On the heels of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that the United States would lift its self-imposed restrictions on “how its diplomats and other officials interact with Taiwan,” Professor Margaret “Maggie” Lewis was featured in media around the world for her expertise on U.S.-China and Taiwan relations.
Professor Lewis, who was recently elected a Life Member by the Council on Foreign Relations, was interviewed by BBC TV World News, AFP, the Financial Times, The Telegraph and Bloomberg News.
She was also featured in a video presented by the National Committee on United States-China Relations (of which she is a Public Intellectuals Program Fellow) regarding “Taiwan’s Outlook for 2021.“
For BBC TV World News Lewis noted that the announced change in protocol was a “dramatic” shift in that “over the last few decades the U.S. and Taiwan have had an unofficial relationship, albeit a robust one,” and that this move on the part of the Trump administration made the relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan “more akin to an official relationship – without crossing the line.”
She further noted that it was “unusual” for such a move to come in the waning days of a presidential administration in the midst of transition, but that “we’ve learned to expect the unexpected.”
When asked how she thought China would react to this move she responded: “Not well.” And that the response from China was expected to include “strong words” from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and perhaps a resumption of sabre rattling in the form of a resumption of military flights.
When asked what impact this move by the Trump administration might have on the incoming Biden administration, Lewis said:
This complicates the Biden administration’s plans right out of the bat. They’re going to have to really figure out fast how to react to this. I do think it means that the Biden administration is going to have to be more careful that they don’t look ‘soft’ or ‘dovish’ and like they’re having a reset with Bejing. So I hope that they’ll find a way to thread that needle of vocalizing strong support for Taiwan without escalating tensions in a way that is ultimately bad for Taiwan and the United States.
In Bloomberg News, Lewis appeared in an article entitled “U.S. Eases Restrictions on Contact With Taiwan in Jab at China.” Bloomberg writes:
“While the implications of the announcement are not yet clear, it seems the intent is to nudge unofficial U.S.-Taiwan relations toward something more akin to official ties,” said Maggie Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School who has written extensively on Taiwan and China.
In The Financial Times and The Telegraph (subscription required) Lewis appeared in an article entitled “China Hits Out at U.S. as Taiwan Relations ‘Elevated to Global Partnership.” In the article Lewis notes that “The Biden administration was going to have to, at some point, articulate in clear terms its position on US-Taiwan relations. This move adds more pressure to articulate that framework on an accelerated timeline.”
In AFP, a news wire service based in France akin to AP and Reuters, she was queried regarding some of the fallout from the announcement, including the cancellation of scheduled diplomatic trips to Europe by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and to Taiwan by UN Envoy Kelly Clark. The article, “Turbulent Trump Diplomacy Ends with Scrapped Europe, Taiwan Trips,” was published in media outlets around the world and featured Lewis putting the matter into perspective: “‘It was very late in the game to be having a visit of this level,’ Maggie Lewis, an analyst at Seton Hall Law school who is based in Taiwan, told AFP. ‘It’s appropriate to be focusing on the incoming administration instead of the final days of the Trump administration.'”