Pompeo, DPP authorities are using each other for their own ends
Published: Apr 13, 2021 11:06 PM
Mike Pompeo Photo: AFP

Mike Pompeo Photo: AFP

The authorities on the island of Taiwan said former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is "likely" to travel to the island later this year, taiwannews.com reported on Monday.

For Taiwan authorities, given the worsening cross-Straits ties at this time, there are multiple purposes for releasing information about Pompeo's possible visit to the island: it's a way to deal with pressure from the Chinese mainland, and to make a political posture to the island. It wants to demonstrate to the mainland that it has a very close relationship with the US. It also desires to show that high-level interaction between the US and Taiwan is not affected, and to prove that Washington's support for the island remains firm.

The Biden administration has proposed to expand interactions between US officials and Taiwan officials. However, Pompeo is no longer a serving official, and the treatment between current and former officials is significantly different. He cannot represent the official Taiwan policy of the US. 

From another perspective, this also reflects a certain sense of disappointment on the island. It is widely believed that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities had placed their bets on Trump in last year's US presidential election. Relations between the island and the US reached a high under the Trump administration. After Biden took office, DPP authorities have been very concerned about whether or not there would be changes in US policy toward Taiwan, especially whether there would be a new policy orientation of China-US co-controlling "Taiwan secession." 

Taiwan is also trying to send a signal to the Biden administration, hoping Washington could give more support to the island, and hoping there would be no joint work between the US and the mainland to pressure the island to change its policy.

But a former US secretary of state's visit to the island of Taiwan has no special meaning. A visit of a current US Secretary of State to Taiwan will totally change the so-called unofficial relations between the US and the island, posing a blatant challenge to the Chinese mainland. However, Pompeo now is no different from an ordinary American citizen, so his visit will at most provide some kind of psychological comfort. Pompeo would probably over-interpret his visit to give the trip with some diplomatic meaning, but eventually it will not help the island of Taiwan increase its international status as it desires. 

The whole event will be nothing more than a transaction in which both sides get what they need. Pompeo will use the chance to emphasize his presence, while the DPP authorities will make a fuss of his hawkish background. Pompeo can by no means represent the US government now, whether he visits or not. 

There is no such thing as a free lunch. The DPP authorities will have to pay a handsome fee for the visit, especially when the visitor is the "worst-ever secretary of state" in US history. As he is under sanctions by China, many big companies dare not hire him. By attaching himself to Taiwan, Pompeo can be exposed to the media spotlight, gain some financial profits, and probably make a stunt for his presidential bid in the future. Taiwan may also have to pay for his show, or provide support in the form of research funds or others for the Hudson Institute Pompeo works for. For politicians like Pompeo, they make calculations only based on their personal and political interests.

On Sunday, Pompeo tweeted, "As a proponent of freedom, enjoying some Taiwanese dried pineapple. Checkmate." The post was accompanied with a picture of him eating dried pineapple. As a politician all too familiar with political maneuvers, riding on the political wave of the mainland's ban on Taiwan pineapples is a common tactic. Taiwan is also pitiful - it pays for the statement of some US politicians which remains verbal without any significance.

Both Pompeo and the DPP authorities know they are using each other for their own ends. Taiwan can interpret Pompeo's tweet as the former US senior official's support for the island's pineapples. But will the US import pineapples from the island? Will Pompeo spend his own money on buying hundreds of kilos of pineapples to show his support for the so-called democracy of Taiwan? Pompeo's tweet, as a matter of fact, is just a political show. 

The Taiwan DPP authorities have indicated Pompeo is very likely to visit Taiwan this year. If Pompeo carries out the visit, there is no need for the Biden administration or the mainland to stop him. Pompeo is the former secretary of state, but since he is no longer been in the position, he is an ordinary man who has personal freedom to go wherever he wants to go. Public opposition against his visit may backfire and embarrass the Biden administration. It may also instigate the rabble-rousing of some anti-mainland and pro-Taiwan forces in the US. Pompeo may feel even more proud as if his visit to Taiwan is of great significance. 

Pompeo is not a policymaker, nor will he have any real impact on existing US policy toward Taiwan island. There is no need to overestimate his Taiwan visit plan.

The author is an expert on China-US relations based in Shanghai. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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