Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told Breitbart News exclusively on Thursday as she was en route to Taiwan for a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is “emboldened” right now and that the United States has to step to stop them.
“The purpose of this is to help deliver the message that the U.S. stands with Taiwan and that we support them and support the work that our companies are doing there and that we’re going to be continuing to find ways to support them with things like my Lend-Lease Support legislation to help equip them so they have what they need to defend to themselves,” Sen. Blackburn said.
Blackburn, who flew into Taipei on a military jet just a few weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit, gave an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on her way there while the jet was at a refueling stop.
Blackburn earlier this summer introduced bipartisan legislation that would create a Lend-Lease program to help get defensive weapons to Taiwan. While on the ground, she met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, and other Taiwanese officials and gave a former address at Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She also held meetings with business leaders, including at the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates on behalf of American and Taiwanese businesses.
Blackburn’s visit represents the highest-profile Republican to visit Taiwan since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip there earlier this summer. Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb also visited Taiwan earlier in August, as U.S. officials seem increasingly willing to buck Beijing and instead meet directly with the Communist Party’s counterparts in Taipei.
“It does send a message,” Blackburn said when asked about her trip in the aftermath of Pelosi’s visit. “It sends the right kind of message that we stand with those who are facing the onslaught of aggression from the Chinese Communist Party. It is important that we send a message that we are not going to back down, that we are going to continue to work with them. It has been longstanding U.S. policy that we support Taiwan, and they need to know that has not changed.”
That otherwise fierce political rivals in the United States like Blackburn and Pelosi can agree on the importance of standing with Taiwan against the Chinese Communist Party is significant, and Blackburn called on more members to tour not just Taiwan but the region as a whole.
“I think it’s important for others to come out and visit the Indo-Pacific not only to visit Taiwan but to visit some of the other islands and those nations,” Blackburn said. “All of this is to send a message that we stand with Taiwan. I mentioned the Lend-Lease bill that we have so they would have the opportunity to defend themselves.”
Blackburn said the Chinese Communist Party across the region — and worldwide — is attempting to move toward complete domination. She said the way Beijing handled the takeover of Hong Kong raises concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s plans for Taiwan, and the way China behaves towards other countries through its Belt and Road Initiative and other debt diplomacy pushes leaves world leaders cautious about dealing with China.
“When you look at the way the Chinese Communist Party is pressing against people in the Indo-Pacific region — pressing against countries in the Indo-Pacific — and then you look at how they are moving globally, right now the Chinese Communist Party is emboldened,” Blackburn said. “They are intent on being globally dominant. They look at this as a 100-year marathon. They want to go back in and take Taiwan, take their freedom. We’re concerned about this issue. Look at what the Chinese Communist Party has done with Hong Kong and then that raises your concern for Taiwan. You also look at the human rights violations that the Chinese Communist Party has carried out against their own people. Then you see how they are pushing forward with their Belt and Road Initiative and how they are exercising debt diplomacy to go in and take control of countries and areas, and it causes you to say, ‘we need to be careful about this,’ and, ‘we need to stand with those that are seeking to defend their country and to defend their freedom.’”
On her way to Taipei, Blackburn met with leaders in several other Indo-Pacific nations, including Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea. She said a common theme is emerging among regional powers: They all prefer working with the United States and other western nations like Australia and New Zealand over working with China because of the hard-edged tactics of the Chinese Community Party.
“We have had some very productive meetings,” Blackburn said. “There is some concern over how the Chinese Communist Party wants to come into a country, build things, bring Chinese workers into the country and they are the ones benefitting from that not the workers of those various countries. There is concern of domination from the Chinese Communist Party, and leaders want to know that the United States is going to be an ally and a partner with them and other nations like Australia and New Zealand. The people — the citizens of these countries — prefer working with the United States over working with China.”
Taiwan, Blackburn added, is a critical partner of the United States in several key industries including especially the semiconductor industry.
“Their production, specifically talking about the semiconductor industry, is critical to many of our companies like the auto industry which is heavily involved in Tennessee and appliance manufacturing that is heavily involved in Tennessee,” Blackburn said. “They are very important, so keeping that strong and our ties strong is vital. We know too that it is going to be important as you look at consistency in these supply chains that working with and listening to the companies that are headquartered in Taiwan about their concerns and some of the pressures they are facing — that’s going to be an important conversation to have.”