, by sending officials to Taiwan under whatever pretext, severely violates the one-China principle and three China-US joint communiques, interferes in China’s internal affairs and exerts negative impact on China-US relations,” said Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, on the day of the ceremony.
Washington has not formally recognised Taipei for decades, but has maintained a full diplomatic relationship with the country, including the ongoing sale of high-end weaponry.
“China is not happy with the scope and scale of the US relationship with Taiwan, particularly in the security field,” wrote Richard Bush, a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan. “This new, not inexpensive building signifies a strong and enduring American commitment to the island and its people.”
He said Beijing “objects to US actions that suggest its relationship with Taiwan is actually official”, noting that the symbolism behind this building would “violate the one-China principle” from the Communist Party’s perspective.
Beijing has recently upped its campaign to isolate Taiwan and weaken the island nation’s ties with the rest of the world.
Despite a shared cultural and linguistic heritage, the two sides have been governed separately since 1949.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has moved to restrict the island country’s international influence, blocking its participation in global organisations like the World Health Organisation.
The larger country has also shown international companies and brands it’s serious about not acknowledging Taiwan’s independence.
Last month US clothing retailer Gap was forced to remove a T-shirt which showed an “incorrect map” of China because it left off Taiwan and disputed territories in the South China Sea.
Hundreds of complaints came rolling in on social media over a post featuring the T-shirt, and the retailer later issued an apology.
In January this year, a Chinese regulator suspended Marriott International’s Chinese website and mobile app for a week after it listed four China-claimed territories — Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet — as separate countries.
Earlier this month, Qantas confirmed its intentions to change its website to refer to Taiwan as a Chinese territory, as opposed to an independent nation.