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Opinion Pieces

Washington Examiner: Rep. Steve Chabot: Xi Jinping's Communist cronies can't control Taiwan's future

In his New Year’s address last week, China’s dictator, President Xi Jinping, created a firestorm with his vigorous insistence that Taiwan should rejoin China on China’s terms. Undoubtedly Xi thought his message would rebuke President Tsai Ing-wen’s New Year’s speech and then blow over. Instead, it backfired. Not only has Tsai taken a tougher line, but Xi’s suggestion that Taiwan follow Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” concept earned a rebuke from the Kuomintang political party as well.

Xi should have predicted this rally-round-the-flag effect. After all, the idea that both China and Taiwan belong to “one China” is opposed by almost 70 percent of Taiwanese, according to polling last year by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. He also didn’t do himself any favors with his admission that Beijing interfered in Taiwan’s last election, or his threat that “we do not promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option to use all necessary measures” to achieve reunification. But Xi didn’t predict this backlash, because the Chinese Communist Party is completely tone-deaf to Taiwan’s concerns, and everybody else’s for that matter.

How arrogant must one be to think that Taiwan would accept Hong Kong’s fate, which has seen both increasing repression and the erosion on its “second system” after becoming part of China?

Xi’s fixation with reunification relies on the One China Principle, through which the Chinese Communist Party lays claim to Taiwan. This principle underpins Xi’s hyperbolic assertions that reunification is “inevitable” and that, “No one and no force can change the fact that Taiwan is part of China, and the historical and legal fact that both sides of the strait belong to one China.” Xi needs to let go of this way of thinking.

As a founder of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus and former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee, I am a longtime friend of the Taiwanese people. Unlike Xi, I respect them, as well as the facts on the ground.

One of those facts is that Taiwan has all the marks of an autonomous, sovereign, and independent nation. That is why I have long said that Taiwan is a country. Were it not for China’s pervasive bullying of the international community, every other nation would treat Taiwan as the normal country it is.

To be sure, Taiwan’s continued de facto independence is a wound to Chinese national pride, but it’s a self-inflicted wound. China’s increasing authoritarianism has made reunification less and less inevitable, especially since Taiwan has consolidated its democracy. The CCP’s rejection of democracy, human rights, and international norms is driving a wider and wider wedge between Taiwan and China. With every passing year that the CCP follows its trajectory, peaceful reunification becomes less likely. Whatever Xi thinks, the historical and legal facts are that Taiwan is independent from China.

As we begin a new Congress, it’s time that the United States accept these basic facts by rethinking support for the One China Policy and by more fully embracing the Six Assurances, positions I have long supported. Congress and the Trump administration should also more forcefully assert the policy that the Taiwanese authorities are the legitimate representatives of a flourishing democracy. Further, we should continue our policy of encouraging both sides of the Taiwan Strait to carry out constructive dialogue without preconditions. Finally, we should publicly commit to ensuring that any resolution of the future of Taiwan is done peacefully and with the active assent of the people of Taiwan.

What it comes down to is that Taiwan’s future ought to be determined by its citizens — not by President Xi and his Communist cronies.

Rep. Steve Chabot, a Republican, represents Ohio's 1st Congressional District. He is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, including the Subcommittee on Asian and the Pacific. You can follow him on Twitter: @RepSteveChabot