Taiwan nudges US Speaker of the House to meet on US soil

Briefly: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen will reportedly meet US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in the US rather than Taiwan, to avoid another escalation with China. The meeting will likely happen in April, when Tsai is scheduled to pass through the US en route to Central America.

Some context: Tsai’s proposal aims to avoid a repeat of last year’s drama, when former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan led to China’s massive and unprecedented live-fire drills near the island. 

McCarthy had previously pledged to do a Pelosi (visit Taiwan, not master the art of sarcastic applause). But Taiwan seems to have quietly steered him to meet in the US instead. They’ll likely meet in California (McCarthy’s home state), where the optics will be less ‘official’ and so less provocative from Beijing’s perspective. 

Intrigue’s take: One can understand the impulse to show solidarity with a small democracy facing an existential threat. But Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last year offered China a pretext to ramp up pressure on Taiwan, while doing little to support Taiwan in practice.

So Taiwan’s California solution tries to thread that needle: McCarthy can show US solidarity, without inviting another major escalatory response from Beijing.

Logical, right? But Beijing has its own logic: regardless of location, China says it doesn’t want its ‘renegade province’ meeting the second in line to the US presidency. So either way, we can probably expect more fireworks over the Taiwan Strait. 

Also worth noting: 

  • On Tuesday, China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang accused the US of pursuing policies that increased the probability of a US-China conflict. 
  • The US recently approved a $619M arms procurement deal with the Taiwanese military.