On February 28, the US Senate passed H.R. 535, the Taiwan Travel Act. According to Congress.com this piece of legislation allows for: 1. US officials of all levels to travel to Taiwan in order to meet with their Taiwanese counterparts. 2. Allows high-level Taiwanese officials to enter the US “under respectful conditions” and meet with US officials, this includes those of the Department of Defense and State. 3. Encourages the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, and other offices “instrumentally established” by Taiwan, to conduct business in the US.
This sort of communication should be encouraged between the two allies. For a long time it has been a touchy subject for US representatives to in any way acknowledge Taiwan. Even phone calls are scrutinized by the Chinese Communist Party. This is even more imperative as China attempts to tighten its grip on the democratic island. However, this is a mostly symbolic gesture to Taiwan. Before this bill the United States was in no way restricted from such meetings, except desiring not to draw the ire of China. If Trump decides to sign this bill it will still not force these US officials to meet their counterparts. Though, I think it is a step in the right direction. It encourages more communication with Taiwan, which could elevate its international status which would be a big boost for the island nation.
Currently Taiwan is barred from large international groups such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations. This not only takes away Taiwan’s voice in international matters, it also could greatly endanger the nation. For instance, in a case of an outbreak of disease it would be much harder to organize international support and effective communication between Taiwan and other countries. This would not only hurt Taiwan, but could also devastate the rest of the world were a large-scale illness begin to spread. Pushing for greater recognition of Taiwan from the international community should serve everyone’s interests, excluding that of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Communist Party’s dissatisfaction with Taiwanese autonomy is already evident with China’s responses in the past. For example in 2010, China cut off military ties with the US for nearly a year after an arms deal between America and Taiwan. Their reaction over this bill seems as if it will be just as rabid as before, if not more so.
“If she (Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen) persisted, it would lead to the inevitable consequence of triggering the Anti-Secession Law that allows Beijing to use the force of the military to prevent the island from seceding,” this is what was said in an editorial in China Daily, a Chinese State propaganda outlet, after the passage of the Taiwan Travel Act.
In this and other outlets it seems that China is willing to die on the hill of Taiwan. Though we shall see if this is just rhetoric. I hope for the sake of the Taiwanese people, and selfishly for me, that this is just political grandstanding. I hope that the US stays strong in its support of Taiwan as an arbitrator of freedom and democracy and Asia and to its pledge to protect the nation from the mainland. I hope that they send diplomats to strengthen ties, which in turn creates more recognition for this great island nation.