The Chinese government warned this weekend that it will use “military pressure” against the United States if it does not “correct its mistake” of passing the Taiwan Travel Act, a law that encourages Taiwanese government officials to visit America and vice versa.
China considers Taiwan a secessionist province with no legitimate federal government. The United States operates under the “One China” policy as interpreted in the Taiwan Relations Act, which recognizes the existence of only one nation called “China” but also maintains friendly relations with the sovereign government of Taiwan. While China has incessantly objected to any ties between Taipei and Washington, the Taiwan Travel Act has triggered greater outrage than usual because it grants special status to members of the Taiwanese government that implies a recognition of the legitimacy of that government.
President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act into law on Friday, allowing high-level diplomatic engagement between Taiwanese and American officials and opening the way for unrestricted travel to the U.S. for Taiwanese officials.
The Global Times, China’s most bellicose English-language government newspaper, cited “experts” who predicted China would react militarily to the news. “China will and should take timely countermeasures against the U.S. and all ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces through diplomatic and military means,” the Times claimed that “Chinese observers” were arguing.
“The passing of the act is a serious political provocation, as it has crossed the ‘red line’ and will thoroughly undermine relations,” a retired Chinese general, Xu Guangyu, told the newspaper.
Another “expert” told the newspaper that China will respond to any elevated clamor for independence from Taiwan with “military probes circling the island and send more military vessels and airplanes to patrol the Straits.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not threaten military action, as it has no control over the People’s Liberation Army, but in a statement, it did demand Washington “correct its mistake.”
“We urge the US side to correct its mistake, stop pursuing any official ties with Taiwan or improving its current relations with Taiwan in any substantive way,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement. “As has been pointed out many times by China, the relevant clauses of the act, though not legally binding, severely violate the one-China principle and the three joint communiques between China and the United States.”
The nation’s Defense Ministry also weighed in, accusing the United States of having “interfered in the internal affairs of China and injured the environment for the development of relations between the two countries’ militaries.”
Conversely, the Taiwanese government has applauded the law, calling it a “friendly move” and expressing gratitude for the recognition from Washington.
“The relationship between Taiwan and the US is close, and has been consolidated after efforts by both sides in recent years,” Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement. “The US executive branch has sent more senior officials to Taiwan since Trump has come to office.”
The Trump administration has improved diplomatic ties with Taiwan in the past two years. President Trump broke years of informal protocol by speaking to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on the phone following his election, as the fellow head of state called to congratulate him on being elected president. Tsai also briefly visited the United States in October, a layover in Hawaii that Beijing called “deplorable.”
China has also escalated its rhetoric regarding Taiwan’s independence as Xi Jinping has asserted himself as totalitarian ruler on the mainland. Included in Xi’s sprawling three-hour speech to the Chinese Communist Party Congress in October was a warning to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other semi-independent entities that he would end their autonomy, a threat Taiwan responded to resolutely.
“The Republic of China is a sovereign state and we will protect our sovereignty,” Chiu Chiu-cheng, deputy head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said in a statement that month in response to Xi’s speech.
Since then, Chinese embassy minister, Li Kexin, speaking in the United States, has threatened to invade and colonize Taiwan if the United States bonds too closely to Taiwan militarily.
“The day that a US Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force,” he stated, referring to a port city in southwestern Taiwan.