Outgoing US lawmaker’s Taiwan trip instigates separatism, for personal gain: expert
Published: Feb 22, 2024 09:06 PM
Mike Gallagher (R-WI)

Mike Gallagher (R-WI)

Chinese observers slammed a soon-to-be outgoing US lawmaker as "blatantly disregarding the international consensus of the one-China principle and the UN Resolution 2758" after the China hawk made a series of highly provocative remarks in Taiwan on Thursday.

US Representative Mike Gallagher, who chairs the House of Representatives select committee on China, arrived in Taiwan region on Thursday with a delegation of four other lawmakers on a visit ending Saturday, NBC News reported.

"I am very confident that support for Taiwan will continue regardless of who occupies the White House," he told a news conference in Taipei. "I see growing and extremely strong support for Taiwan."

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning urged the US to be mindful of the extreme complexity and sensitivity of the Taiwan question, abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, prudently and properly handle issues relating to Taiwan, stop official contact with Taiwan and stop sending any wrong signal to the separatist forces for "Taiwan independence".

Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory. China opposes any form of official interaction between the US and Taiwan authorities and rejects US interference in Taiwan affairs in whatever form or under whatever pretext, Mao said at Thursday press conference. 

Gallagher's statement was condemned by Chinese observers, who said it "was encouraging the Taiwan separatist forces and estranging the island from the mainland," which again showed that the US has further solidified the island as a pawn in its overall strategic competition with China, they pointed out.

Also, in a meeting with Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen on the day, Gallagher said the US delegation's trip was to show that bipartisan support for the island is "stronger and more rock-solid than ever." 

In a separate meeting with the regional vice leader Lai Ching-te, who won the election as the island's next head and will take office on May 20, Gallagher said the US will deepen partnership with the island and that "if China attempts to invade Taiwan [region] the effort would fail."

Washington has been recently hyping rumors that "the mainland plans to attack Taiwan region," which is absurd as the peaceful reunification situation has not changed, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

By hyping such rumors, the US is instigating the "Taiwan independence" forces to take risks and provoke the mainland in an attempt to create a crisis and conflict across the Straits, which the US can benefit from, Li said.

The international consensus on the one-China principle must be respected and followed, and the spirit of the United Nations Resolution 2758 must not be undermined, but Gallagher's statements are an attempt to disregard them, Li said. 

The Taiwan trip shows the inconsistency between words and deeds in US' China policy, Li said, warning of the US' "dangerous scheme" on the Taiwan question.

The trip followed a fatal incident in which Taiwan authorities chased a Chinese mainland fishing boat and capsized it in waters near Kinmen Island, just a few kilometers off Xiamen city, Fujian Province, leading to the deaths of two mainland fishermen on February 14. This incident has become a hot topic in cross-Straits relations.

Some observers predicted that Gallagher will hype this incident during his visit by taking a stance supporting the Taiwan authorities and further provoke the mainland, as the US has always wanted to see a more chaotic situation involving China.

After announcing earlier this month that he would not seek reelection, Gallagher's series of provocative remarks during his Taiwan trip is also driven by personal interests. This could present opportunities for him to lay the groundwork for post-congressional endeavors, particularly in strengthening his ties with Taiwan's intellectual and business communities, observers believe.

Many American lawmakers and government officials choose to join think tanks or other organizations after retirement, where some can enjoy behind-the-scenes economic transactions or benefits, Wang Jianmin, a senior cross-Straits expert at Minnan Normal University in Fujian, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Regardless of Gallagher's future plans, being pro-Taiwan region can definitely help him gain political, economic and reputational benefits in the US, Wang noted.

Gallagher's delegation is not the first nor the last, as such official visits from US to the Taiwan region have been normalized, Wang pointed out.

He predicted that in 2024, not only will the frequency of American delegation visits to the island increase, but the scale and level of personnel visiting Taiwan may also rise, reflecting the unprecedented level of strategic competition between the US and China. 

 "For Washington, unlike economic sanctions against China, which may harm both parties, playing the Taiwan card has the lowest cost and the highest benefit," Wang said.

Li also warned that this Taiwan visit will only create more obstacles to US-China relations and spark more concerns in the Asia-Pacific.