U.S. announces highest-level official visit to Taiwan since 1979

Foreign Affairs

The Trump administration is sending a senior official to visit Taiwan. Does this portend a big change in Taiwan policy?

alex azar standing behind donald trump
U.S. President Donald Trump and his Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. Image via Wikipedia.

“U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar will visit Taiwan in coming days, his office said on Tuesday, making the highest-level visit by a U.S. official in four decades,” reports Reuters.

The move has, of course, angered China, although in a reverse of the usual media formulation about such actions, Taiwan-based journalist Chris Horton notes that it will “reassure Taiwan.”

  • Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) tweeted that she looks “forward to welcoming Secretary Azar…sharing how the Taiwan Model works to contain the spread of COVID19 and contribute to global health.”
  • Sharing COVID-19 best practices is the stated reason for the visit, although given the Trump administration’s apparent lack of interest in containing the pandemic, a cynic may be forgiven for doubting that this is the real motivation for the visit.

“Watch this space,” commented New York Times reporter Ed Wong: “There is lots of speculation in Washington over whether there is something big building on the administration’s Taiwan policy.”