Open Washington Doors to Taiwan Official Visits


Whenever high-level visitors from democratic Taiwan seek to come to Washington, the doors remain sadly closed, this needs to change. Despite a non-binding "sense of Congress" resolution in each session of Congress that urged lifting the then-and-still-current U.S. policy barring top Taiwan officials from visiting Washington, the doors have not opened at all. Yet the U.S. does welcome ''non-elected'' leaders from Beijing to routinely visit, rolling out the red carpet and receiving them to the White House with fanfare.

There's an important issue here. Having face-to-face meetings with Chinese government officials in Washington but never seeing Taiwan officials leads to a very skewed perspective on the part of U.S. officials and the American public. In business or diplomatic settings, leaders and officials are more inclined to deal with people negotiating—or complaining—face-to-face over "friends" who are actually more valuable but far away. To correct this imbalance, Washington must welcome high-level officials from Taiwan.

This January, H.R. 535 The Taiwan Travel Act was initiated by Rep. Steve Chabot with co-sponsorship from Ed Royce and Brad Sherman, ahead of a transit stop in San Francisco by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on her way back to Taiwan after a visit to Central America. This bill would change the United States policy, removing the barriers to the meeting of high-level Taiwanese and United States officials in all United States executive departments.

These out-dated restrictions on visits to Washington have been in place for years, hurting U.S.-Taiwan relations tremendously; lifting them would be favorable to the development of relations. It would be good for the world. Democracies worldwide would applaud.

What can you do? Write a letter-to-the-editor of your newspaper or online news website, outline the issues and explain your point of view. And of course, send a note to your representative in Congress, use the quick and easy online ACT tool on this page. Time is on Taiwan's side, but it's still going to take some time. Every step counts. In the long run, the ideals of democracy are on Taiwan's side, and certainly there's room in Washington for both Taipei and Beijing.

Dan Bloom, a native of Boston and a 1971 Tufts graduate, has lived in Asia since 1991.

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