The U.S. Senate and House foreign affairs committee recently passed versions of a bill that would boost Taiwan’s ability to safeguard its sovereignty and fend off Beijing’s intimidation, paving the way toward the legislation’s formal approval.
Taiwan is a full-fledged democracy with its own elected officials and military. However, Beijing views its democratic neighbor as a renegade province that should be united with the mainland, with military force if necessary. Recently, it has pressured Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to drop their ties in favor of the Chinese regime.
The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act calls for a decrease in U.S. engagements with countries that “undermine ties with Taiwan.”
The Senate unanimously passed its version of the bill on Oct. 29. A day later, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed its bill unanimously, allowing it to proceed to the House floor.
The entire House will next vote on the bill. If it passes the House, the TAIPEI Act will then be handed to the president to sign into law.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her gratitude to the U.S. Congress for its support on Oct. 31, while meeting with Richard Bush, former director of the U.S. de-facto embassy in Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). He is also a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution.
Tsai said the U.S. bipartisan support for the TAIPEI Act was a nod of approval to Taiwan’s longstanding efforts to uphold democracy and safeguard peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, according to a transcript from her office.
She added that her government will continue to work with the U.S. government to deepen the Taiwan–U.S. relationship.
Joanne Ou, a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responded to a reporter’s question about whether Beijing would step up its bullying tactics against Taiwan in response to the TAIPEI Act.
She stated that it was in the nature of the Chinese regime to act this way, and that Beijing is unlikely to lessen its intimidation tactics, regardless of the actions taken by Taiwan or the United States.
Ou added that Beijing “fundamentally intends to eliminate the Republic of China,” the official name for Taiwan.
The bill would also require the U.S. government to enhance its “economic, security, and diplomatic engagement” with countries that strengthen or upgrade relations with Taiwan.
“The TAIPEI Act seeks to discourage other countries from making that same mistake [as Solomon Islands and Kiribati]. Unfortunately, these changes are part of a concerted Chinese campaign,” said Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), speaking at the House committee before the vote.
The bill also calls for bilateral trade negotiations, with the goal of having the United States and Taiwan ink a free trade agreement.
“This bipartisan legislation demands a whole-of-government approach to ramp up our support for Taiwan, and will send a strong message to nations that there will be consequences for supporting Chinese actions that undermine Taiwan,” stated Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) after the Senate passed the bill, in a press release from his office.
The United States currently has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, since Washington switched its diplomatic recognition in favor of Beijing in January 1979. Since then, the United States has maintained a nondiplomatic relationship with Taipei based on the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).
Under TRA, the United States has supplied Taiwan with arms and military equipment for its self-defense, much to the ire of Beijing.
During the House committee session, Chabot applauded Taiwan for being a “role model” for other nations across the globe and a critical U.S. ally in the Pacific.
He then made a bolder suggestion: “The TAIPEI Act also raises a critical question, why don’t we just go ahead and recognize Taiwan?” He added that Taiwan has every mark of a sovereign nation in terms of economic, diplomatic, military or governance domain.
“It is pretty obvious that Taiwan is an independent country to anybody who looks at the facts, and it is well past time the U.S. policy caught up with these facts.” Taiwan’s independence is considered a red-line issue for Beijing. Among its infiltration tactics in Taiwan is maligning pro-independence political candidates and influencing elections in favor of pro-Beijing candidates instead.
Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson with China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, an agency under the State Council, said that the TAIPEI Act interferes with China’s “internal affairs,” during a press conference on Oct. 30, after the Senate passed the bill but before the House committee voted on it.