Republicans Rally Around Taiwan Ahead of Biden Admin's Meeting With China

The Taiwanese flag / Getty Images
March 18, 2021

Congressional Republicans are demanding the Biden administration stand up for Taiwan in talks with China's leadership on Thursday.

A letter drafted by Rep. Ashley Hinson (R., Iowa) and cosigned by several GOP colleagues affirms Republicans' support for defending Taiwan in the face of increasingly hostile behavior from China. The Republicans are pressuring President Joe Biden, who warned against developing close ties with Taiwan as a senator, to make a public commitment to protect the country from Chinese aggression.

"As China continues to increase its military posturing and threats in the Indo-Pacific region, it is vital we stand strong against the CCP and make clear that the United States will defend and promote global democracy," the letter reads. "It is imperative that you stand up to China's attempts to dismantle democracy and reaffirm that U.S. support for Taiwan is not negotiable."

The letter comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan plan to meet with senior Chinese officials in the two countries' first face-to-face meeting during the Biden presidency. The visit, which will take place in Anchorage, Alaska, is set to define the terms of the Sino-American relationship for the Biden administration.

Among the issues likely to be discussed—human rights, trade, environmentalism, and technology—Republican lawmakers say the future of Taiwan should rank as a high priority. In the early days of the Biden administration, China has increased its military presence on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, even flying more than a dozen fighter jets into Taiwanese airspace.

China's aggressive behavior warrants additional support for Taiwan, Rep. Greg Steube (R., Fla.), who cosigned the letter, told the Washington Free Beacon.

"Based on the Biden administration's weakness toward Communist China so far, it's clear we cannot count on them to stand firm with our strategic allies in Taiwan and properly counter the threats from the CCP," Steube said. "For decades, China has been very clear about their ambitions with Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific region, and their desire to destroy democracy around the world. Now is not the time to allow Biden and Blinken to back down from our adversaries or turn our backs on Taiwan."

Amid pressure from Republicans to take a tough stance on China, the Biden administration has made some efforts to signal its support for Taiwan. The administration invited Taiwanese special representative Bi-khim Hsiao to its inaugural ceremonies in January, and Blinken committed to negotiating a new free trade agreement with the island nation.

Hinson said the Biden administration's meeting presents a vital opportunity to entrench support for Taiwan across the aisle.

"[Thursday's] summit will set the stage for the future of the U.S.-China relationship—we will see if the Biden administration will buckle to the Chinese Communist Party's demands or stand up for U.S. interests and those of our democratic allies," Hinson said. "I hope they take this opportunity to stand firmly against the Chinese Communist Party's aggression and reiterate the United States' unwavering support for Taiwan."

Taiwan's tactical position against China remains vulnerable. While arms sales with Taipei increased significantly under the Trump administration, the island country still lacks many of the critical means to defend itself in the event of a Chinese attack. Ian Easton, a senior director at the Project 2049 Institute and Taiwan defense expert, said Biden faces a "colossal" challenge in securing Taiwan from a Chinese invasion.

"The policy course previous administrations put the United States on leads straight to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. It's not too late for Washington to change that," Easton said. "The United States government needs to finally ... [do] the difficult things necessary to ensure America has the full capacity to respond to Chinese Communist Party aggression and Taiwan has the support it needs to maintain a credible self-defense."