Feb 22, 2024 - World

House China committee meets leaders in Taiwan amid rising tensions

Members of the House China committee meet with Taiwan's Parliament Speaker Han Kuo-yu at the Parliament in Taipei on Feb. 22, 2024. Photo credit: Sam Yeh / AFP.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A bipartisan delegation of U.S. lawmakers assured Taiwan's president-elect William Lai of strong U.S. support in a meeting in Taipei on Thursday.

Why it matters: The U.S. delegation takes a hard line on the Chinese government, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has ramped up pressure on the self-governing island after Lai's election in January, sending warships, military jets and high-altitude balloons near Taiwan.

  • Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) opposes close ties with Beijing. Chinese officials warned Taiwan's voters before the election to avoid voting for Lai, who is also the current vice president.

What's happening: Members of the House Select Committee on Competition with the Chinese Communist Party, led by committee chairman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), also met current president Tsai Ing-wen, foreign minister Joseph Wu and Taiwanese lawmakers on the committee's first visit to Taiwan.

What they're saying: "The message we want to send in a bipartisan fashion is that if Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party were to ever make the incredibly foolish decision to attempt an invasion of Taiwan, that that effort would fail," Gallagher said in remarks alongside Lai ahead of their meeting.

  • "And so, just please know that as you look forward to assuming office of the presidency, America stands with Taiwan and you can draw upon a deep reservoir of friendship and support from the United States Congress," he added, addressing Lai directly.
  • "We in Congress deeply believe in you," Krishnamoorthi added.
  • Taiwan is facing "tremendous pressure and diplomatic, military and economic coercion from China," Lai said. "We will also continue to enhance our self-defense capabilities to show the world that we are determined to safeguard our own country. We also hope the United States and like-minded countries will also continue to back Taiwan."

Background: The House China committee was formed in January 2023 and has adopted a consistently bipartisan approach to tackle the national security, economic, and human rights challenges that China's increasingly assertive authoritarianism presents to the U.S. and other democracies.

  • Support for Taiwan has been another top priority for the committee.

What to watch: When asked if the U.S. presidential election later this year could potentially result in a change in U.S. policy towards Taiwan, Gallagher said he was "very confident that support for Taiwan will continue regardless of who occupies the White House."

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