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Taiwan Travel Act seen as 'wrong signal'

By Zhao Huanxin in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-03-22 11:17

Law encouraging visits between US, island officials a 'mistake', says expert

Legislation that encourages visits between officials of the United States and Taiwan at all levels is likely to adversely impact China-US relations, a US professor of political science has said.

US President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act on Friday, a move over which China has lodged stern representations with the US, saying that it sends a "gravely wrong signal" to "Taiwan independent" separatists.

"It's a mistake," said Jon Taylor, professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. "President Trump should note that the fundamental reality of cross-Straits relations has not changed since 1979."

"This legislation has the potential to do damage to China-US relations. It is unnecessarily provocative," Taylor, who has written extensively about China, said in an email on Tuesday.

Taylor noted the fact that the legislation was passed by unanimous consent in both houses is "of real concern".

On Tuesday, at the closing meeting the annual legislative session, Chinese President Xi Jinping said any actions or tricks to split China are certain to meet with the people's condemnation and punishment by history.

Xi also said that it is a shared aspiration of all Chinese people to safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and realize China's complete reunification.

"These two statements should give pause to those who think that China will ever compromise on Taiwan-related issues," Taylor said.

The US-Taiwan relationship has been kept at the unofficial level since 1979, when the US and China established diplomatic ties. The arrangement has helped to maintain normal relations between China and the US for nearly 40 years, he said.

The new legislation is going to "adversely impact" China-US relations because it allows US and Taiwanese officials at all levels to visit each other, the professor said.

"For those who think that the Taiwan Travel Act is a mere domestic bill impacting only the US, I would note that they are deceiving themselves and others," he said.

The bill will likely impact cross-Straits relations in a negative manner - particularly in areas such as cultural and education exchanges, travel, and investment, he said.

Still, Premier Li Keqiang said the mainland always works to ensure that people from Taiwan will enjoy the same treatment as mainlanders when they come to work, study and live on the mainland.

Speaking at a press conference after the conclusion of the annual legislative session on Tuesday, the premier vowed to promote peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait and oppose any attempt for "Taiwan independence".

Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, Canada, said that although it is difficult to foresee the effect of the act, "There is a risk that it will contaminate other dimensions of the US-China relationship."

Asked about how the bill would affect China-US ties, Christopher K. Johnson, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, said, "I doubt it will fundamentally alter the way the US approaches the relationship."

Johnson, who holds the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS, added, "Obviously, it does change the sort of tone of things."


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