Stanley Kao, the Taiwanese envoy to the United States, told a crowd at a parade in Washington D.C. this weekend that Taipei sees America as a “natural partner and ally” and said his government hoped to expand ties with the White House.
The remarks were part of an event celebrating the Lunar New Year. “Kao said the relationship was based on shared values, including human rights, democracy, and freedom of the press, religion and assembly,” according to the South China Morning Post. The list notably contained values appreciably lacking among the leaders of the government of China, which refuses to accept Taiwan’s sovereignty and instead addresses the island as a rogue state.
Kao was hand-picked by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s highest-ranking representative in Washington. Taiwan does not have an official embassy due to the “One China” policy which is necessary for any country to have bilateral relations with China: the official refusal to acknowledge the sovereignty of Taiwan. “One China” has been standing U.S. policy for decades.
Following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Kao expressed “optimism” about the new administration. Kao has previously referred to bilateral ties with the United States as the most important aspect of Taiwanese foreign policy. Long before swearing into the office, President Trump broke with a major tenet of “One China” policy by accepting a congratulatory call from President Tsai following the election, irritating Beijing.
The Chinese government, through its official media channels, has repeatedly expressed displeasure at Tsai’s proactive approach to acquiring allies on in the international community. On Tuesday, for example, the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times ran a column warning Taiwan that its allies in the international community are fickle and accusing Taiwan of buying support for their sovereignty.
“Beijing’s appeal is so powerful that every rational nation with a strategic vision simply wants to maintain its diplomatic ties with Beijing,” the column read. “This type of powerful appeal cannot realistically be replaced with monetary promises made by Taiwan.”
While the latest opinions from the Global Times regarding the United States are less violent that usual — the Global Times has repeatedly warned of impending war between the two countries — other avenues of Chinese government opinion have not toned down the rhetoric. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), for example, published a commentary earlier this week arguing that the threat of war between Washington and Beijing is “more real” with President Trump, given the new White House’s support for both Taiwan and other countries that China has antagonized in the South China Sea.
The publication China Daily ran a column a week before the PLA statement warning Trump that China will “have no choice but to take off the gloves” if he continued to suggest that Washington may abandon the “One China” policy during his tenure. The Global Times did not at the time run a column threatening the United States, instead opting for a piece claiming that, if Trump continued to discuss the abandoning of “One China” publicly, “Taiwan may be sacrificed as a result of this despicable strategy.”
China also protested both the presence of some officials tied to President Tsai’s attending Donald Trump’s inauguration and Tsai’s trip to Latin America. Before visiting allies in four states in Central and South America, Tsai stopped in Texas for an in-person meeting with Republican Senator Ted Cruz, among other officials.