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Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy met on Wednesday with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, ignoring threats of “retaliations” from Beijing, which perceives this event as “a provocation” on the part of the United States.
Republican leader of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California on Wednesday April 5 for an interview that provoked the ire of China.
In the city of Simi Valley, pro-Beijing and pro-Taiwan protesters faced off outside the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as the leader, officially in ‘transit’ from the United States, arrived on her way home after touring Latin America.
This meeting greatly irritates Beijing, which has promised to “retaliate” – in recent weeks, the Chinese authorities have multiplied angry statements.
China considers that Taiwan is one of its provinces to be taken back, favoring “peaceful reunification”, but without excluding the use of force. In the name of its “One China” principle, no country is supposed to maintain official ties with Beijing and Taipei at the same time.
In a final warning issued on Monday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs recalled that “China is firmly opposed” to the interview between the third figure of the American state and the Taiwanese leader, from an independence party.
Beijing also explained that it was ready to “firmly defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity”, without expressly mentioning possible military maneuvers.
The United States has long maintained a “strategic ambiguity” on the Taiwan question. This doctrine aims as much to deter China from invading Taiwan as to prevent the island’s leaders from provoking Beijing by officially declaring its independence.
The previous Pelosi
Washington has recognized Beijing since 1979, but remains Taiwan’s strongest ally and main arms supplier. Support for the island is one of the few bipartisan consensuses in the U.S. Congress, and under Tsai Ing-wen’s tenure, Taiwan has moved closer to the United States.
Last August, the Taiwanese president received in Taiwan the democrat Nancy Pelosi, at the head of the House of Representatives before Kevin McCarthy.
This visit had angered Beijing, which had carried out military exercises around the island on an unprecedented scale since the mid-1990s.
Kevin McCarthy “still wants to play the Taiwan card” in order to contain Beijing, the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles said on Monday. “He will no doubt make the same mistake again, which will further damage the China-US relationship.”
Like Nancy Pelosi, the Republican leader initially wanted to go to Taiwan. He finally opted for a less frontal approach, meeting Tsai Ing-wen with several congressmen in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
The Biden administration has also played down the importance of this meeting: Secretary of State Antony Blinken indicated on Wednesday that it was only a “transit” of the Taiwanese leader, and not an official visit. . He called on Beijing not to use the interview as an “excuse” to “raise tensions”.
“China must respond”
“China’s response will depend in part (…) on what McCarthy will say publicly after the meeting,” judge with AFP Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program of the American think tank German Marshall Fund.
But for this specialist, the rhetoric used by Beijing at the time of the meeting with Nancy Pelosi forces the Chinese government to show its muscles again.
“China has already made quite threatening statements, which suggests that it must respond one way or another,” she summarizes. Without a strong reaction, Chinese President “Xi Jinping risks appearing weak.”
For his part, Tsai Ing-wen, whose presidential term ends next year, seeks to show that Beijing has failed to diplomatically isolate Taiwan since it came to power in 2016.
China has convinced several countries to no longer recognize Taiwan in recent years – most recently, Honduras announced its decision in late March.
Only 13 states still recognize Taiwan, including Belize and Guatemala, which Tsai Ing-wen visited during her tour, after a first stop in New York. Before handing over, the leader wishes to cement the confidence of the Taiwanese in her formation, the Democratic Progressive Party.
“She wants to show her fellow citizens (…) that she has created a solid, strong and unprecedented relationship of trust with the United States, which is very important for Taiwan’s security”, concludes Bonnie Glaser.