Texas senator Ted Cruz and governor Greg Abbott met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Houston to discuss ties and furthering economic cooperation between the two nations, infuriating Beijing which warned against “undermining” China-US relations by such actions.
Cruz and Abbott, both senior leaders from US President-elect Donald Trump’s republican party, met Tsai -- despite prior warning by China against any US leaders or officials meeting the Taiwanese leader, who was passing through Houston on her way to Central America.
Beijing considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province to be brought back within its fold, by force if necessary. China is opposed to any official contact between foreign governments with the leaders of the self-governing island.
Cruz said during his meeting with Tsai, they “discussed our mutual opportunity to upgrade the stature of our bilateral relations” in a talk that addressed arms sales, diplomatic exchanges and economic relations.
“Furthering economic cooperation between our two nations must be a priority; increased access to Taiwanese markets will benefit Texas farmers, ranchers and small business owners alike,” Cruz, who had lost to Trump in the republican primary elections, said in a statement.
“The US-Taiwan relationship is not on the negotiating table. It is bound in statute and founded on common interests. I look forward to working with President Tsai to strengthen our partnership,” he added.
A separate statement from Abbott said he and Tsai discussed energy, trade relations and commercial ties between Taiwan and Texas. He said they talked about “how our two economies can expand upon our already prosperous trade partnership.”
Senator Cruz said shortly before his meeting with Tsai, the Houston congressional delegation had received a “curious” letter from the Chinese consulate asking members of the Congress not to meet with Tsai and to uphold the ‘One China policy.”
“The People’s Republic of China needs to understand that in America we make decisions about meeting with visitors for ourselves,” the republican senator said. “The Chinese do not give us veto power over those with whom they meet. We will continue to meet with anyone, including the Taiwanese, as we see fit.”
This is the second time republicans are angering China within a month.
Chinese officials had voiced their strong objection to Trump speaking to Tsai in early December, which Beijing said breached diplomatic protocol. Trump had rattled China when he questioned a US policy that since 1979 has recognised Beijing as China’s government and maintains only unofficial ties with Taiwan.
China on Monday reaffirmed its opposition to any contacts between US officials and Taiwan’s government.
“Such contacts threaten to disturb and undermine relations between Washington and Beijing,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said and asked Washington to abide by the ‘One China’ policy and “prudently handle” Taiwan-related issues.