‘China is watching’: Senators push for more support for Ukraine, Taiwan

·3 min read

Two senators on Sunday urged the Biden administration to go further in its support for both Ukraine and Taiwan, as U.S. tensions with China bubble up after Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.

In an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) backed the House speaker’s travel to Taiwan and tied the two foreign policy issues together — warning that China is watching how the U.S. continues to respond to Russia’s attack on Ukraine as the war nears its sixth month.

Graham directed his message directly at China and pushed for the passage of the bipartisan Taiwan Policy Act, which is aimed at bolstering Taiwan economically and militarily.

“Almost six months into this war, Ukraine is bloodied but still standing unbowed. NATO is bigger, not smaller. The International Criminal Court is coming after Putin and his cronies, and we're going to strangle the Russian economy as long as they're the largest state sponsor of terrorism. If you want to receive what [Vladimir] Putin did, try to go into Taiwan,” Graham said.

“The right response is to push back against a bully, not cower,” he added.

The increased pressure from lawmakers comes after China launched a series of military exercises around Taiwan following Pelosi’s visit, what Blumenthal called “bullying and blustering.”

The White House has been skittish on the bipartisan bid for a more aggressive posture on U.S.-Taiwan policy and has worked to reel Congress in, as the administration fears the legislation could interfere with its assurances to Beijing about upholding the “One China” policy — a diplomatic acknowledgment of Beijing’s position that there is only one Chinese government.

Russia’s invasion has caused both Democrats and Republicans to reevaluate America’s policy of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to Taiwan, with which the U.S. has had an awkward official relationship since it recognized the government of mainland China in the 1970s.

“China is watching what we do in Ukraine. That’s why we need to send more of the HIMARS multiple long-range artillery so that Ukraine is successful during this next month during its counteroffensive,” Blumenthal said. He also called for moves to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, more sanctions against the Kremlin and additional humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) echoed this sentiment in a separate interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” noting that China has seen Russia’s tough fight in Ukraine, and saying that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan isn’t inevitable.

“We need to help Taiwan make that as difficult as possible for China, and we’ve been doing that by supplying Taiwan with military assistance,” Van Hollen said. “We need to continue to do that to make Taiwan into the porcupine, so that when China looks at Taiwan, it realizes that this is going to be a hell of a fight and not a winnable fight.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), who accompanied Pelosi on her visit to Taiwan, defended the trip, saying he wouldn't allow China's leadership to dictate where members of Congess can go.

"We are going to stand by our friends, our partners and our allies," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."