At the event, Tsai received this year’s global leadership award from the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based conservative think tank. Past winners include former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
Presenting the award to Tsai, Hudson Institute President John Walters hailed her as a frontline leader in the fight to contain Chinese aggression in Asia.
“The Chinese Communist Party fears her because she and Taiwan are an inspiration to the Chinese people who aspire to be free and yearn for democracy,” Walters said, according to the tape. “Their battle of hers, her battle, is our battle.”
The United States says that the president of Taiwan is passing through. China is not amused.
Tsai made strong comments in the face of threats from Beijing, insisting that Taiwan “will never cave to pressure.”
“Taiwan has also long endured the danger of living next door to an overbearing neighbor,” he told a crowd of conservative luminaries at a Midtown hotel. Taiwan does not seek conflict, Tsai said, reiterating his commitment to maintaining a peaceful status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
He will spend two days in New York en route to Central America, but his visit is deliberately low-key — he makes no media appearances while in the United States — to avoid antagonizing Beijing.
His speech came at the end of a day spent exploring the culinary delights of New York City in meetings with Taiwanese American chefs and restaurant owners. Crowds of supporters and protesters followed Tsai through the city, some carrying banners with messages such as “Welcome, President of Taiwan” and others waving Chinese flags and banners calling Tsai “a great traitor to China.”
The visit, Tsai’s first in more than three years, has done more than draw attention to the New York restaurant scene. It has served as a reminder to Beijing that, despite its global campaign to isolate Taiwan, few issues currently attract more support from both sides of the aisle in Washington than defending Taiwan’s democracy in the face of Chinese aggression.
Uncertainty looms over how China will respond to the visit. Beijing has threatened retaliation if Tsai goes ahead with a meeting scheduled for next week in California with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who would become the highest-ranking US official in meet a Taiwanese leader on American soil.
The visit was a pretext for “Taiwan independence separatist forces” to promote their cause in Washington, said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Mao Ning.
Washington has emphasized that Tsai is only passing through on her way to Central America. But his trip comes at a time when Russia’s war in Ukraine has heightened the focus of lawmakers in Washington on supporting Taiwan’s democracy against China’s autocracy.
The planned meeting with McCarthy at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, is already a reversal of McCarthy’s original intention to visit Taiwan himself, following a visit by House Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif. ) to Taiwan last year that provoked an aggressive military reaction from China that included a mock blockade of the island.
The Biden administration has been trying to downplay Tsai’s trip. Last week, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan held a call with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, to emphasize that the trip was routine.
But Beijing may interpret a meeting with such a high-ranking official as McCarthy as having even greater consequences than Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, said Jingdong Yuan, a professor specializing in China defense policy at the University of Sydney.
“Meetings with senators and representatives are more or less routine, though limited in range and number, so Tsai’s supposedly scheduled meeting with McCarthy would be something more significant,” Yuan said.
The military balance on both sides of the Taiwan Strait has changed dramatically in the past 30 years, Yuan added. “Between the US deployment in the Western Pacific and the (People’s Liberation Army), it has undergone significant changes, with the Chinese military in possession of many ballistic and cruise missiles that pose far greater threats to China’s military assets. USA,” Yuan said.
McCarthy’s meeting with the president of Taiwan puts the US on alert.
Under Washington’s “one China policy,” which acknowledges but does not endorse Beijing’s claims that Taiwan is part of China and the Chinese Communist Party is its sole government, Tsai is barred from going to the United States on an official visit to China. state.
To stay in line with this policy, Tsai’s travels are coordinated between two organizations that function like embassies in all but name.
Tsai was greeted at John F. Kennedy International Airport by Laura Rosenberger, who recently left the National Security Council to head the American Institute in Taiwan, the unofficial organization that manages US-Taiwan relations. She has no other meetings planned with members of the Biden administration.
And Tsai met ambassadors from countries that recognize Taiwan at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office on Thursday. Known as Tecro, he donated more than $100,000 to the Hudson Institute in 2021, according to the think tank’s most recent annual report.
Since then, Taiwan’s leaders have pushed the boundaries of what constitutes acceptable, but as yet unofficial, activities in the United States. On a previous trip in 2019, Tsai met with members of Congress and even hosted a banquet for representatives of Taiwan’s allies at the United Nations.
At a dinner Wednesday night with the Taiwanese expatriate community, Tsai hailed Taiwan as “a beacon of democracy in Asia.” The dinner was attended by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Vice President of the New Jersey General Assembly Raj Mukherji, New Jersey State Senator Gordon Johnson and New York State Senator Iwen Chu, all members of the Democratic Party.
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Taiwan’s leaders have engaged in an ongoing negotiation with Washington over their reception in the United States dating back to President Lee Teng-hui’s first transit through Hawaii in 1994, when he was not granted a visa and did not go down of your plane. . A subsequent visit by Lee would kick off an escalation of Chinese military aggression in what became known as the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis.
This week, Tsai is in New York for two days on her way to strengthen ties with Guatemala and Belize, two of the democratic island’s only remaining diplomatic allies.
At the same time, his predecessor Ma Ying-jeou made a historic trip as the first former Taiwanese president to visit China, where he highlighted the shared history and connections between people on both sides of the Strait. Ma is from the opposition Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, which favors closer ties with China.
While Beijing has welcomed Ma’s visit, it refuses to engage with Tsai.