Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen defied China’s threats and visited the US on April 7, 2021, where House Speaker Kevin McCarthy welcomed her as a “great friend of America”. The visit was a rare, high-level, bipartisan event that aimed to show support for Taiwan, which has been increasingly isolated on the international stage due to China’s growing influence.
Despite the tension with China, Tsai and McCarthy refrained from taking a confrontational stance towards Beijing, focusing instead on maintaining the longstanding US policy towards Taiwan. Tsai emphasized the importance of Taiwan’s self-defense and fostering robust trade and economic ties, as well as supporting the island’s participation in the international community. McCarthy stated that the US-Taiwan ties were stronger than at any other point in his life.
It is important to note that the US broke off official ties with Taiwan in 1979, while formally establishing diplomatic relations with the Beijing government. The US acknowledges a “one-China” policy, in which Beijing claims Taiwan, but it does not endorse China’s claim to the island, and remains Taiwan’s key provider of military and defense assistance.
China has responded aggressively to visits by Taiwanese presidents through the US and to trips to Taiwan by senior US officials. After then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan last August, China responded with its largest live-fire drills in decades, including firing a missile over the island.
China has warned the US against any further support of Taiwan, stating that it will take “resolute and forceful measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” China has urged the US “not to walk further down the wrong and dangerous road.”
Despite the risks, the US has shown a growing willingness to engage with Taiwan. Last year, then-US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited the island, marking the highest-level official US visit since 1979. The US has also stepped up military and diplomatic support for Taiwan, including approving arms sales and increasing naval presence in the region.
Taiwan has welcomed the US’s continued support as it seeks to maintain its sovereignty and independence in the face of Chinese pressure. As China becomes increasingly assertive in the region, the US’s support for Taiwan will remain a crucial factor in maintaining peace and stability in the area.