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House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. (Photo: kevinmccarthy.house.gov)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to Meet With Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen at Reagan Library

Meet is expected to further enflame U.S.-Chinese relations over the political status of Taiwan

By Evan Symon, April 3, 2023 6:41 pm

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced Monday he will be meeting Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, despite warnings from China not to do the meeting.

Tensions between China and Taiwan, while always high, have been elevated in recent years with China claiming that Taiwan is part of China rather than an independent country. While the Republic of China controlled both Taiwan and mainland China from 1912 to the end of WWII, communist forces took over the country throughout the late 1940’s, causing Republic of China president Chiang Kai-shek to flee to Taiwan and re-establish the country on that island once the mainland fell in 1949. While China has attempted takeover previously, and recognition of Taiwan independent has eroded, the U.S. and other countries still recognize Taiwan as its own nation, with China not making any direct takeover attempts for decades out of fear that other western nations would come to Taiwan’s defense.

With tensions high over the issue of Taiwan, recent visits between the two countries have brought condemnation. The last visit by a Taiwanese President in 2019 brought outrage from China. A 2022 visit to Taipei by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought much the same response, with China conducting it’s largest military exercises around the island.

This time around, with Ing-wen to visit New York and the LA area following her visit to Central America early in the week, China has said that the visit would have a “serious, serious, serious” impact on U.S.-China relations and that the U.S. is “Playing with fire.”

“The US keeps saying that transit is not a visit and that there are precedents, but we should not use past mistakes as excuses for repeating them today,” said Chinese embassy charge d’affaires Xu Xueyuan of the visit. “We urge Washington not to repeat playing with fire on the Taiwan question.”

Despite this, Speaker McCarthy announced Monday that the Wednesday meeting is still on. In a simple press release, McCarthy’s office said, “On Wednesday, April 5th, Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be hosting a bipartisan meeting with the President of Taiwan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.”

In addition to McCarthy, around 20 other lawmakers are expected to be there to receive the Taiwanese president, including Congressman Pete Aguilar (D-CA).

McCarthy, Taiwanese president to meet in CA

Political experts noted Monday that the visit would only serve to show how close the two countries still are and that the U.S. would come to the aid of Taiwan if anything ever happened.

“After Russia invaded Ukraine, a lot of Western nations vowed to not let something like that happen again,” Ryan Lewis, a foreign policy advisor to several Congressional candidates, told the Globe Monday. “In Europe, NATO is expanding into Finland and Sweden to bolster defense there. The U.S. has been more defensive, including shooting down many unknown balloons and other aerial things out of the sky recently. And in Asia, with many seeing Taiwan being China’s Ukraine in some ways, the U.S. has made it known that they would not be getting the country anytime soon without a fight.”

“Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping has been really frustrated by this. He has made taking back Taiwan a big cornerstone of his plans, and it is not going well. Other projects, like the Belt and Road initiative to create a huge trade network, has failed, and they are facing huge economic issues right now. And their population is in decline, something the U.S. has avoided despite lowering birth rates due to immigration. After really coming out in force in the 2000’s and 2010’s, they’re frustrated beyond all belief, and the Taiwan issue has been something to hold on to, as a way to bring back Chinese pride. And the U.S. is blocking it.”

“That’s why they don’t want President Ing-wen to visit. It legitimizes them, even if it is just a meet and greet at the Reagan library. Pelosi embarrassed them last year, and now McCarthy will this year. Maybe twice if he goes to Taiwan later this year like he has said he wanted to.”

President Ing-wen is expected to fly into Los Angeles on Wednesday for the meet.

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