Taiwan rejected Beijing’s authoritarianism; the US must do more to support our ally
By U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
January 30, 2020
Earlier this month, the Taiwanese people reelected President Tsai Ing-wen to office with historic levels of support. President Tsai’s dedication to defending Taiwan in the face of constant hostility from the mainland Chinese Communist Party is inspiring. Taiwan has once again demonstrated that it is a model democracy in the Indo-Pacific: free, open, and a strong partner of its regional allies and the United States.
The Taiwanese people reelected Tsai in large part because she energetically opposed the CCP’s attempts to subvert an independent people. The CCP is unlikely to accept that rebuke; in fact, given that next year marks the hundredth anniversary of the CCP’s founding, Beijing will likely redouble its efforts to isolate Taiwan from the rest of the world.
Considering this, now is the time for the U.S. government to strengthen our ties with Taiwan and counter China’s efforts to interfere with U.S. security interests and partners in the Indo-Pacific. Opportunities for American engagement include ship visits and face-to-face meetings between senior military and government officials. The administration should fully implement the Taiwan Travel Act, a bill I authored with Representative Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and which was signed into law in 2018, which encourages high-level visits between U.S. and Taiwanese officials in our respective capitals.
The Trump administration should also commit to negotiating a new free trade agreement between Taiwan and the United States this year. This will strengthen commerce between both of our highly developed economies, expanding market access for American and Taiwanese goods alike. Increasing integration would also help Taiwan diversify its trade regime and grow more independent of the CCP, which has worked to ensnare Taipei economically in recent years.
In addition, the United States should intensify efforts to support President Tsai and the Taiwanese military as they build up Taiwan’s asymmetric defense capabilities and upgrade their reserve forces. The CCP has long posed an existential threat to Taipei, but Xi Jinping has escalated the situation in recent years with more frequent violations of the longstanding cross-strait status quo and heated rhetoric intended to intimidate the Taiwanese people.
Taiwan also needs to invest in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. The best stand-off capabilities, like the Hsiung-feng missile program, are useless without a resilient constellation of sensors. Defense of the island is best served if the PLA never sets foot on Taiwan. That will require the Taiwanese military, in the event of an attack, to have eyes on the ships and aircraft carrying troops as soon as they begin to embark.
The difficulties of deepening cooperation are well known by both sides. But for the sake of Taiwan and a free, open Indo-Pacific, Americans and Taiwanese need to forthrightly address these concerns. The stakes are too high when Beijing continues to pressure Taiwan politically and economically.
The relationship between the United States and Taiwan is a partnership between two vibrant democracies based on shared values and vision. President Tsai’s reelection through a transparent, democratic process is a moment to be celebrated – and the U.S. and our regional allies must use this time to advance our shared objective of an Indo-Pacific region that is prosperous, peaceful, and free.
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