Taiwan

The Taiwan Travel Act in Context – The Diplomat

The Taiwan Travel Act in Context – The Diplomat


In the late afternoon of March 16, US President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act into law. According to its official name, the bill “encourages mutual visits between officials of the United States and Taiwan at all levels.”

Before assessing the impact of this legislation on US-Taiwan-China relations, we may first ask why this legislation was initiated by Congress in the first place. To find out, we have to go back to 1979, when the United States severed diplomatic relations with Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese Nationalist Party, then led by his son Chiang Ching-kuo, who still claimed to represent China.

The informal relationship between the United States and Taiwan is governed by the Taiwan Relations Act passed by Congress in April 1979. But as part of the deal, the US also imposed a number of unwritten rules and regulations on US-Taiwan relations, one of which was that five of Taiwan’s top officials — the president, vice president, prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister — could not come In Washington, higher-level U.S. officials were also unable to meet with their Taiwanese counterparts.

Although in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Taiwan underwent a major transition to democracy. As we all know, Taiwan is now considered the most dynamic and liberal democracy.

Over the past decade, key members of the U.S. Congress, such as Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH), Brad Sherman (D-CA), and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Rowe Iss (R-CA), along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), increasingly argue that these guidelines are outdated and that the U.S. should treat them like any other country Taiwan, and move towards the normalization of relations with Taiwan.

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It all came together when it was introduced in the House of Representatives on January 13, 2017. (The companion bill was introduced in the Senate on May 4, 2017.) In the months that followed, the bill passed committee and gained bipartisan support.It passed the House of Representatives on January 9, 2018, and the Senate on February 28.

A key finding of the legislation is that “since the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act, there has been a lack of communication in U.S.-Taiwan relations as the U.S. maintains self-restriction on high-level exchanges with Taiwan.”

The key to the legislation is to:

(a) Congressional Awareness – Congressional awareness is that the U.S. government should not restrict travel by U.S. government officials of any level to Taiwan to meet with Taiwanese counterparts or high-level officials. Taiwan-level officials entered the United States to meet with U.S. officials.

(b) Policy Statement. —This should be U.S. policy — (1) Allow U.S. government officials at all levels, including cabinet-level national security officials, generals, and other executive branch officials, to travel to Taiwan to meet with their Taiwanese counterparts;

(2) To allow senior Taiwanese officials to enter the United States and to meet with U.S. officials, including State Department and Department of Defense officials and other Cabinet agencies, on conditions that demonstrate due respect for the dignity of such officials; and…

(3) Encourage the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office and any other agency established in Taiwan to conduct business in the United States, including activities involving U.S. Congressmen, federal, state or local government officials, and any senior officials in the United States or Taiwan.

An extremely important aspect of the bill’s passage is that it passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, suggesting the broadest bipartisan support possible. In these turbulent and polarized days in Washington, it is very rare to have such unanimous support on any issue.

Given this broad support, it’s nearly impossible for President Trump not to sign the bill, which he signed on March 16. The question now is how the US government will implement the bill.

Some observers and some in the U.S. government have chosen to stress that the legislation is not binding and that the U.S. president already has the right to meet foreign officials anyway — or not. These arguments miss the point of the legislation that US policy toward Taiwan is seriously outdated, as it still reflects the fundamentals and mentality of the 1970s, when two regimes claimed to represent all of China.

The democratization of Taiwan in the 1990s represented a very new situation on the ground. It is now a democracy and no longer claims to represent the whole of China. Therefore, this change should have led to a fundamental shift in Western policy toward Taiwan. But unfortunately, it coincides with China’s economic opening and rise; seduced by the lure of the Chinese market, the West remains stuck on the track of “engaging” China at the expense of better relations with a new democratic Taiwan.

More recently, prominent observers and former policymakers have begun arguing that the West has gotten China wrong over the past few decades.In their seminal article “China Liquidation” Foreign affairsformer Obama administration officials Kurt Campbell and Illy Ratner wrote:

In the nearly half-century since Nixon’s first steps toward reconciliation, the record has become increasingly clear that Washington has once again placed too much faith in its own power to shape China’s trajectory…

Neither the carrot nor the stick has affected China as predicted. Diplomatic and commercial contacts have not led to political and economic openness. … Instead, China went its own way, defying a set of U.S. expectations in the process. This reality requires a sober rethinking of America’s attitude toward China.

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same, economist It has recently been argued that since Nixon opened up to China, the West had hoped to bring political and economic openness through diplomatic and commercial engagement, but this gamble has failed.

Furthermore, in his Washington post In an article on the subject, Washington commentator Charles Lane argues that the United States needs a long-term, sober rethinking of policy, and that it should “reinvest in traditional alliances with democracies in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Against the backdrop of this much-needed rethinking of U.S. policy toward China, Washington and Western Europe must also fundamentally rebalance their policy toward Taiwan and invest in strengthening their relationship with America’s strategic beacon of democracy. A zone is a purpose in itself.

In this new democratic Taiwan, there is a growing sense that Taiwan’s international isolation should become an anachronistic past, and that Taipei and the international community should work to normalize relations with Taiwan. President Trump’s signing of the Taiwan Travel Act is a much-needed step in the right direction.

Gerrit van der Wees is a former Dutch diplomat who also served as editor of the Taiwan Gazette from 1980 to 2016. He currently teaches Taiwan History at George Mason University in Virginia.



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