The Opportunities and Challenges of Cross-Strait Relations
The Heritage Foundation - July 18, 2018
Remarks by Ted S. Yoho, D.V.M.
Chairman, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Good afternoon and thank you for having me here today. We can never have too many reminders of Taiwan’s importance. Taiwan is a uniquely important partner of the United States, an exemplar of democracy and human rights in a region short on both, and one of the United States’ largest trading partners. The State Department likes to say Taiwan is “a force for good in the world,” and I’m inclined to agree.
Unfortunately, many of us in Congress have the sense that the Straits are heading for a reckoning. China is becoming more powerful and aggressive than ever before, just as the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act approaches. History seems ready to shift.
The Cross-Straits status quo has served all sides fairly well for many years. On the U.S. side, we respect the fact that many or most of Taiwan’s people prefer things as they are. But Taiwan’s status is still an unresolved question, and Xi Jinping intends to provide an answer. I am worried – at the very least, current events raise the possibility that a crisis is coming.
The so-called status quo has been eroding for some time now. China has learned how to buy Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies. The balance of military and economic power has shifted radically in the last four decades. The executive branch devotes more and more energy to managing the U.S.-China relationship, and I’m concerned that over the years, this has been institutionalized as a norm of avoiding displeasing Beijing, while marginalizing Taiwan.
Even if there is a status quo, Members of Congress on my Subcommittee openly ask whether it is still appropriate for the U.S.-Taiwan relationship. Since the normalization communique and the establishment of the One China policy, Taiwan has risen to become a responsible and model democracy, while China has become our so-called “strategic competitor” – which is apparently the term for a strategic opponent that you buy goods from.
All of this raises the question: If Congress will continue to be Taiwan’s institutional guardian in the United States, what do Members need to do now?
First, Congress must act to stop self-inflicted wounds to U.S. Taiwan policy, like the unprompted removal of Taiwan’s flag from the State Department’s website. I’ve written before that Taiwan exists in a grey area, so we should expand this gray area, not diminish it. But the State Department issues Guidelines on Relations with Taiwan that enforce creeping restrictions on the relationship which have no basis in the foundational documents of the One China policy. I plan to introduce legislation to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the TRA by stopping this practice.
As we stop the bleeding, Congress should also do all we can within the current framework of the relationship to recognize reality. The fact is that Taiwan exists as an independent political entity and a legitimate democratic government. Congressman Chabot’s Taiwan Travel Act is a perfect example of this, but I fear we’ll have to conduct aggressive oversight to ensure it is implemented. My own legislation to support Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization, which has passed the House, and Senator Gardner’s bill on Taiwan’s international participation are other examples of these initiatives, which are widely supported in Congress.
While Congress sustains the vitality of U.S.-Taiwan relations, we must rely on the Defense Department to rigorously deter aggression in the Taiwan Strait to prevent a surprise or a disaster. At every turn, the world has underestimated the lengths to which Xi is willing to go—from seizing and weaponizing the South China Sea, to granting himself imperial rule. We can’t afford to underestimate his desire to cement his legacy in the Taiwan Strait.
I hope that ultimately, good stewardship of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship from Washington, combined with rigorous deterrence in the Strait will create the space we need to work towards a long term solution to the Cross Straits question that is beneficial to Taiwan. Unless massive changes take place on the mainland, the only solution that guarantees Taiwan’s continued existence is One China, One Taiwan. Xi Jinping is succeeding at turning Hong Kong into just another Chinese city. I have no intention of letting him turn Taiwan into just another Hainan island.
Thank you all very much.