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Friday, March 23, 2018, 12:26
'Taiwan Travel Act' called 'a mistake'
By Zhou Huanxin
Friday, March 23, 2018, 12:26 By Zhou Huanxin

Jon Taylor, professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. (MAY ZHOU / CHINA DAILY)

Legislation that encourages visits between officials of the United States and Taiwan at all levels is likely to adversely impact China-US relations, a US professor of political science has said.

US President Donald Trump signed the "Taiwan Travel Act" on Friday, which led China to lodge stern representations with the United States, saying that it sends a "gravely wrong signal" to "Taiwan independence" separatists.

"It's a mistake," said Jon Taylor, professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. "President Trump should note that the fundamental reality of cross-Straits relations has not changed since 1979."

President Trump should note that the fundamental reality of cross-Straits relations has not changed since 1979

Jon Taylor

"This legislation has the potential to do damage to China-US relations. It is unnecessarily provocative," Taylor, who has written extensively about China, said in an email on Tuesday.

Taylor said the passage of the legislation by unanimous consent in both houses of the US Congress is "of real concern".

In Beijing on Tuesday, at the closing meeting the annual legislative session, President Xi Jinping said any actions or tricks to split China are certain to meet with the people's condemnation and punishment by history.

Xi also said that it is a shared aspiration of all Chinese people to safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and realize China's complete reunification.

"These two statements should give pause to those who think that China will ever compromise on Taiwan-related issues," Taylor said.

The US-Taiwan relationship has been kept at the unofficial level since 1979, when the US and China established diplomatic ties. The arrangement has helped to maintain normal relations between China and the US for nearly 40 years, he said.

The new legislation is going to affect China-US relations because it encourages US and Taiwan official visits at all levels, the professor said.

"For those who think that the 'Taiwan Travel Act' is a mere domestic bill impacting only the US, I would note that they are deceiving themselves and others," he said.

The US law also will likely impact cross-Straits relations, particularly in areas such as cultural and education exchanges, travel and investment, he said.

Yet, Premier Li Keqiang said the mainland always works to ensure that people from Taiwan enjoy the same treatment as mainlanders when they come to work, study and live in the mainland.

After conclusion of the legislative session on Tuesday, the premier vowed to promote peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Straits and oppose any "Taiwan independence" attempts.

Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, Canada, said that although it is difficult to foresee the effects of the act, "There is a risk that it will contaminate other dimensions of the US-China relationship."

Asked about the effect of the law, Christopher K. Johnson, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, said, "I doubt it will fundamentally alter the way the US approaches the relationship."

Still, "Obviously, it does change the sort of tone of things," added Johnson, who holds the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS.

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