In a meeting with Taiwan's current president Tsai Ing-wen, former US national security adviser Stephen Hadley hailed the self-ruled island's democracy as a “shining example to the world”. Hadley said, “The American commitment to Taiwan is very strong.” Former Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said the delegation visited Taiwan to “underline bipartisan American support for our long-standing friendship with Taiwan.”
During Tsai's eight-year rule, Taiwan has strengthened its ties with its democratic partners, particularly the United States. Although official diplomatic relations with Taiwan were severed in 1979, the United States remains the island's main diplomatic ally and supplier of military equipment and intelligence.
Lai promised continuity
Lai Ching-te, who won Saturday's presidential election, has vowed to continue the policies of Sai. The US delegation met on Monday with Taiwan's top diplomat and Hsiao Bi-khim, his vice president-elect. “As we work together, I believe our relationship will continue to grow and become a major force in securing peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Lai said.
Blinken snubs Beijing
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Saturday congratulated the Taiwanese people for “once again proving the strength of their strong democratic system and electoral process” after congratulating her on her election victory. The statement prompted an angry response from Beijing, which views Taiwan as its own territory.
On Sunday, China's Foreign Ministry said the statement “seriously violates the one-China policy” and the US pledged to maintain only cultural, commercial and other unofficial ties with Taiwan. “This sends an entirely wrong signal to separatist forces that support Taiwan independence. We deeply regret this and strongly reject it, and we have made serious representations to the US side,” the ministry said.
Further expressions of discontent are expected from Beijing, but experts say a stronger signal won't come until May, when Lie is formally sworn in. That could be military exercises around the island, restrictions on imports from Taiwan — or both. There are examples from the past, for example, when the then Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan in 2022. China conducted large-scale drills and sent fighter jets and warships to remind people of the threat of invasion.
China's aggression subsided
China wants “peaceful reunification”. But that seems impossible; 90 percent of Taiwan's population supports maintaining the status quo, which means the island will not declare independence, but will not join China. A chilling example is the restrictions on democracy and freedom imposed by China after the mass protests in Hong Kong in 2019.
But China's appeal for actual intervention in Taiwan has now been tempered by two opinions. On the one hand, Beijing wants to stabilize its relationship with the United States — and an election year brings many uncertainties. On the other hand, China is struggling with problems at home, especially a weak economy. So the sabre-rattling will continue, but no real consequences are expected for now after an unpleasant election result for China.