Retiring China hawk's potential Taiwan visit 'highly provocative, in pursuit of personal gains'
Published: Feb 15, 2024 03:03 PM
Photo: GT

Photo: GT

In a daring and potentially incendiary move, US House Representative Mike Gallagher, renowned for his unyielding stance against China and as the chair of the US House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, is set to spearhead a delegation of American lawmakers on a trip to Taiwan island commencing February 21. 

This audacious maneuver ignited a firestorm of criticism from Chinese observers, who view it as a brazen provocation capable of sparking yet another cross-Straits crisis. They also accused the outgoing congressman of pursuing personal gain at the expense of delicate diplomatic China-US relations. 

Dubbed the top China hawk, Gallagher will reportedly arrive in the island of Taiwan on February 21, according to three people familiar with his plan, including two Taiwan officials who expect him to lead a delegation of seven US lawmakers, the Financial Times reported Wednesday. 

Gallagher, a member of both the House Armed Services and intelligence committees, has spent much of his time this year chairing the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, a bipartisan panel charged with investigating US relations with China and developing strategies to help improve the country's ability to compete with China.

According to media reports, the visit comes in as a show of support for Lai Ching-te ahead of his May inauguration as the so-called "president" of Taiwan, during which Gallagher will meet with Lai and Hsiao Bi-khim, the so-called "vice president-elect" of the island. 

The primary objective of Gallagher's visit is to demonstrate continued support from the US Congress for Taiwan island, particularly following the recent elections in the region, and to bolster connections between the island and the US, while further distancing it from the mainland, according to Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University.

Li told the Global Times on Thursday that given Gallagher's well-documented adversarial stance toward China, his visit to Taiwan unmistakably reinforces the island's role as a strategic asset for the US in its competition with China, nudging the island further into alignment with US interests.

Media reports said Gallagher, 39, a four-term House member and former Marine Corps intelligence officer, said on Saturday that he will not run for reelection. 

Li pointed out that this visit might mark his final trip to Taiwan as a member of Congress. Therefore, his visit could be part of a broader momentum within the US Congress to engage with Taiwan island, potentially paving the way for future visits by more American lawmakers. 

This move could also present opportunities for the outgoing congressman to lay groundwork for post-congressional endeavors, particularly in strengthening his ties with Taiwan's intellectual and business communities, Chinese observers said.

Such a daring political figure would no doubt pose serious threat to the cross-Straits peace and stability, as his provocative visit could become a new lead to yet another crisis across the Straits, Li said. 

From the mainland's perspective, such actions are seen as more provocative than conducive to peace, prompting targeted and assertive responses, Chinese observes said. 

The mainland's response to such visit has become standard practice, characterized by routine military exercises, aircraft patrols and crossings of the so-called median line of the Taiwan Straits. These actions have become normalized within our strategic posture. Naturally, with Gallagher's impending visit, such responses are expected to resurface, Li predicted.