This week, Brendan Carr, one of the five U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) members, will be in Taiwan to support and discuss cybersecurity, telecommunications, and 5G with the local government.
Also, his visit is expected to develop relations between the two democratic countries further. “Everything that we can do as Americans to show support and that we are allied with Taiwan—whether it’s big things or, in the case of me, a very small thing—everything matters to China’s calculus,” Reuters reported on November 2.
Carr is scheduled to meet with officials from the island’s National Communications Commission and Foreign Ministry. He will also visit the city of Hsinchu, home to the headquarters of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, TSMC.
The FCC is the U.S. federal agency responsible for the interstate and international regulation of cable, radio, TV, and satellite communications.
It is the second time a high-ranking U.S. official has made such a visit, and the first by an FCC commissioner, despite intimidation from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is threatening to take the self-ruled country by force.
Carr is highly critical of the CCP’s influence in using technology to affect his country’s interests. In June of this year, he aimed at the Chinese-owned short viral video app TikTok, accusing it of using the personal data of its U.S. users to conduct espionage.
“TikTok is not just another video app. That’s the sheep’s clothing. It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show is being accessed in Beijing.
I’ve called on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices.”
According to a report from Axios, the commissioner believes the U.S. government should ban TikTok again.
“I don’t believe there is a path forward for anything other than a ban,” Carr said, citing recent revelations about how TikTok and ByteDance handle U.S. user data.
Keep in mind that Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance owns TikTok. And in China, CCP law can demand from companies any information they deem necessary.
While the FCC cannot directly regulate TikTok, the U.S. Congress is currently negotiating with CFIUS, an interagency committee conducting national security reviews of foreign company agreements.
In turn, CFIUS is negotiating with the Chinese app to determine whether it can move its headquarters to the U.S., i.e., be owned by a U.S.-based company and follow local laws.
US officials’ visit to Taiwan infuriates CCP
In early August this year, the visit of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, sparked anger from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which declared such visits to be provocative and intrusive in China’s internal affairs and supportive of Taiwanese separatists.
Ms. Pelosi became the highest-ranking U.S. official in 25 years to visit the self-ruled island. It triggered a reaction from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which launched live-fire military exercises around the island.
After the 20th Party Congress, Xi Jinping highlighted the importance of Taiwan for the rejuvenation of communist China and intended a peaceful reunification. However, he does not rule out under any circumstances the “use of force.”
The culmination of the Congress reshaped its military leadership, promoting new commanders, younger and with more excellent knowledge of the situation in the Taiwan Strait, indicating that this will be its focus in the coming years.
The CCP wanted to annex Taiwan to the Chinese mainland, but the CCP never ruled the island. Instead, Beijing offers a “one country, two systems” model of autonomy, similar to that employed in Hong Kong, but the main Taiwanese political parties have rejected that proposal.
The Taiwanese are aware of the tragic events in Hong Kong in recent years, which suffered severe repression of its citizens following reforms to its legal and administrative system.
In the ’90s, the United Kingdom agreed to hand over control of the island to the CCP, with the condition that its government autonomy would be respected. Hence the phrase “one country, two systems,” but the CCP, in its eagerness for absolute control, implemented a series of new laws that negatively affected the Hong Kong people.
Taiwan shoots down Chinese drone
Between August and September this year, around 30 drones entered Taiwanese airspace, flying over two small islands off the coast of mainland China.
On September 1, the Taiwanese military shot down a drone over Shiyu, a tiny islet, part of Taiwan’s Kinmen County, just off the coast of Xiamen, China’s port city and tourist hotspot.
Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang defended the shoot-down the next day, saying it was “appropriate” after repeated warnings, “We had no choice but to exercise self-defense and fire.”
Although these drones are civilian, some analysts believe they could be used for intelligence purposes or as a form of provocation and coercion, what analysts call “gray zone” tactics.
Jie Zhong, an analyst at the Taiwan National Policy Research Foundation, commented, “China is using this harassment to increase pressure on us and then deliberately escalate some tensions around Taiwan.
“Just because it’s a civilian drone doesn’t mean it has nothing to do with military purposes.”
The CCP employs this tactic to force Taiwan into submission by avoiding war. The methods range from flying fighter jets over the center line of the Taiwan Strait to military exercises near the island and cyber attacks on civilian agencies such as Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The U.S. government showed its support for the Taiwanese government. On August 31, John Kirby, coordinator of the U.S. National Security Council, stated that he was aware of reports of Chinese drones flying over the island and that the U.S. would never accept any “new normal” that the CCP seeks to establish across the Taiwan Strait.
In addition, the U.S. announced on September 2 the sale of an arms package to Taiwan worth $1.1 billion, including 60 anti-ship missiles and 100 air-to-air missiles to repel possible invasion attempts by the CCP.