American Institute in Taiwan director Kin Moy, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, AmCham Taipei chairman Albert Chang and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Wong (from l to r) toast during a banquet in Taipei on March 21, 2018. Photo: Sam Yeh / AFP / Getty Images

Since the signing of the Taiwan Travel Act last week, the U.S. has sent two senior officials to Taiwan — Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Wong and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing Ian Steff, South China Morning Post reports.

Quick take: Trump did not have to sign the Taiwan Travel Act as it would have come into force anyway. Beijing views his affirmative signing as a signal that Trump may be reverting to his pre-inauguration inclination to reconsider the “One China Policy,” one of the foundations of the U.S.-China relationship.

Bigger picture: Recent administration appointments may also drive a re-evaluation of U.S. policy towards Taiwan.

  • Mike Pompeo and John Bolton are known as very “pro-Taiwan,” as is Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs.
  • The nomination of Susan Thornton to be assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs is apparently dead in the wake of the firing of Rex Tillerson, and some of the names I am hearing who may be nominated for that spot are advocates of a much closer U.S.-Taiwan relationship.

Why it matters: A U.S.-China trade spat would be a sideshow to the conflicts that would arise over any fundamental changes in U.S. policy towards Taiwan. China’s President Xi has pledged to reunify Taiwan during his rule — even if the citizens of democratic Taiwan do not agree — and in his speech earlier this week at the National People’s Congress (NPC) he pledged again that “any actions and tricks to split China are doomed to fail.” But in this “New Era of U.S.-China Relations” anything may be on the table.

Go deeper

18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's China plan: Bring allies

Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Joe Biden is planning to confront China across the globe, embracing some of President Trump's goals but rejecting his means.

The big picture: By starting a trade war with China, Trump has fundamentally altered the U.S.- China relationship — and forced both Republicans and Democrats to accept a more confrontational approach towards Beijing.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022 — Trump's testing czar: Surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests
  2. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases
  3. Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" wave France imposes lockdown Germany to close bars and restaurants for a month.
  4. Sports: Boston Marathon delayed MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.

In pictures: Storm Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

Debris on the streets as then-Hurricane Zeta passes over in Arabi, Louisiana, on Oct. 28. It's the third hurricane to hit Louisiana in about two months, after Laura and Delta. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Tropical Storm Zeta has killed at least two people, triggered flooding, downed powerlines and caused widespread outages since making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday.

The big picture: A record 11 named storms have made landfall in the U.S. this year. Zeta is the fifth named storm to do so in Louisiana in 2020, the most ever recorded. It weakened t0 a tropical storm early Thursday, as it continued to lash parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle with heavy rains and strong winds.