The following is the full transcript of an interview with Taiwanese Rep. to the U.S. Bi-khim Hsiao that aired Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: Representative Hsiao, thank you so much for coming here today to talk to us. It’s an intense week. Speaker Pelosi is the highest ranking US official to visit Taiwan in about 25 years. Why is Beijing so furious?
BI-KHIM HSIAO: Well, there’s no reason for them to be so furious. We have had decades of welcoming congressional delegations to Taiwan. And this has been a norm in our culture. The Taiwanese people are warm and hospitable. We’re visiting friends is part of our tradition. And actually one of the most quoted Confucian Analects in Taiwan is “isn’t it a pleasure to welcome friends from afar” and so having this as part of the norm of our engagement with the United States, codified in a strong foundation of the Taiwan Relations Act, there’s really no reason for them to be so upset.
BRENNAN: Well, the US was concerned about this trip. President Biden indicated the military wasn’t enthusiastic about Speaker Pelosi visiting. she spoke openly about the risk of her plane being shot down. Did Taiwan ever have that level of concern that there was a risk here?
HSIAO: Well, you know, we have been living under the threat from China for decades. And we cannot let their ongoing threats define our desire to make friends internationally. If you have a kid being bullied at school, you don’t say you don’t go to school. You try to find a way to deal with the bully. And that’s exactly what Taiwan is doing and working on making our society stronger and more resilient, fortifying our defenses so so that we have means of managing risks. The risks are not posed by Taiwan, nor are they posed by the United States. The risks are posed by Beijing.
BRENNAN: What’s the specifically is that risk? Is it a full scale invasion?
HSIAO: Well, the Chinese have not renounced the use of force, while we call on them to engage in dialogue for a peaceful revolution, they have been intensifying threats towards Taiwan. That is not only on a military level, it has involved a hybrid tool kit of public disinformation, cyber attacks, economic coercion. They have a broad tool kit that we have become more and more accustomed to. But again, that is not going to change our determination to defend our freedom.
BRENNAN: What’s happening right now is unprecedented. Beijing has sent 68 war planes, 13 warships right off your coast. China has encircled Taiwan with these missiles it has fired off, even though they landed in the middle of the water. Do you believe that this is just a drill?
HSIAO: Well, indeed, China’s behavior is unprecedented and from the scope and, you know, the actions, it appears that they have been preparing for this for some time, way before Speaker Pelosi decided to visit Taiwan. From our perspective, again, my President has called on the Chinese government to exercise restraint. We intend to resolve our political differences through dialogue. And that is the only way that will preserve the stability of the region. And is – it is the only way that will protect the interests of not only Taiwan and not only China, but the whole world.
BRENNAN: Is this a test-run for an invasion?
HSIAO: Well, I’m not going to speak for the Chinese intentions, but I am going to speak for what we are prepared to do and that is, we will not escalate. We will not provoke. We are committed to maintaining the status quo. We also call on China to act with restraint in the shared interest of stability in the region that has worked for all stakeholders in the region
BRENNAN: China is seemingly showing that it can blockade Taiwan, that it can cut you off from the rest of the world. What is the cost of doing something like that?
HSIAO: Well, China has been building up their military capacities rapidly over recent years. And what they are doing through these exercises have the potential of jeopardizing some of the most important air and sea commercial routes. And that will not only jeopardize Of course, Taiwan security at the regional stability I believe they will also jeopardize China’s interest in a stable environment under which trade and commerce can function. And of course, there will be implications for the world. Such risky and dangerous behavior has implications for the world.
BRENNAN: Do you believe that President Biden would militarily defend Taiwan against an invasion?
HSIAO: Well, we have a very strong security partnership with the United States. Since 1979, the Taiwan Relations Act has provided a strong foundation for that –
BRENNAN: For your self defense –
BRENNAN: and selling of U.S. made weapons and it doesn’t explicitly say the US would come to your defense
HSIAO: Well, we believe we must be determined to defend ourselves for others to be willing to help us.
BRENNAN: Do you have any assurances from the Biden White House that they would defend you, not to sell you weapons as presidents have for the past 40 years, but actually come to your defense?
HSIAO: Well, our security partnership is based on the Taiwan Relations Act and the six assurances, and the contingencies or circumstances are hypothetical, but what I can say is that we have a very strong security partnership that ensures the protection of our shared interests in the regional peace and stability.
BRENNAN: Taiwan’s defense minister said just last year that China would have the capability to launch an invasion by 2025. Are you ready for what may be coming?
HSIAO: Well, the way we see the threats, it involves two parts, capabilities and intentions. We work on intentions by communicating reason and rationality. And we deal with capabilities by also fortifying our own deterrences. And that is why Taiwan is also investing in our asymmetrical defense capabilities. We do not intend, nor are we able to engage in an arms race with China. But we are going to be smart and asymmetrical about our own capabilities. And that ultimately, in cooperation with other stakeholders in the region, is to deter an actual invasion from happening.
BRENNAN: Do you believe the timeline for an invasion is moving up? The criticism of what Speaker Pelosi did by visiting is that she is provoking China?
HSIAO: Well, I think the word provocation has only one place and that’s with China right now. They are the ones that are provoking regional instability. And what we are going to do is try to ensure we continue to live under an environment in which the Taiwanese people can freely determine our future and also where we can define who our friends are. And again, being warm and hospitable, warm, welcoming friends from afar is part of our cultural tradition.
BRENNAN: So you do not think that this was a mistake, and that this visit has backfired?
HSIAO: Well, the visit has been welcomed by the Taiwanese people. Sometimes it’s hard for other countries from afar to fully understand the feelings and perspectives of the Taiwanese people and that is, for too long, you know, we have been bullied, isolated and suppressed and banned from international organizations, even though we have built a modern, open, prosperous democracy. And so when friends come from afar and wish to lend their support to Taiwan, we generally take that with gratitude.
BRENNAN: A number of high level Republicans have also visited Taiwan recently, and former Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper was just in Taipei. He said that your government needs a greater sense of urgency to make your democracy thrive. He said the US assistance isn’t enough to deter China over the long haul. What do you need to do that?
HSIAO: Well, we are working on multiple fronts, in terms of fortifying our own defenses, including the asymmetric capabilities that –
BRENNAN: Is that cyber?
HSIAO: Well, there are multiple areas in weapons and systems, in our domestic defense industry, in our foreign military sales projects with the United States. We are also working rapidly on reserve reform and finding ways to better integrate civilian resources in our homeland defense, we’re fortifying our cyber defenses. We’re also making our society more resilient to the political psychological warfare of disinformation and other political levels of China’s attempt at coercion in weakening our resolve to defend ourselves and our democracy.
BRENNAN: The Pentagon says that is a national security imperative for America to wean itself off of its reliance on Taiwan, specifically, the computer chips that your country makes. 90% of high end advanced products rely on your chips, particularly the US defense sector is incredibly reliant on Taiwan. Are you concerned that as the US weans itself off that it won’t be as willing to defend you?
HSIAO: Well, the reason why Taiwan supplies over 90% of the advanced semiconductor chips is because we have spent decades in creating a comprehensive ecosystem that supports the effective and efficient production of those chips, and that model is not easily replicated anywhere else in the world. Taiwanese companies are expanding their cooperation. They are not moving out. rather they are expanding their presence in other parts of the world, including in the United States. The CHIPS Act does help to facilitate that and expedite that, in terms of expanding production and fabrication here in the United States. But Taiwan does maintain our edge and as much as the United States and others find that there is a dependency on advanced chips in Taiwan, I think China also has that same dependency. Taiwan, It’s paramount that we maintain our strategic relevance, whether it is economically or in our technology, or in our frontline stand in defending the core values that are so important to so many countries around the world, and that is its freedom and democracy.
BRENNAN: President Biden’s about to sign a bill that will pump $52 Billion US taxpayer dollars into semiconductors to try to protect America against the risk of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. The United States is planning in the eventuality that this is going to happen. Is it inevitable?
HSIAO: Well, there will be a growing demand for chips. The auto industry, other technology industries, there’ll be a growing demand.
BRENNAN: So you don’t see this as a sign that the US is going to be less reliant and therefore less reliable?
HSIAO: I have seen during COVID-19 the disruption of supply chains and the pains in some industry sectors when there are those disruptions and I think it is smart that democracies are addressing supply chain security issues. And Taiwan will be that reliable partner in addressing these supply chain challenges together with other reliable democracies.
BRENNAN: You know, one of the things when you talk to….When you talk to Biden administration officials, they will say, Xi Jinping, the president of China is taking notes. He is watching what Vladimir Putin is doing right now in Ukraine as a test case to see what he can get away with in Taiwan. What lesson do you think he’s learning right now?
HSIAO: Well, again I can’t speak for his psychology at the moment or his personal analysis. But I think we are all learning lessons and the Taiwanese people are also learning lessons. And we are learning that we have to be better prepared. We have to be stronger in our own self defenses. We have to work hard to galvanize international support in working to deter that tragic scenario from ever happening.
BRENNAN: Are you concerned that the West won’t stand by Taiwan the way it has stood by Ukraine? China is financially so powerful. It would be hard for the West to cut it off.
HSIAO: Well, I think that was one of the messages that Speaker Pelosi was trying to convey. And that is, you know, despite all challenges, we have friends in the international community who will stand with us.
BRENNAN: And lastly, China has also flexed its diplomatic muscles. It cut off a number of agreements, it says, with the United States because of this visit, including collaboration on climate change. With China pulling out there, are you concerned that the West will look at this and say, it’s not worth it, not just on climate change, but on other priorities that outrank Taiwan?
HSIAO: Well, are we concerned? Yes, we are concerned about the disruption of these very important discussions on global issues that are matters of interest to not only the United States but to China, and everyone in the world. But the fact is again, visits, congressional visits to Taiwan, have been ongoing for decades. And for decades, it hasn’t pre- prevented the United States and China from having constructive discussions on matters of mutual interest. And I I agree with you know, some of the US White House and other statements and the analyses that, you know, the Beijing government is currently trying to manufacture a crisis over a practice that has been ongoing for decades. And they are using this as a pretext. And I think we have to make that clear. If China is to evolve as a responsible stakeholder in the global community, it’s really up to Beijing to decide if they’re rejuvenation, if China’s rejuvenation, will evolve with international respect, or with international condemnation.
BRENNAN: Representative, thank you for your time today.
HSIAO: Thank you.