In-Depth: Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced this resolution to reaffirm the U.S.’ commitment to Taiwan and the TRA’s implementation:
“Taiwan has a vibrant, pluralistic democracy and is an indispensable partner in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world. In the four decades since the signing of the landmark Taiwan Relations Act, Taiwan has demonstrated what it means to be a model global citizen, making substantial contributions on issues ranging from global health, to combating terrorism, to investing in sustainable and equitable economic growth at home and abroad. As we mark this important milestone, I’m happy to join with Ranking Member McCaul in offering legislation to make it crystal clear: the United States commitment to Taiwan, undergirded by the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances, remains as ironclad today as it was 40 years ago.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, adds:
“When the Taiwan Relations Act was signed into law forty years ago, it built an unshakeable foundation for the United States relationship with Taiwan. In the decades since, Taiwan has developed into a critical U.S. partner and a beacon of democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law in a region threatened by authoritarian hegemony. However, our critical relationship with Taiwan is being needlessly constrained by excessive restrictions, driven by communist China’s bullying. The Taiwan Assurance Act will ensure that our partnership with Taiwan is based on the relationship’s own merits—cutting red tape and building on the foundation the TRA gave us. I’m proud to bring forward these bipartisan measures with Chairman Engel as we approach this historic 40th anniversary.”
In an op-ed in The Hill, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), an original cosponsor of this bill as well as the sponsor of H.Res.248, a resolution to distinguish the U.S. One-China Policy from the People’s Republic of China's One-China Principle, argues that Taiwan is one of America’s most important relationships:
“Taiwan is one of the world’s most compelling examples of democratic transformation, one of the richest countries in Asia, and one of our top trading partners. Indeed the U.S.-Taiwan relationship is one of our most important, right up there with U.S.-Israel and U.S.-United Kingdom… I believe that it is essential that we continue to strengthen our bilateral relationship… our support for Taiwan is becoming increasingly urgent. While the Chinese Communist Party has always sought to impose its view that Taiwan is a renegade province on the rest of the world, President Xi Jinping is now taking a more aggressive stance. For instance, in a speech earlier this year, President Xi implied a timeline for uniting Taiwan with the mainland, and reserved the right to use force… Furthermore, China continues to prevent Taiwan from participating in international organizations, even those like the World Health Organization, where an entity does not have to be a state to participate as an observer. China also actively campaigns for countries to sever diplomatic relations with Taipei, interferes in Taiwan’s elections, and engages in economic warfare against the people of Taiwan. Our continued implementation of the TRA in response to this pressure demonstrates our commitment to the rule of law, human rights, and democracy in Asia. If we refuse to defend these universal human values when they are at stake for the people of Taiwan, how can we credibly call out Beijing when it backs Cambodia’s dictator, or gives the Burmese military a free pass for its genocide against the Rohingya? Furthermore, how can we call out such authoritarians if we are unwilling to stand up to the PRC? If we are too scared of what President Xi might say, or of what Beijing might do, all our rhetoric about a free and open Indo-Pacific is nothing more than hot air – and China has already won. Truly honoring the TRA… means standing up for Taiwan, treating it fairly, and helping it provide for its own defense… [T]he Taiwan Relations Act remains a monument to our resolve to uphold democracy around the world. We must continue this fight in Taiwan, and anywhere around the globe where our values are threatened.”
The Chinese government has been vocal about its desire to reunify Taiwan and China. In a January 2, 2019 speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” a policy document issued by the National People’s Congress on the day China and the U.S. formally established relations after Washington broke ties with Taiwan on January 1, 1979, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Taiwanese officials to work with Mainland Chinese officials to realize the “historic task” of complete reunification. Xi said:
“It is a historical conclusion drawn over 70 years of development of cross-strait relations, and a must for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in the new era. It’s a legal fact that both sides of the Strait belong to one China, and cannot be changed by anyone or any force.”
This resolution passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a voice vote with the support of 27 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats. A Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), has passed the Senate unanimously with the support of seven bipartisan cosponsors, including five Republicans and two Democrats.
When they introduced this resolution, Reps. McCaul and Engel also introduced the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019 (H.R. 2002), which would enhance engagement between the U.S. and Taiwan. Both pieces of legislation were introduced on April 2, 2019, ahead of the TRA’s fortieth anniversary on April 10, 2019.
Of Note: The U.S. relationship with Taiwan is defined by the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), passed by Congress in 1979, which authorized continued “commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan” after the U.S. established diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China. The TRA mandates special American obligations and commitments to Taiwan, and is the only legal underpinning of U.S. policy toward Taiwan. Under the TRA, the U.S. doesn’t have formal ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to help defend the island nation and is its main source of arms. According to the Pentagon, the U.S. has sold Taiwan over $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / avdeev007)