China Panics in Email Over U.S. Delegation’s Trip to Taiwan

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast

Beijing is already enraged over the latest American Congressional delegation to visit Taiwan, The Daily Beast has learned.

China sent a letter at the conclusion of a Congressional trip to Taiwan to Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) to express “serious concern” about the visit, which he made alongside Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Tony Gonzales (R-TX), and Jonathan Jackson (D-IL).

“It was reported that Congressman Jake Auchincloss recently visited Taiwan and met with Tsai Ing-wen, Lai Ching-te and other high-level officials in Taiwan,” the letter, the text of which Auchincloss shared with The Daily Beast, states, referring to Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, and Vice President Lai Ching-te. “I am writing to express serious concern on behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC.”

China’s embassy in Washington, D.C. sent the letter on Friday, the same day they returned to the United States, Auchincloss’ office said.

The Chinese embassy did not immediately return a request for comment.

A Badly Timed Trip to China Throws Taiwan Into a Firestorm

It’s not the first time Beijing has expressed displeasure at American lawmakers making trips to Taiwan at times of escalating tensions. When then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year, China kicked off protest military drills, bringing both Washington-Beijing and cross-strait relations to a striking low.

Beijing still appears to be smarting over Pelosi’s visit. It noted in its letter that Pelosi’s trip led to a “crisis” in relations between the United States and China.

The quick response to this most recent delegation visit to Taiwan comes as tensions have ratcheted up over China’s ability and willingness to invade Taiwan and envelope the island into the fold of the mainland.

Chinese airplane incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone doubled in just the last year. And U.S. intelligence officials have begun to warn in recent months that a potential invasion appears closer than ever before.

According to the CIA, China is preparing to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027. An Air Force general, Gen. Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command, said just last month he predicts the United States will be at war with China even sooner, by 2025.

In its letter, Beijing hinted that American lawmakers should stay out of the Taiwan issue and raised concerns about American lawmakers meddling in Chinese affairs unnecessarily, in part because Beijing considers Taiwan to be a part of China. Taiwan views itself as maintaining its own sovereignty.

“The one-China principle is part of the postwar international order and has become a general international consensus, the essence of which is that there is only one China in the world, the Taiwan region is an inalienable part of China’s territory, the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China,” the letter states.

“China will not allow Taiwan to be divided from it in whatever form,” the note adds.

The Chinese Embassy insinuated that the members of Congress, in addition to those who seek to question the “one-China” principle, are the “root cause” behind increasing cross-Strait tensions in recent months.

“The tension across the Taiwan Strait is escalating, and the prospects of peace across the Taiwan Strait are seriously threatened, of which the root cause is that the one-China principle has been severely undermined,” the letter states.

Congress is going to continue to stand for democracy and support Taiwan, regardless of Beijing’s protests, Auchincloss told The Daily Beast Monday.

“They’re angry. I don’t care. We’re going to stand with freedom and democracy wherever it is in the world, in Ukraine, in Taiwan, and on the streets of Tehran,” said Auchincloss, a member of Congress’ newly minted Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). “We can’t flinch just because the CCP is angry.”

The purpose of the trip was both “to demonstrate, at a time of heightened Chinese aggression, bipartisan support for freedom and democracy in Taiwan” and to learn about potential areas for further collaboration on trade and investments, Auchincloss said.

During the trip, the members of Congress met with Taiwan’s Defense minister as well as lawmakers from both the ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), Auchincloss said.

How America Would Be Screwed if China Invades Taiwan

The visit seems to have exacerbated some of Beijing’s sensitivities to America’s interest in providing military aid to Taiwan, just as the Pentagon is working on a plan to deploy to Taiwan between 100 and 200 troops to expand a military training program with the island in an attempt to help Taiwan repel a potential invasion.

In meetings last week, the Defense Minister of Taiwan did not discuss the expansion of the program, but “really emphasized the value of junior, company-grade, field-grade, officer training, as well as general officer training… [it] is highly valuable,” Auchincloss said of the collaboration.

Beijing has been quick to react in recent days to other visits as well. China lambasted a visit from Michael Chase, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, just last week, noting it “resolutely opposes any official interaction and military collaboration” between the United States and Taiwan.

Beijing accused Taiwan of bringing China closer to conflict as well.

“I would also like to point out that what ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists have been doing is dragging our two countries into a conflict that no one wants to see,” the letter states.

“Preparing for an invasion”

Despite the accusation and sharp responses from China in recent days, the tone and tenor of the conversation in Taiwanese political circles about potential conflict with China is not one of flustered alarm, according to Auchincloss.

“The Taiwanese right now are not panicked. They do not think there is an imminent and actionable plan for the Chinese to invade the island,” Auchincloss told The Daily Beast. “They are obviously deeply focused on planning and preparing for an invasion or any of the other suite of options that might happen.”

But Taiwan’s ruling party, the DPP, has been touchy over the policy on keeping Taiwan independent from China recently. Earlier this month, Taiwan’s Opposition KMT Vice Chairman, Andrew Hsia, visited mainland China to discuss relations with Beijing. During the visit, Chinese officials urged him to push for an acceptance of China’s view of the “One China” principle and oppose Taiwan’s independence.

Taiwan’s ruling party responded by urging the KMT to avoid showing loyalty to China at a time of high tensions.

In previous years, KMT has approved the One China 1992 principle, in a divergence from DPP’s perspective. In advance of the 2024 elections, KMT may be trying to paint itself as the party of stability when it comes to relations with Beijing.

Both parties, though, appear to be interested in vying for the middle of the road—and maintaining independence—without touching off a war with China, Auchincloss said.

“Both of them are talking to the median voter… The median voter is basically saying I don’t want a war… they don’t want to be part of mainland China. They don’t want a war,” Auchincloss said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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