Op-Ed

U.S. must not cave in to China’s pressure

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in Beijing in March.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in Beijing in March. Associated Press

With Xi Jinping visiting the United States this week, there are a number of issues that must be raised with the Chinese dictator, such as our steadfast commitment to our democratic ally, Taiwan, human rights, Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, and the threat of North Korea.

First, Taiwan is an important U.S. ally, friend, and partner whose democracy, economic independence, and security is in our mutual interest. Taiwan’s ability to evolve into the vibrant democratic, prosperous, and free society it is today is due in no small part to the U.S. alliance and its pursuit of our shared ideals. As our ninth-largest trading partner, Taiwan plays a critical role in the U.S. economy, especially in our business supply chain, and, because of its system of governance, should be looked upon as an ideal candidate for a free-trade agreement with the U.S.

The Taiwan Relations Act, passed by Congress in 1979, and President Reagan’s Six Assurances of 1982 provide explicit and unequivocal guidance for U.S.-Taiwan relations and have formed the foundation for peace and security in the West Pacific for decades. These must be no doubt about America’s full and firm commitment to these guidelines or any doubt about our intent to pursue increasing trade and provide necessary security assistance to Taiwan as part of that commitment.

Second, human rights are an integral part of U.S. foreign policy and are essential to ensuring a country’s long-term stability and prosperity. Unlike Taiwan, which believes in the ideals of freedom, democracy, promotion of human rights, and open markets, China discriminates against women and minorities, lacks due process, and harasses and imprisons pro-democracy activists. Those who speak out against the state are subject to illegal detention, disappearance, and extrajudicial executions. Followers of Falun Gong, a peaceful spiritual practice, are particularly vulnerable, making up the largest number of prisoners of conscience in China and subject to China’s gruesome and state-sanctioned organ harvesting. We must not turn a blind eye to China’s rampant human-rights abuses.

Third, China is exacerbating tensions in the South China Sea and is directly or indirectly contributing to nuclear proliferation. While Taiwan is fundamental in helping maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, Xi is aggressively ramping up China’s military presence, threatening Asia’s fragile stability, freedom of navigation, and global trade, which depends on the region’s shipping lanes in the South China Sea. China has been unwilling or unable to rein in North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and without its cooperation and enforcement of sanctions, China will itself be culpable for Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal, putting the United States and its allies at risk.

The State Department recently sanctioned nine Chinese entities for their involvement in Iran’s ballistic missile program, signaling either lax Chinese oversight or something potentially more threatening. Xi must understand that a nuclear-armed Iran and North Korea pose great threats to U.S. national security and that we will take appropriate measures to hold those regimes, and those who support them, accountable for these provocations.

During this week’s meeting between the United States and China, the United States must take a firm stance in its China policy. Any movement away from Taiwan would send a terrible message about America’s commitment to its allies. Ignoring China’s human-rights violations may seem to some expedient in the short run, but it only diminishes our moral standing, prosperity, and security in the long run. And allowing Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea to go unchecked will only embolden the regime further, endangering allies in the region like Taiwan.

Cutting a deal with Beijing that walks the United States back from any of these important and longstanding policies can only be described as a failure. The United States has let itself be bullied by China for too long. Instead of caving in to Beijing’s pressure, we should be partnering with Taipei and increasing our bilateral relations with Taiwan to promote U.S. national security interests in the region.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, is chairman emeritus of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, and a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

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