Talk of U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) caving to China by not making a trip to Taiwan, as he said in July he would “love to do,” is a step backward for the United States and its partners in Asia.
McCarthy and Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen announced a meeting in the United States, which is good, but it is causing speculation that they will backtrack on the precedent set by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) when she visited the island democracy in August and “set a new status quo.”
After reports of McCarthy’s plans to visit Taiwan, as early as within the next couple of months, Beijing warned against official interactions with the country. Now Beijing’s threats appear to be pushing McCarthy to moderate his enthusiasm.
Speaker Pelosi’s visit was followed by a massive uptick in Chinese cyber, air force, and naval activity around the island, which amounted to a blockade exercise. Beijing launched ballistic missiles over Taiwan and canceled eight dialogues with the United States, including on military, climate, and counternarcotics issues.
Among the suspended talks were those on combating the overdose crisis, which killed 107,000 Americans in 2021. Most of those deaths can be traced to illegal fentanyl and its precursors, trafficked from China through Mexico.
Tsai’s administration reportedly provided intelligence to McCarthy about the increased threat from China that could result from his visit, which along with his office’s failure to publicly confirm his plans, suggests that he is in the process of a flip-flop.
The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that “Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, has convinced U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to meet in California rather than Taipei to avoid an aggressive Chinese military response, as tensions run high between Beijing and Washington.”
On Monday, Taiwan’s defense minister warned that the Chinese military was “looking for pretexts like foreign senior officials visiting” to escalate its aggression, including risk of “sudden entry” just 24 nautical miles off Taiwan’s coast.
The Financial Times quoted Taiwanese officials, one of whom said, “There might be policies even more irrational than in the past emanating from Beijing. If we can try to control this together, the risks it brings for everybody can be contained better.”
One official defended Tsai’s trip to the United States, which could similarly increase the risk from Beijing, by noting that the risk must be managed, but that “pushing the status quo backward is not the way.”
If McCarthy fails to visit Taiwan, in contrast to Pelosi, the status quo would indeed be pushed backward. Beijing’s bullying strategy of military buildup, diplomatic retaliation, threats, and incrementalism would win the day.
While McCarthy’s office claimed that his visit with Tsai in the United States would not affect his plans one way or another to visit Taipei, his failure to reaffirm those plans in the context of questioning appears to be a flip-flop.
This contrasts with Nancy Pelosi, who pushed forward with a visit in the teeth of military threats from Beijing, and President Joe Biden, who said on four occasions that he would defend Taiwan militarily from an invasion by China.
One would think Republicans are measurably tougher on China, not weaker, than Democrats. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), for example, is keeping to the right of his Democratic colleagues on the new House committee on competition with the China.
China is attempting to force the United States and its partners out of Asia so that Xi Jinping can realize his “China Dream” of first regional, and then global, hegemony.
It appears to be paying dividends as the balance of power shifts from Washington to Beijing. The United States is weakening, with a national debt of over $31 trillion, a string of costly U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Ukraine, and large-scale deaths in the United States attributable to the pandemic and the fentanyl crisis.
That the United States has retreated from Taiwan diplomatically and militarily since the 1970s, along with Beijing’s increasing belligerence toward the island, which could be invaded as early as this year, are measurable indicators of the United States’ loss of power relative to China. McCarthy’s Taiwan waffle is the latest retreat.
We need a new strategy to roll back China and return Taiwan to the assured independence that every democracy deserves. If Beijing succeeds, it could use Taiwan, including its computer chip industry and strong economy, to strengthen China against us.
To defend ourselves, we need to strengthen our economic and military power, and that of our allies, to the point that Taiwan is fully secure from attack. Then perhaps Speaker McCarthy wouldn’t be so scared to visit.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
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