President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) made two transit stops in the United States in one week, a sign of efforts to deepen relations between Washington and Taipei, regardless of vehement opposition from Beijing, the New York Times said in an Aug. 19 article.
Tsai stopped in Los Angeles last Monday on her way to Paraguay and Belize, and met with three California lawmakers, including Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat, who urged the U.S. to invite her to Washington, which would break with decades of American practice, the article said.
On Saturday, Tsai was in Houston on her way back to Taiwan. She visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Johnson Space Center.
The visits to Houston and Los Angeles are considered “transit stops” rather than official visits, part of a longstanding restriction imposed by the U.S. to maintain better relations with China. But Beijing has objected even to such brief stopovers, and the most recent ones came after President Donald Trump demonstrated willingness to provoke China’s anger, it said.
Bonnie Glaser, senior Asia adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was cited as saying that the Trump administration’s approval for Tsai’s visits to the Reagan Library and the Johnson Space Center in Houston showed that “they trusted she would not say or do anything that would increase cross-strait tensions.”
According to the New York Times, Tsai elicits hateful commentary in China on a level that perhaps only the Dalai Lama can match.
Her visit to a Los Angeles outlet of the Taiwan-based 85°C coffee chain provoked anger from Chinese netizens who threatened to boycott its hundreds of stores in China, its largest market, it went on.
That day, 85°C parent company, Gourmet Master, whose stock trades on Taiwan’s exchange, lost US$120 million in share value, prompting the company to apologize and voice support for the peaceful development in cross-Taiwan Strait relations.
The episode is the latest example of China using its grip on the country’s enormous market to pressure corporations into serving its political agenda, it pointed out, noting that multinationals, including airlines and hotels, have begun labeling Taiwan as part of China, due to threats from Beijing.
The White House called China’s tactics “Orwellian nonsense,” but did little else to back up American corporations.
William Stanton, a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan, said that the Trump administration should retaliate in kind against Chinese companies if China fines U.S. companies or restricts their access to the Chinese market for refusing to designate Taiwan as part of China.
“China’s trying to make both Taiwan and the government of Tsai Ing-wen persona non grata throughout the world,” Stanton said.
“There’s just no end to it.”