Republican U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday, April 5th.
The meeting was not part of Tsai's official visit to the United States but a transit on her way back to Taiwan from a ten-day visit to Central American countries Guatemala and Belize.
However, the sporadic nature of McCarthy and Tsai’s meeting did not diminish its significance, especially given that McCarthy is the highest-ranking U.S official to meet with a Taiwanese president on U.S. territory since 1979, when the United States established formal diplomatic relations with China.
In a joint statement following the closed-door meeting at the Reagan Library, McCarthy pointed out that the values of democracy and peace established by Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, have always been the foundation of partnership with Taiwan.
In addition, he claimed that the strong bonds and cooperation between the two countries are expanding through dialogue, exchange, and shared values, considering this friendship important to the Free World.
Taiwan is a "successful democracy, a thriving economy, and a global leader in health and science." McCarthy added.
On the other hand, he also warned that “tensions in this world are at their highest point since the end of the Cold War, as authoritarian leaders seek to use violence and fear to provoke a needless conflict.”
Speaker McCarthy is known for his strong opposition to China and considers it a real threat to his country. A few months ago, he contributed to a Fox News editorial claiming that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the greatest threat to the United States, accusing Beijing of exporting totalitarianism, aggression, and ideological control.
Also, he considered that Beijing pretended to rise peacefully and called on his country to stand up to the CCP. In this line, he has consistently upheld supporting Taiwan to enhance its self-power and independence away from China.
In the article, he used the term “Cold War” again and stressed the US must “respond to Chinese aggression with tough policies to strengthen our economy, rebuild our supply chains, speak out for human rights, stand against military aggression, and end the theft of Americans’ personal information, intellectual property, and jobs.”
As for the President of Taiwan, she first thanked Speaker McCarthy for the "warm hospitality and invitation to bipartisan Congressional leaders," which both Republicans and Democrats attended the event.
President Tsai assumed that this American consensus on supporting Taiwan confirms that her country is not isolated. Also, she recalled President Reagan's essential role in strengthening U.S.-Taiwan relations and said he laid the foundations for "a strong and unique partnership of over four decades."
Furthermore, she declared that the peace and democracy in Taiwan, which have resulted from the strong partnership with the US, are currently facing a unique threat, referring to the conflict with China. She emphasized the need to constantly defend Taiwan's freedom, warning that it could be lost if left unchecked.
Consequently, Tsai expressed her gratitude to the United States for standing by Taiwan and strengthening their partnership, particularly in initiatives to enhance Taiwan's self-defense capabilities and promote trade and economic relations.
In this context, she recalled the words of Ronald Reagan, stating, "To persevere in peace, we must be strong." She added that "we are stronger when we work together."
The news of the meeting between McCarthy and Tai had spread in the media. As a result, pro-Chinese and pro-Taiwan protesters assembled in opposing groups in front of the Ronald Reagan Library after McCarthy and Tsai entered it.
Moreover, a tiny plane flew above the meeting location carrying a pro-Beijing banner that said, "One China! Taiwan is a part of China!" according to Al Jazeera.
China's Reaction to the Meeting:
Undoubtedly, the meeting between McCarthy and Tsai infuriated China, which had already expressed its anger upon McCarthy's announcement of the meeting.
Beijing believes that Taiwan is part of "One China" and not an independent land from it, so it must be represented as a Chinese territory and derive its legitimacy from the government of the People’s Republic of China.
Therefore, Beijing considers Tsai's reception by any other country as president of Taiwan an act of provocation to China because it is a recognition of Taiwan's independence from China, contrary to what China sees.
Indeed, the Chinese government magnified the meeting between the President of Taiwan and the "third man in the American government" and considered it a high-level meeting and not just a "transit" or "stopover," as stated in the American statements and media.
In a statement issued Thursday in Beijing, the foreign ministry accused US officials who spoke with Tsai of "providing the platform for her separatist rhetoric for Taiwan independence" despite China's severe and repeated warnings.
In addition, the statement accused the United States of violating China's sovereignty by supporting "Taiwan independence" activities through official exchanges with Taiwan, such as weapons sales and military transactions. Also, China claimed that this relationship between the United States and Taiwan is dangerous and illegitimate and that the United States is exploiting Taiwan and betraying its obligations.
"The one-China principle is a prevailing consensus of the international community and a basic norm in international relations. It is also the prerequisite and basis for the establishment and development of China-US diplomatic relations. In the three China-U.S. joint communiqués, the United States made a clear commitment of maintaining only unofficial relations with Taiwan." the statement added.
Accordingly, China has taken firm and determined actions to protect its sovereignty and has once again asked the United States to adhere to the one-China principle, describing the Taiwan question as "the first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations."
Beijing did not make this claim in vain because McCarthy stressed his country would make sure to "continue the arms sales to Taiwan and make sure such sales reach Taiwan on a very timely basis" in addition to expanding economic cooperation, Reuters reported.
In an expected reaction, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced countermeasures against two US institutions and their leaders after the McCarthy-Tsai meeting at the Reagan Library.
The decision sanctioned the Hudson Institute and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in addition to four individuals, including Sarah May Stern, Chair of the Hudson Institute Board of Trustees, and John P. Walters, President and CEO of the Hudson Institute.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China sanctioned these two institutions and their leaders because they "provided a platform and facilitation" for "Tsai Ing-wen’s Taiwan independence separatist activities."
"It is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-U.S. joint communiqués and a grave infringement upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," China re-emphasized.
Furthermore, China declared on Friday that it would conduct military maneuvers near Taiwan's shore. According to Bloomberg, the live-fire drills will take place in the Taiwan Strait off the coast of Pingtan County on April 10 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In the same context, twenty Chinese military planes and three warships were spotted in areas around Taiwan on Monday, April 3, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) said.
Since the announcement of the McCarthy-Tsai meeting, the MND has been recording all of China's military movements around Taiwan daily. Some flights were shot into the southwestern part of Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
This Chinese military action around Taiwan recalled what happened after the visit of former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in August 2022, when Beijing responded by conducting large-scale military exercises around the island of Taiwan.
In conclusion, the meeting between McCarthy and Tsai has elicited a strong response from China, which believes that the US uses Taiwan or the Taiwan question as it's referred to for its interests and to protect against China. There has been much talk recently about the rise of the China model as a great country capable of competing with the United States and securing a multipolar world order with greater democracy in international relations, as Beijing has put it.
Furthermore, China has been active in the Middle East, contributing to re-establishing ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which had been strained for many years. President Xi recently visited Russia, confirming the continuation and improvement of the relationship between Beijing and Moscow. The features of a new world order may no longer be just speculation or expectation, as we may have seen glimpses of recently.
However, will Taiwan pose an obstacle for China in completing its rise and achieving what it has publicly put forward since the announcement of the statement of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party?
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