For Taiwan, A Tale of Two Visits

Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, flew to New York City on Wednesday, transiting through the city on her way to Belize and Guatemala — two countries (out of 12 worldwide, plus the Vatican) that boast official diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Tsai is expected to meet with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles on April 5, a prospect that has roiled Beijing. A spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office promised “resolute countermeasures” if the meeting goes ahead. Tsai’s prospective meeting with McCarthy would represent the first time a U.S. speaker has met with a Taiwanese president on American soil.  

Tsai to the U.S., and Ma to China

This is Tsai's seventh transit through the U.S. as Taiwanese president, and her trip to Central America comes just days after Honduras broke off diplomatic tieswith Taiwan in favour of the PRC. Honduras is the ninth country to cut ties with Taiwan since Tsai took office in 2016.

Meanwhile, former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou is on a landmark trip of his own. A senior Kuomintang (KMT) member, Ma travelled to China earlier this week, the first trip by a former Taiwanese leader to China since the KMT's retreat to Taiwan in 1949. The pro-Beijing KMT, Taiwan’s main opposition party, hopes Ma’s visit will soothe tensions between Taipei and Beijing.

Ma said during a meeting in Wuhan with the head of Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office that he's seen “the hostility of people across the strait grow.”

CPTPP decisions to come?

When the dust settles after these two visits, Taiwan will likely shift some of its focus to trade: media reported yesterday that the U.K. will soon be given the “green light” to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The U.K.’s possible accession puts far thornier CPTPP applications from China and Taiwan on the front burner, requiring delicate diplomatic manoeuvring from CPTPP members and applicants alike.