Politico reports that the Biden administration is bracing for retaliation from the Chinese authorities over Vice President Lai Ching-te’s visit to Taiwan. The Chinese government has taken note of his itinerary, which includes a stopover in the United States en route to Paraguay for the country’s presidential inauguration in August.
The Presidential Office of Taiwan confirmed Lai’s upcoming trip to the United States to meet with the newly elected President of Paraguay, Santiago Pea. John Kerry, the U.S. ambassador for climate change, was in Beijing for four days to try to repair bilateral climate cooperation when this diplomatic incident erupted. In 2022, after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, Chinese dictator Xi Jinping halted this relationship.
One White House official told Politico that the Chinese government must not exploit Lai’s presence in the United States as a means of “brazen coercion.” But the official said the Biden administration is worried that China may exploit this to meddle in “Taiwan’s election.”
According to a number of sources, Lai is one of the most prominent leaders of Taiwan’s pro-independence faction, which poses a challenge for the Chinese state. Worse for Beijing, he is leading in the primary elections to succeed President Tsai Ing-wen in January 2024.
The official added that Lai’s passage is “routine” due to the distances involved and will remain “unofficial” to preserve the US One-China policy. Several vice presidents of Taiwan have visited the United States in the past two decades, he added, so this shouldn’t be contentious.
The media site predicted that this diplomatic incident will not be the last between Taiwan, the United States, and China because another Taiwanese official will soon transit in the United States. This official has confirmed that New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-vi will be visiting the United States “sometime in the early fall.”