Taiwan authorities paying US lobbyists to maintain ‘rock-solid’ ties
Published: Jun 16, 2022 09:41 PM
Taiwan Photo: Unsplash

Taiwan Photo: Unsplash

On the second day of working-level meetings between security officials of the US and Taiwan, the island-based media disclosed that the "rock-solid" relationship with the US touted by secessionist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities was achieved by paying US lobbyists. Chinese experts said this not only reflects the local political struggle within Taiwan, but also the mutual estrangement between the US and secessionists on the island. 

Citing documents from the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), Taiwan-based media outlet said on Thursday that the DPP authorities hired lobbyists Bob Dole and Dick Gephardt to arrange a congratulatory call with former US president Donald Trump by the island's regional leader Tsai Ing-wen and to organize the "attendance" by the island's representative in the US Hsiao Bi-khim at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden.

The media said Gephardt, a Democrat and the former majority leader of the US House of Representatives, has been lobbying for Taiwan since 2013, and the island authorities have paid him $22,000 a month for years. As for Dole, he has received $140,000 in "service fees" from the DPP for pulling strings to get Trump to receive Tsai's phone call. 

The media said lifting restrictions on ractopamine-enhanced pork from the US is also related to such activities. said the Taiwan authorities have paid $30,000 a month for the services of Potomac International Partners (PIP), a Republican-friendly company, through which they linked up with the former US vice-president Michael Pence. The media outlet revealed that PIP was in close contact with Trump's financial officials, prior to Tsai's pork import announcement on August 28, 2020, and PIP told Pence about Tsai's decision in an effort to win over the White House.

The focus of Taiwan's lobbying shifted toward the Democratic Party after Biden took office, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became a key focus. Citing an investigation into Taiwan's lobbying activities in the US published by the US Justice Department and the Centre for International Policy in 2021, Taiwan media said Gephardt and multiple political lobbying agents representing the island contacted Pelosi 34 times.

Political lobbying on behalf of foreign authorities in the US must be registered with the Department of Justice, and the relevant records are accessible.  

A Beijing-based expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the Global Times that the lobbying files are normally updated and made public every six months, and lobbyists like Dole and Gephardt are well-known to observers.  
After the DPP took office in 2016, it continuously claimed that the island's ties with the US were "the best in four decades." But many people on the island were suspicious of the DPP's assertions, which is why local media exposed the secessionists' efforts to buy "support" with cash.  

In regard to the political position of, whether it is "pan-blue," or leaning toward the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), the expert said the revelation of the DPP's dollar "diplomacy" shows an increasingly bitter partisan battle. KMT Chairman Eric Chu Li-luan's recent US tour was not that successful even though he expressed loyalty to Washington, while relations with the US were touted as Tsai's "greatest achievement."  

Even so, some observers said there seems to be a clear gap between the US and the DPP authorities because the latter often act as a "troublemaker" when the Chinese mainland and the US emphasize "safety barriers."

On Thursday, Wang Yu-ching, a Taiwan cross-Straits observer who lives in the mainland, told the Global Times that it cannot be ruled out that the latest exposure of US lobbyists may be related to the provocation from diehard secessionist You Si-kun, head of the island's "legislature," who said the island-produced supersonic cruise missile is capable of striking Beijing.  

The US may also have warned the DPP authorities not to deviate radically from the bottom line of cross-Straits peace through an "authorized report" in the island's opposition media, Wang said.   

Despite the need for both the Taiwan authorities and the US to use each other against the Chinese mainland, the mistrust between them has grown, Wang noted. 

The DPP's boast of US support is nothing but self-deception, and it is the Taiwan people who are really suffering. While their hard-earned money is being spent as a "tribute," they are being tied to the "Taiwan independence" chariot and driven toward a dangerous abyss, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing in May.

Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council, once said that the wealth created by the hard work of Taiwan's people has been used to buy weapons through the practice of "dollar diplomacy." After reunification with the motherland, Taiwan people's wealth can be used to improve their own livelihoods and well-being.