Thank you, Russell – it’s wonderful to see you and so many friends of Taiwan again. When I spoke at the Institute’s opening in 2016, I knew you all would be a force to be reckoned with and I am delighted to see how far you’ve come. The US-Taiwan relationship is so important for the interests of both countries and it is incumbent upon all of us to strengthen our partnership. Now more than ever, our ally is under attack by the tyrants in Beijing, and we must all work to find ways to help Taipei withstand China’s aggression – economically, militarily, and politically.
I recently led a delegation to Taiwan and talked about these issues with President Tsai, Foreign Minister Wu, and Secretary-General Lee. And one question we consistently came back to was: how do we counter China in Latin America? I had also met with a few of the Caribbean and Central American Ambassadors and was hearing firsthand about Beijing’s tactics in their countries. In a lot of ways in Latin America, China has been acting as a substitute for Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction firm embroiled in corruption cases and which was ordered by a US judge to pay $2.6 billion dollars in fines. As it has been doing for a long time – just with more speed and intensity now – Beijing is pouring money into Latin America, corruptly financing projects, securing influence, and trying to reduce American power. And the fact that Beijing has an opportunity to isolate another of its adversaries, Taiwan, while undermining US influence, makes Latin America an even more attractive place for its attention.
China seeks to create a world order more favorable to its authoritarian style – one where human rights and freedom aren’t respected, where dictatorships have free reign to enrich their regimes, and where Beijing can project its military and economic power against the United States and its democratic allies. Fighting back against this malign influence requires a concerted effort on the part of like-minded nations – it can’t be the United States going it alone. We need all our democratic allies to step up and band together because each time we lose an ally we become weaker in the face of China’s aggression.
Just yesterday, I met with the Honduran President and relayed to him my concerns about China’s isolation campaign against Taiwan. I asked him not to fall for Beijing’s false promises, and told him that the long-term impact of China’s influence – its attempts to undermine human rights and our way of life – is not worth its cash. While Taipei cannot compete with Beijing dollar for dollar, there is a lot of room to grow in other areas, especially in people to people ties through an increased focus by Taipei on small businesses, culture, and education. Taiwan can highlight the advantages of its democracy – the freedom and innovation that comes with having a free market – and it can pay more attention to Latin America so that the people of these countries, and not just their governments, feel Taiwan is on their side.
In all of this, the United States needs to be standing shoulder to shoulder with Taiwan and our democratic allies, whether through trade deals, military sales, or diplomacy – hopefully all the above. Creating these links and deepening our partnerships is critical – not just to repel the Chinese assault but to expand democracy around the world. We can be certain that China won’t be sitting still – it has a strategy and it is executing that strategy – and it’s going to require a renewed effort on all of our parts to ensure it doesn’t succeed.