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China Threatens Retaliation if Speaker McCarthy and Taiwan’s President Meet
Afraid to offend China, the Biden administration lays low.
By Joseph Klein
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is planning to meet with House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy during her upcoming stop in Los Angeles on April 5th, following her earlier stopovers in New York and Central America. The Chinese regime is furious, claiming that such a meeting, even on U.S. soil, would somehow harm China’s own sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Communist dictatorship is threatening grave consequences if the meeting proceeds.
Zhu Fenglian, the spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, warned that if a meeting between President Tsai and Speaker McCarthy takes place, China would “definitely take measures to resolutely fight back.”
Xu Xueyuan, charge d’affaires at China’s embassy in Washington, delivered a similar threat, telling reporters that a meeting between President Tsai and Speaker McCarthy “could lead to another serious confrontation in the China-U.S. relationship.” She added, “We have made solemn representations to the U.S. side on many occasions and clearly told them that all consequences should be borne by the U.S. side.”
China certainly means business as it demonstrated last August when former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. China’s response was a blunt show of force, including launching missiles over Taiwan and conducting live-fire military drills in the waters surrounding Taiwan.
Nevertheless, Taiwan’s President Tsai is unbowed. “We are calm and confident, will neither yield nor provoke. Taiwan will soundly walk along the path of freedom and democracy and go global,” she declared.
As for President Biden, despite his bluster about defending Taiwan with U.S. military forces if the Chinese regime invades Taiwan, which his aides had to walk back several times, the cat has got his tongue this time.
The Biden administration should be objecting vociferously to China’s brazen attempt to veto whom U.S. government officials are permitted to meet with, especially within the sovereign territory of the United States. But instead of standing up for Speaker McCarthy’s decision to meet with President Tsai in Los Angeles, the administration’s response to China’s threats has been milquetoast so far.
Aggressive dictatorships respect strength and exploit any sign of weakness. The only way to deal effectively with China’s bullying is to push back even harder. But that is not what the Biden administration has done.
At a March 29th White House press briefing, the Biden administration’s National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby, said that the Chinese should not “react harshly or overreact in any way” to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with Speaker McCarthy during her “transit” in the United States. “This transit is consistent with our longstanding, unofficial relationship with Taiwan, and it is consistent with the United States’ One China policy, which remains unchanged,” Mr. Kirby added. “It is Taiwan’s decision to make these transits based on their own travel. Transits are not visits. They are private, and they’re unofficial.” (Emphasis added)
John Kirby, speaking on behalf of the White House’s National Security Council, should have unambiguously backed Speaker McCarthy’s right to meet with President Tsai whenever and wherever he wishes. He should have told the Chinese regime in no uncertain terms to butt out.
But Kirby took the opposite approach. He failed to deliver even a tap on the wrist to the Chinese regime for using intimidation tactics to try and derail the meeting in Los Angeles between Speaker McCarthy and President Tsai. Fortunately, neither Speaker McCarthy nor President Tsai has given any indication of backing down from holding their meeting.
Mr. Kirby is correct that the United States has followed a One China policy for decades. Yes, this means that the U.S. does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan as an independent nation. And yes, the United States recognizes the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the sole sovereign state representing China at the United Nations and other inter-governmental bodies. But the United States and Taiwan have strong commercial, economic, technological, defense, and people-to-people ties. Informal meetings between American and Taiwanese government officials are part of that unofficial relationship, whether the Chinese Communist regime likes it or not.
Walking on eggshells to avoid offending the PRC because of an informal, unofficial meeting between President Tsai and Speaker McCarthy is yet another sign of weakness that the Biden administration regularly displays to America’s adversaries.
The PRC has been engaging in carrot and stick policies to isolate Taiwan on the world stage for years. It has successfully used its economic prowess, including trade and major investments, to bring most nations to its side in asserting complete dominion over Taiwan. Thus, only a handful of countries still have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
The latest county to sever its ties with Taiwan and switch its allegiance to the Chinese Communist regime is Honduras. That is why, in addition to her stopovers in the United States, President Tsai’s travel itinerary has included Guatemala and Belize, two Central American companies that so far have stuck with Taiwan. She is trying to stave off any more defections.
The Communist regime has also co-opted the United Nations bureaucracy in the service of treating Taiwan as a pariah and its people as personae non gratae.
Taiwanese, for example, have not been permitted to participate in U.N. activities, including attendance as observers at the World Health Organization’s annual forum at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Taiwanese reporters have not been allowed to attend U.N. press briefings to ask questions. Even Taiwanese tourists who lack an official government ID issued by a U.N. member state are prohibited from entering the U.N. premises to take a visitors’ tour. IDs issued by the Taiwanese government do not count although Taiwanese passports are good enough for entry into the U.N.’s host country, the United States.
The justification for the U.N.’s giving the cold shoulder to Taiwan is United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, adopted in 1971. This resolution set forth the U.N. member states’ decision to recognize the representatives of the People’s Republic of China as “the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations.” The resolution also provided that “the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek,” the leader of the Republic of China, would be expelled “from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it.”
Nothing in the resolution, however, said anything about prohibiting Taiwanese citizens from participating in or observing U.N. proceedings or even taking a tour of U.N. facilities without the approval of the Chinese Communist regime. Nevertheless, in 2007, former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, citing Resolution 2758, declared that “the United Nations considers Taiwan for all purposes to be an integral part of the People’s Republic of China.” (Emphasis added)
The United Nations system continues to this day to treat the Taiwanese people and their leaders as vassals of the Chinese Communist regime who must get the regime’s permission before having anything to do with the United Nations.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement in October 2021 encouraging the international community to join the United States in “supporting Taiwan’s robust, meaningful participation throughout the U.N. system.” He noted that while people from all over the world regularly participate in a variety of activities at the U.N., the Taiwanese people are the exception. “Taiwan‘s scientists, technical experts, business persons, artists, educators, students, human rights advocates, and others are blocked from entry and participating in these activities simply because of the passports they hold,” Secretary of State Blinken said.
But the Biden administration as usual is all words and no action. Simply praising what Taiwan can do for the U.N. will not overcome the Chinese regime’s use of its considerable economic leverage to pressure U.N. member states and the U.N. itself into treating the Taiwanese people as unwelcome intruders.
The United States, as the largest contributor to the U.N. by far, should use its own leverage over U.N. financing to insist on “Taiwan’s robust, meaningful participation throughout the U.N. System.”
Moreover, it is not too late for a senior State Department official, if not Secretary of State Blinken himself, to join President Tsai’s meeting with Speaker McCarthy in Los Angeles. We all know, however, that with this weak-kneed administration there is a ghost of a chance for that to happen.