US lawmakers’ sneaky visit to Taiwan may aim at agricultural, military interests
Published: Nov 10, 2021 11:40 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

A C-40A Clipper military transport plane, which carried six US senators and congressmen, took off from Manila and landed at Songshan Air Force Base in Taipei on Tuesday. These US lawmakers made a sudden and sneaky visit to the island of Taiwan, without announcing their specific schedule.

Both the US and the Taiwan authorities tried to keep it a secret about who these lawmakers are. While the South China Morning Post quoted "two sources familiar with trip" to confirm that the delegation includes six lawmakers, five of whom are Republican senators John Cornyn of Texas, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Mike Lee of Utah, and Representative Jake Ellzey of Texas. And the sixth remains unnamed.

Texas, Alabama, Idaho, Utah - all are agricultural states in the US. These lawmakers' visit to Taiwan are largely driven by their own electoral interests. These states have relatively frequent exchanges about agricultural products with Taiwan. At this point, they are showing their support to "Taiwan secessionists," which is very likely to satisfy their agricultural interests.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has always had connections with US arms dealers. He has long been supported by US arms dealers' interests. He is one of the Republican senators who introduced the so-called Taiwan Deterrence Act this month. He also incorrectly claimed on Twitter in August that the US had 30,000 troops in the island of Taiwan, which caused an uproar.

As for Tommy Tuberville, although he won the Alabama Senate election only in 2020, he has joined Senate Armed Services Committee. Tuberville has also participated in reintroducing the so-called Taiwan Defense Act and hyping the "threat" from the Chinese mainland. There are also interests of the military industry behind him as well.

This being the case, these US lawmakers may not only gain agricultural benefits from their visit to the island of Taiwan, but may also have room for interests in the military industry.

People may notice that all of these five lawmakers are Republicans. There may also be considerations of partisan struggle behind this. At present, the Biden administration has shown signs of cooperation with China on certain issues. However, the Republicans may hope to use various issues to hype and stir up troubles to hinder elements of Biden's China policy. 

As a Democratic President is in office, the Republican Party will more frequently propose negative China-related legislation and acts. This is a way of shaping the US president's China policy.

These US lawmakers made a sneaky visit this time. This is contrary to their usual high-profile provocation on the Taiwan question. This may relate to the changes in the situation across the Taiwan Straits. But whether high-profile or sneaky, this is not the first time that US senators arrived in Taiwan on a military transport plane this year. Such visits may even become normalized in the future.

Flying a military aircraft to Taiwan is playing ball on the edge. Such frequent visits will also seriously shake the political foundation of China-US relations. The US State Department had not made a clear statement on this matter as of press time. These US lawmakers have great influence inside the country's political institutions, and the current situation is very harmful to the China-US relations.

The author is an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn