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US lawmakers make fool of themselves with Taiwan bills

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-12 08:49

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives in the United States passed two bills relating to Taiwan through voice vote. The Taiwan Travel Act (H.R.535) aims to encourage diplomatic visits between US and Taiwan officials at all levels, while bill H.R. 3320 directs the US secretary of state to develop a strategy to restore observer status for Taiwan in the Geneva-based World Health Organization.

The bills won't become law until they pass the US Senate and are then signed by US President Donald Trump.

The fact that only a handful of Congressmen were present in the largely empty hall when the two bills were discussed and voted showed that most US lawmakers didn't take them seriously.

The Taiwan Travel Act, sponsored in January 2017 by Steve Chabot, a Republican representative from Ohio, is a flagrant violation of the one-China principle observed since the People's Republic of China and the United States established their diplomatic ties in 1979. In the 1979 China-US joint communiqué on the establishing diplomatic ties, Washington recognized the PRC government as the sole legal government of China and acknowledged that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China. The communiqué also stipulates that the US can only maintain unofficial relations with Taiwan.

So it's absurd for US lawmakers, such as Brad Sherman, a Democratic congressman from California, to describe Taiwan on Tuesday as a "country" and "nation".

The Chinese government's stance has been firm and crystal clear. When the bill passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee last October, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the bill could "harm China-US relations" and encourage "Taiwan independence". She urged the US to handle the Taiwan question with caution, abide by the one-China policy and the three joint communiqués, refrain from conducting any kind of government-level exchanges with Taiwan, and not to send wrong signals to Taiwan "separatists".

Bill H.R. 3320, sponsored last July by Ted Yoho, a Republican Congressman from Florida, is equally absurd, blaming Beijing for the loss of observer status at the WHO last year.

China's central government made a special arrangement for Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly from 2009 to 2016 as an observer under the name "Chinese Taipei" in accordance with the 1992 Consensus reached between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

However, Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party, who took office on May 20, 2016, has refused to endorse the 1992 Consensus and recognize that the two sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to one China, a prerequisite for Taiwan's participation at the assembly.

So if those US lawmakers try to help the situation rather than confuse the public, they should urge Tsai to endorse the one-China principle as soon as possible.

Cross-Straits relations developed by leaps and bounds in the eight years that Ma Ying-jeou was Taiwan leader from 2008 to 2016, delivering concrete benefits to people on both sides of the Straits. The Chinese mainland is by far Taiwan's largest trade partner, absorbing nearly 30 percent of Taiwan's exports. The closer economic and people-to-people exchanges brought unprecedented peace and stability to the Taiwan Straits, until jeopardized by Tsai's refusal to endorse the 1992 Consensus.

Those US lawmakers who support the bills should first educate themselves instead of becoming a laughing stock. They should also realize that the days that they can willfully interfere in China's internal affairs are long gone. No US politicians should be allowed to flirt with the China-US relationship, the most consequential relationship in the 21st century.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

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