The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said it was “gravely concerned” over reports that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen plans to visit the US and meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in California.
“We are gravely concerned over this and have made serious démarches to the US side demanding clarification,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters.
She added that Beijing “firmly opposes any form of official interaction between the US and the Taiwan region, firmly opposes any visit by ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist leaders to the US in any name under whatever pretext, and firmly opposes the US having any form of contact with ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist elements.”
According to The Financial Times, Tsai is planning to visit the US in April, and Taiwanese officials convinced McCarthy to meet her there instead of traveling to Taiwan over fears of provoking a major Chinese response. When then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visited Taiwan last August, China responded by launching its largest-ever military exercises around the island.
Tsai last made the trip to the US in 2019, and Beijing’s response was said to be muted at the time, but tensions between the US and China over Taiwan have significantly increased since then. Analysts told The South China Morning Post that it’s possible China could still respond severely whether Tsai meets McCarty in Taipei or in the US.
“I don’t think Beijing would see much difference between the two [arrangements] and [it] is almost certainly going to take forceful measures to retaliate if Tsai’s trip goes ahead,” Li Fei, a researcher at Xiamen University’s Taiwan Research Institute in China, told the Post.
From Beijing’s perspective, a meeting between Tsai and McCarthy means Taiwan’s president engaging with the third-highest ranking US government official and demonstrates Washington moving away from the one-China policy. The meeting will likely be less provocative in China’s eyes if it’s held in California as opposed to Washington.