An outraged Communist Party of China reacted with threats Wednesday following the passing of a bill intended to help Taiwan’s allies withstand pressure from Beijing in both the Senate and the House Foreign Relations Committee.
The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019, among other things, instructs the government to “support Taiwan in strengthening its official diplomatic relationships,” urge international organizations to allow Taiwan membership despite Chinese pressure not to recognize the country’s sovereignty, and entice nations to develop relations with Taiwan by offering closer ties to the United States.
Conversely, the bill urges America’s diplomats to “consider, in certain cases as appropriate and in alignment with United States interests, reducing its economic, security, and diplomatic engagement with nations that take serious or significant actions to undermine Taiwan.”
The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
As part of its “One China” policy, the Communist Party makes any diplomatic relations with China contingent upon nations refusing to accept the sovereignty of independent Taiwan, which has governed itself as a functional, peaceful democracy for decades. Only 15 countries have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, at the expense of diplomatic relations with China.
The TAIPEI Act passed the Senate with bipartisan support on Tuesday. The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee passed it unanimously on Wednesday, which now sends it to a floor vote in the lower chamber. If passed, it will go to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed.
Many of Taiwan’s allies are small or developing countries, which makes them especially vulnerable to economic and diplomatic bullying by China. Under President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan has become more assertive in seeking global recognition in organizations like Interpol and the World Health Organization (WHO), which has made Beijing more belligerent in trying to cut Taipei off from the world.
The bullying has been partially success. Taiwan lost two allies – Kiribati and the Solomon Islands – this year. Those who have remained close to Taiwan have become more vocal on the world stage however, using September’s U.N. General Assembly to demand a seat at the table for Taiwan.
Taiwan’s representative office in the United States, which acts as a de facto embassy in light of no formal diplomatic ties, thanked Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) for introducing the bill and organizing its universal passage through the House committee.
“Taiwan will continue working closely with the U.S. and other like-minded countries in the region to contribute to peace, stability, and wellbeing in the Indo-Pacific region,” the office stated.
Thank you @RepJohnCurtis and @HouseForeignGOP for passing TAIPEI Act. #Taiwan will continue working closely with the US and other like-minded countries in the region to contribute to peace, stability, and wellbeing in the Indo-Pacific region. 謝謝！ https://t.co/NCK1ZvJbKL
— Taiwan in the US (@TECRO_USA) October 30, 2019
China’s state propaganda outlets dismissed the bill and threatened retribution from Beijing if it reaches President Trump’s desk.
This is a completely unreasonable bill, which expresses the self-righteous feelings and aspirations of many members of the US Congress,” the Global Times, an English-language Chinese communist newspaper, declared on Wednesday. “China will certainly not take this act seriously. It will launch new measures to combat ‘Taiwan independence’ in accordance with its own principles and pace.”
The Times went on to declare that China has “absolute confidence” it could destroy Taiwan militarily and China could “change its Taiwan policy overnight,” implying an invasion that would likely kill thousands if not millions of civilians.
“No country in the world is willing to become a real enemy of China, including the US, which just declared that China is its strategic competitor,” the Times declared. “If Taiwan authorities insist on being hostile toward Beijing, it will lead to a catastrophe to themselves sooner or later. By then, even the US won’t be able to save them.”
The Global Times also cited communist “experts” who accused Washington of “coercion” to convince the world to accept the reality of Taiwan’s sovereignty, which Cihna rejects.
“The bill itself showcases US congressmen’s arrogance and ignorance of the world major trend,” one “expert” said. “The small number of nations that remain ‘diplomatic relations’ with the island would continue to choose to turn to mainland for the sake of their own interests, regardless of US empty coercion on paper.”
China reacted similarly last year when Congress passed the Taiwan Travel Act, which facilitated travel by Taiwanese officials and diplomats to the United States, threatening “military pressure” on America if it did not “correct its mistake.” Washington has not repealed or in any way diminished the effects of the Taiwan Travel Act and China has taken no direct military action against the United States.
Taiwan has expressed growing concern with China’s belligerence under dictator Xi Jinping, who has repeatedly threatened a military invasion of Taiwan. The South China Morning Post reported on Thursday that Taiwan will make an official request to the United States to “help assess its combat potential” in light of the looming threat.
“With the help of the US, our two sides will form an ad hoc committee to jointly assess the military strength and the defense needs of Taiwan,” Miao Hui-feng, head of the defence ministry’s integrated assessment department, said on Wednesday. Taiwan will send military officials to Washington for talks, a move made less cumbersome by the Taiwan Travel Act.
“This is very important military cooperation between the US and Taiwan and is a concrete way to consolidate the implementation of the Taiwan Travel Act,” Miao reportedly said. American officials will also visit Taipei for ongoing military readiness discussions.
President Tsai Ing-wen urged the world to help Taiwan defend against China’s growing colonialism in the region during her National Day speech this month.
“We are witnessing China’s rise and expansion, as they challenge free, democratic values and the global order through a combination of authoritarianism, nationalism, and economic might,” Tsai said. “As the strategic forefront of the Indo-Pacific region, Taiwan has become the first line of defense for democratic values.”