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Nisid Hajari

US Still Needs to Fight for Taiwan’s Hearts and Minds

Loose talk about blowing up chip factories and turning weekend warriors into insurgents only feeds brewing suspicion of Washington on the island.

Tsai is in Beijing’s cross-hairs. 

Tsai is in Beijing’s cross-hairs. 

Photographer: Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

The US has plenty of reasons to defend Taiwan — its strategic position, its critical place in the semiconductor supply chain, the impact not doing so would have on allies in the region. The island’s vibrant democracy counts as another. Over the next few months, though, Taiwan’s raucous domestic politics are going to be as much of a challenge for the US as an inspiration. 

Two high-profile trips now under way highlight Washington’s dilemma. President Tsai Ing-wen is stopping in New York briefly on her way to visit Guatemala and Belize, two of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies. More dramatically, she’s expected to meet Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California next week on her way home, highlighting how tight relations with the US have grown under her administration. China has vowed to retaliate.