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Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen Arrives in the US, Defying Beijing’s Protests

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Published: March 31, 2023
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is seen departing from the boarding gate of the international airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan on March 29, 2023. (Image: SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, March 29, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York City amid a verbal dispute between Washington and Beijing regarding her visit, which the Chinese regime has claimed is in violation of the “One China” principle.

Tsai landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport just before 3 p.m. and was escorted by security to the Lotte New York Palace hotel on Madison Avenue — passing through crowds of opposing protesters and supporters closely monitored by the police — around 4 p.m.

Stirring the waters

Equipped with banners and loudspeakers, demonstrators led by the New York Alliance for China’s Peaceful Reunification — a pro-Beijing group in the area — had arrived early in the day in anticipation of Tsai’s arrival; establishing positions and holding up signs of protest along the street.

By the time the Taiwanese President arrived, the group had already surpassed the number of Tsai’s supporters, many of whom had arrived only minutes before her arrival. Despite the tense atmosphere and occasional arguments, the police were able to keep the two factions separated, local media reported. 

Pro-China activists wave flags outside a hotel as Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen departs from New York City on March 31, 2023. (Image: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)

A member of the local Chinese community — who preferred to remain anonymous due to safety concerns — told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that he had received a phone call from the Chinese Consulate in New York, urging him to participate in the demonstration to “safeguard the unity of the motherland.”

Tsai: ‘We will neither yield nor provoke’

Another Chinese official has even threatened to take unspecified “countermeasures” in response, the U.S.-based outlet reported. 

Despite facing aggressive language and menacing behavior displayed by the CCP and its supporters, Tsai has stated that neither she, nor her country, will yield to intimidation tactics or threats.

“External pressure will not hinder our determination to go to the world. We are calm and confident, and we will neither yield nor provoke,” Tsai told reporters on March 28 before departing from Taipei.

Tsai stayed for two nights in New York and delivered a speech while receiving a leadership award at the Hudson Institute on March 30 before departing for official diplomatic visits to Guatemala and Belize on March 31.

MORE ON THIS: Taiwan Confirms President Tsai’s Central America Tour to Include Stopover in US

Afterwards, Tsai will travel back to Los Angeles on April 4, where she will spend two more nights. While in California, she will deliver a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and is expected to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Simmering tensions

Following Taiwan’s announcement of Tsai’s stopover in the U.S., Beijing immediately took to criticizing the visit — with Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, stating that “the U.S. should strictly abide by the one-China principle and not provide any platform for Taiwan’s separatist forces to engage in activities that interfere in China’s internal affairs.” 

The Chinese government views any support or recognition of Taiwan as a direct challenge to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and has long threatened to use military force to retake the self-ruling island, if necessary. In recent years, Beijing has also increased its military activities around the island, and stepped up efforts to further isolate Taiwan diplomatically. 

Formally known as the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan has preserved its de facto independence and self-governance; its government once ruled all of China before Communist rebels overtook the mainland in 1949. 

The U.S., on the other hand, has maintained a delicate balance in its relationship with Taiwan and China. While it does not formally recognize Taiwan as an independent country, it has maintained unofficial ties with the island, and has pledged to support its security and democracy. 

This has led to tensions between the U.S. and China — with the CCP accusing Washington of “interfering in its internal affairs,” and seeking to contain its rise as a global superpower.

Boiling over

“The ones who are creating the problem and making provocations are not China, but the U.S. and the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists,” said PRC Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning in a daily briefing, adding, “We urge the U.S. to abide by the ‘One China’ principle.”

Despite Beijing’s objections, Tsai’s visit to the U.S. sends a clear message that the island nation is not isolated and has the support of the U.S. and other democratic nations. It also highlights the importance of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship and the need for continued cooperation in the face of China’s growing assertiveness in the region.