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Is Speaker McCarthy planning a trip to Taiwan?

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
January 18, 2023

Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has Chinese media worried about a potential return visit to Taiwan after former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historical visit last July. 

In McCarthy’s first speech as House Speaker, he made mention of China and America’s debt problem in the same sentence, stating on the House Floor, “We will also address America’s long-term challenges: the debt, and the rise of the Chinese Communist Party. Congress must speak with one voice on both of these issues. This is why we will end wasteful Washington spending. From now on, if a federal bureaucrat wants to spend it, they will come before us to defend it. As for the Chinese Communist Party, we will create a bipartisan Select Committee to investigate how to bring back the hundreds of thousands of jobs that went to China, and then we will win this economic competition.” 

McCarthy’s 20-minute speech had just 10 seconds devoted to China. 

According to Asia Times, threatening China with a bi-partisan select committee is a classic D.C. way of doing nothing, while appearing to do something. 

READ MORE: China threatens US over Pelosi Taiwan visit

While McCarthy has indeed promised to return to Taiwan as Speaker, it is still unclear whether the Taiwanese government is expecting him.

Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration defense official, and McCarthy critic has accused the Speaker of being a victim of “elite capture” by China due to his numerous investments in firms with assets in China. 

Gaffney commented, “The trouble is that Kevin McCarthy has long worked with Sequoia Capital, a firm that has invested heavily in and for China. The botched Benghazi investigation illustrates how a Speaker like McCarthy’s mentor, Paul Ryan, can neuter an inquiry. Ditto the failure of McCarthy’s own China Task Force to examine financial firms like BlackRock and Sequoia’s enabling of our enemy.”

Beijing remains concerned about a potential McCarthy trip to Taiwan, foreign policy analyst Zhong Houtou wrote in China Daily:

No matter who is elected the new US House speaker, he or she should not play the Taiwan card to fulfill the United States’ narrow political goals as Nancy Pelosi did… Her visit not only undermined the political foundation of Sino-US relations, but also violated the one-China principle and the three Sino-US joint communiqués. Worse, it sent a wrong signal to separatists on the island, casting a shadow on the peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.

Zhong further added, “McCarthy is known for his hawkish stance on almost every issue. Yet many ultra-conservative representatives criticized him for not being conservative or harsh enough, which is both a surprise and a dangerous sign.”

The concern about a potential U.S. House Speaker’s return visit to Taiwan is amplified given the current geopolitical situation in the Taiwan Straits.