Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday that “we once again find ourselves in a world where democracy is under threat” while speaking in California with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. The two met at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to discuss the mutual interests of the two democratic nations despite significant protests from China over the meeting.
“President Reagan’s six assurances of 1982, on top of the landmark Taiwan Relations Act passed by the Congress, laid the foundation for a strong and unique partnership for over four decades, during which we have maintained peace and promoted prosperity and welcomed the advent of Taiwan’s democracy,” Tsai said.
“However, it is no secret that today the peace that we have maintained and the democracy which [we] have worked hard to build are facing unprecedented challenges. We once again find ourselves in a world where democracy is under threat, and the urgency of keeping the beacon of freedom shining cannot be understated,” Tsai, who began a 10-day trip to the U.S., Guatemala, and Belize on March 29, said.
McCarthy, along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, met with Tsai at the Reagan Library on Wednesday. McCarthy said in early March that he would meet with Tsai during her visit to the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported.
“President Reagan said it best: ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation,’” Tsai said. “In a discussion with congressional leaders this morning, I reiterated Taiwan’s commitment to defending the peaceful status quo, where the people of Taiwan may continue to strive in a free and open society.”
“I also highlighted a belief which President Reagan championed, that to preserve peace, we must be strong,” Tsai said. “I would like to add that we are stronger when we are together.”
McCarthy is “the highest-level U.S. official to meet a Taiwanese leader on American soil since the practice of transit visits began” in 1994, The Wall Street Journal also reported.
“Taiwan is a successful democracy, a thriving economy, and a global leader in health and science. And whether it’s our deep commercial ties, strong people-to-people relationships, our shared values, our cooperation with the people of Taiwan continue to expand through dialogue and exchange,” McCarthy said on Wednesday. “The friendship between the people of Taiwan and America is a matter of profound importance to the free world, and it is critical to maintain economic freedom, peace, and regional stability.”
“We will honor our obligations and reiterate our commitment to our shared values behind which all Americans are united,” McCarthy said. “Today was a bipartisan meeting. Republicans and Democrats united together in a place that symbolizes the freedom and the commitment and the bond that’s only become stronger with the president with us today.”
Michael Cunningham, a research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, weighed in on what’s next after Tsai’s visit. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“This will almost certainly be Tsai’s last stop in the U.S. as Taiwan’s president, and Beijing and Taipei will both hope it is the last high-stakes challenge in cross-Strait relations before Taiwan’s election,” Cunningham told The Daily Signal in an emailed statement. “While Taiwan’s elections are fought mostly on domestic issues, the [Kuomintang], [Democratic Progressive Party], and [Chinese Communist Party] all fear that one wrong move could sabotage their interests in 2024.”
“China’s draconian crackdown of the Hong Kong protests combined with aggressive speech targeting Taiwan were widely credited with shifting the 2020 election back in Tsai’s and the [Democratic Progressive Party’s] favor after the party’s disastrous performance in the island-wide local elections in 2018,” Cunningham also said.
China warned against Tsai’s meeting with U.S. officials and spoke out against it on Tuesday, saying that if McCarthy did meet with Tsai, “it will be another serious violation of the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués.”
“It will greatly hurt the national sentiments of the 1.4 billion Chinese people, send seriously wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists, and undermine the political foundation of China-US relations,” a spokesperson of consulate general of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles said in a statement. “It is not conducive to regional peace, security and stability, and is out of line with the common interests of the Chinese and American people.”
“If Speaker McCarthy ignores the international community’s broad support for the one-China principle, refuses to draw lessons from others’ mistakes, and insists on playing the ‘Taiwan card,’ it will undoubtedly further damage China-US relations, and even strengthen the strong determination of the Chinese people to unite and fight for national reunification,” the statement said. “The Chinese side will continue to closely follow the situation and resolutely safeguard our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
On Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington sent numerous lawmakers’ offices “a threatening email” about the meeting with Tsai, National Review reported.
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