In Meeting With the President of Taiwan, Ted Cruz Defies China - Pacific Standard

In Meeting With the President of Taiwan, Ted Cruz Defies China

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And that could cause further strain on U.S.-China relations.

By Jack Denton

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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Yesterday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz met with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan in Houston, the Washington Post reports. The two met to discuss a “mutual opportunity to upgrade the stature of our bilateral relations in a wide-ranging discussion that addressed arms sales, diplomatic exchanges, and economic relations,” according to a statement released by Cruz. Texas Governor Greg Abbott also attended the meeting, which took place during a stopover as Tsai traveled to Central America on diplomatic business. Tsai, who is also set to meet with lawmakers in San Francisco on Friday, appears to be courting a Republican Party that may be warming to Taiwan as Donald Trump assumes the presidency.

Cruz’s meeting continued the recent flouting of American-Chinese diplomatic conventions, following President-elect Trump’s controversial phone call with Tsai in early December. Since diplomacy between the United States and China opened in 1979, the U.S. has maintained a complicated relationship with Taiwan. While officially supporting Beijing’s “One China” policy, which claims self-governing Taiwan as part of China, Washington has maintained what the Department of State refers to as a “robust unofficial relationship” with Taiwan.

Indeed, the Houston meeting appeared to be a source of consternation in Beijing, as demonstrated by a letter obtained by the Washington Post from Chinese Consul General Li Qiangmin, asking Cruz not to meet with Tsai.

“For U.S. leaders in administration and legislature, not to make any contact with Taiwan leaders nor send any implication of support of ‘Taiwan Independence’ are in the interests of China, the U.S. and the international community,” Li wrote. “In order not to interfere with the China-U. S. cooperation, I believe proper handling with Taiwan issue is always necessary and wise for all parties relevant.”

Cruz’s statement contained a stern rebuke of what he called Li’s “curious” letter. Cruz promised to continue to work “with President Tsai to strengthen” their partnership and to serve their common interests. “The People’s Republic of China needs to understand that in America we make decisions about meeting with visitors for ourselves,” the statement reads. “This is not about the PRC.”

Despite the Chinese reaction to the meeting, the New York Times reports it is not completely unusual for American politicians (who are not the president) to meet with Taiwanese presidents and high-ranking officials. Last June, Florida Senator Marco Rubio met with Tsai, and, in October of 2015, then-chairman of the Republican National Committee and incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus met with Tsai in Taipei before she became president.

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