U.S. lawmaker’s Taiwan visit sparks controversy amidst tensions with China

Mike Gallagher

22nd February 2024 – (Beijing) In what has been seen as a contentious move, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, a well-known critic of China, has ignited a firestorm of criticism from Chinese officials and observers after making comments in Taiwan that appear to challenge the one-China policy, a cornerstone of international relations in the region.

Gallagher, who is set to leave his congressional post, heads the House Select Committee on China. His recent visit to Taiwan, along with a delegation of four other lawmakers, drew to a close this past Saturday, as reported by NBC News. The visit, which lasted until Saturday, has been the latest flashpoint in the delicate relations between the U.S., Taiwan, and China.

During his time in Taipei, Gallagher made remarks that underscored the United States’ growing support for Taiwan. “I am very confident that support for Taiwan will continue regardless of who occupies the White House,” he stated at a press conference. His comments come amid heightened tensions in the region and reflect the bipartisan support for Taiwan in the U.S. Congress.

In a stern rebuttal, Mao Ning, the spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, called for the United States to honour the one-China principle and the three U.S.-China joint communiqués. Mao stressed the need for the U.S. to handle Taiwan issues with caution, cease official contact, and avoid sending any signals that might embolden separatist movements.

Chinese observers have blasted Gallagher’s remarks, interpreting them as an endorsement of separatist tendencies in Taiwan and a strategic move by the U.S. to use the island as a bargaining chip in its broader strategic rivalry with China.

Moreover, during his discussions with Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s regional leader, Gallagher reaffirmed the unwavering bipartisan support for Taiwan, declaring it “stronger and more rock-solid than ever.” His subsequent meeting with the vice regional leader, Lai Ching-te, who won the recent election, further highlighted the U.S.’s commitment to deepening ties with Taiwan, and Gallagher commented on the potential failure of any military action from China.

The visit follows a tragic incident earlier this month, where a mainland Chinese fishing vessel was capsized by Taiwan authorities near Kinmen Island, resulting in the loss of two Chinese fishermen’s lives. This has become a pivotal issue in cross-Strait relations.

Some analysts anticipate that Gallagher may exploit this incident to support Taiwan’s authorities and provoke further tensions with the mainland, in line with the U.S.’s apparent interest in escalating regional chaos.

Experts have also suggested a personal motive behind Gallagher’s statements, speculating that they may be laying the groundwork for his future endeavours, potentially enhancing his connections with Taiwan’s intellectual and business sectors.

The visit is not isolated; the frequency of American official visits to Taiwan is expected to increase, reflecting the growing strategic competition between the U.S. and China.

Chinese commentators have warned that Gallagher’s visit, and others like it, only serve to exacerbate U.S.-China relations and raise concerns across the Asia-Pacific region. They argue that for the U.S., leveraging the Taiwan issue is a low-cost, high-reward strategy in its complex dynamic with China.