What Are the Right and the Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support Taiwan?

A ChinaFile Conversation

As the COVID-19 outbreak began its devastating spread earlier this year, Taiwan, whose public health measures to contain the virus had been among the most effective in the world, launched a campaign to highlight its success. #TaiwanCanHelp—as the effort appeared on social media—was a subtler version of Beijing’s “facemask diplomacy,” but it was also, implicitly, a plea for international recognition and support.

The Trump administration has found Taiwan useful in its get-tough-on-China policy, pointing to a successful model of Chinese democracy while tweaking Beijing’s most sensitive nerve with gestures of support. This support has included roughly $12 billion in arms sales—comparable to the amount sold in Obama’s first term, but significant in allowing the sale of advanced F-16 fighter jets.

Whereas, in the past, the U.S. rarely announced its Navy ships’ transits of the Taiwan Strait, in 2019 alone at least eight such transits were actively publicized. China, meanwhile, sailed a flotilla through the Strait in April, led by its new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. And the PLA Air Force ramped up incursions into Taiwan airspace, crossing the “median line” that divides the Taiwan Strait and flying over the waters southwest of Taiwan.

President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act and the TAIPEI Act into law. Both express political support for Taiwan. Yet they are essentially hortatory, encouraging the executive branch to do things it already can (such as sending high-level officials to Taipei) and to do things that it lacks the power to do (like getting Taiwan admitted to the WHO).

As the World Health Assembly convened virtually on May 18, amid resistance from Beijing, Taiwan abandoned its bid—which the U.S. had supported—to attend the meeting as an observer. Setting aside the irony of the U.S. pushing for Taiwan’s participation in an organization that the president has reviled and defunded, past precedent and Taiwan’s extraordinary success against COVID-19 both argue for allowing it in.

And on May 21, Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, will be inaugurated for a second term. Her carefully crafted and fairly conciliatory address in 2016 at her first inaugural was dismissed as insufficient by Beijing, so it’s a safe bet that China’s leaders—who are just about to begin important legislative meetings—will not like whatever she has to say this time around. In deference to public health, there will be no large public ceremony or foreign guests. But reports suggest that top U.S. officials possibly including the Secretary of State may provide remarks to her inauguration by video, pushing the boundary of the One China Policy with a virtual official diplomatic act.

What are the right and wrong ways for the U.S. to support Taiwan? Traditionally, America’s goals have been to deter the mainland from aggression and coercion, support Taiwan’s democratic system, strengthen economic ties, and help it maintain sufficient international space to help address regional and global priorities. Are these still the central objectives of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Taiwan? And if so, to what extent do these latest U.S. actions advance or impede them?

What should an “America Can Help” campaign to support Taiwan really look like? —Daniel Russel


News just broke that the Taiwan government has decided not to ask the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) to vote on Taiwan’s bid for observer status in the WHA’s May 18-19 meeting. According to Taiwan’s foreign minister, this decision was based on the suggestion of its allies and other like-minded countries that, since this year’s shortened meeting will focus on measures to suppress COVID-19, Taiwan’s bid should wait until normal meetings resume and allow time for its full and open discussion.

Of course, there must have been much frenzied contact between officials in Taiwan and the United States before this last-minute decision. It is generally a good call from the perspectives of both Taipei and Washington. Despite the backing of Taiwan’s formal diplomatic allies, as well as the United States, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand for Taiwan’s limited participation in the WHO, it was almost certain that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its supporters would have defeated the proposal to invite Taiwan back to the WHA as a non-voting observer. Taipei’s withdrawal of the bid avoids an unfavorable outcome that would have embarrassed Washington, which has tried to rally greater support for Taiwan’s participation. It also deescalates a looming confrontation between Washington and Beijing in the WHA.

This is, however, one of the many warning signs of the United States’ declining influence in international organizations, especially given the Trump Administration’s disengagement from the world stage. An important part of the U.S. policy towards Taiwan is to advocate Taiwan’s international participation. Without greater support from other states, Washington will find it difficult to carry this out. By comparison, the PRC’s international influence has been on the rise due to its ability to mobilize a voting bloc that consists of many authoritarian governments and developing countries that rely on economic ties with Beijing. When it comes to counting votes, Beijing now has the upper hand.

The United States’ Taiwan policy therefore cannot be a stand-alone design. It not only involves Washington’s relationship with Beijing but also depends on Washington’s own role in the international system. The United States, for its policies towards Taiwan and China as well as for its own interests, should reverse the direction that alienates itself from global affairs. It must re-engage in international institutions and seek to develop broad-based, cross-regional alliances and support that goes beyond its usual in-group to promote better global governance. Otherwise, it will continue to find itself in the minority position that frustrates many of its policies, including those towards Taiwan.

For nearly half a century, careful management of U.S.-Taiwan relations has been the lynchpin of stable Sino-U.S. relations. Successive U.S. administrations have understood the need to balance two imperatives: strong U.S. support for democracy and self-determination with the need to develop constructive relations with the world’s most populous nation. Although American presidents faced a number of crises over these decades, they all understood the challenge of respecting Taiwanese people’s right to shape their own destiny without triggering a military conflict that could impose enormous costs on all three parties in interest. The key to this balancing act involves two pillars: 1) a clear warning to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that it would risk damaging costs and uncertain prospects of success (even in the absence of a formal U.S. security guarantee to Taiwan) if it tried to use force to achieve unification, while 2) making clear to Taiwan’s leaders that Taiwan’s self-determination does not require the pursuit of formal “independence.” The first pillar has been buttressed through both military and economic ties between the U.S. and Taiwan. These include defensive arms sales and military-to-military ties complemented by robust economic engagement and support for Taiwan’s involvement in key economic institutions such as the WTO and APEC. The second pillar was underscored by clear U.S. policy that the U.S. would not promote Taiwan’s independence or pursue a “two-China” policy.

At a time when China is increasingly assertive in East Asia and beyond, and refusing to engage with Taiwan’s democratically elected leaders, there are powerful reasons for the U.S. to reiterate, both in word and deed, our opposition to any effort by the PRC to coerce Taiwan. We can accomplish this by continuing to honor our arms sales commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act, deepening U.S. economic ties to Taiwan, and promoting Taiwan’s inclusion in evolving trade arrangements including the CPTPP. The experience of COVID-19 demonstrates why it is more important than ever that Taiwan take its rightful place in the WHO and associated health and safety institutions like the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a position the U.S. should forcefully advocate.

As Sino-U.S. tensions deepen as a result of frictions over trade, intellectual property theft, technology, China’s military modernization, and even COVID-19 response, there is a temptation to frame Taiwan policy in the context of a broader pushback against China, and to throw overboard the carefully constructed framework of the past by taking actions such as establishing official U.S.-Taiwan diplomatic ties, promoting Taiwan’s membership in the U.N., and selling offensive military arms. But these policies risk the worst of all worlds for the people of Taiwan: a dramatic provocation of the PRC that would increase nationalist pressure on China’s leaders to make good on their promise of unification through force if “necessary,” at enormous cost to Taiwan even if the U.S. were to come to its rescue. Although there is considerable merit to a stronger U.S. reaction to China’s growing assertiveness, we should not allow Taiwan to become a sacrificed pawn in the broader chess game.

How do we want to complete the phrase “America Can Help”? Help preserve Taiwan’s freedom? Or help to bash China by using Taiwan as a blunt instrument?

Enabling Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability is a core mandate of the Taiwan Relations Act. But showy, big ticket items like F-16V fighter jets eat up Taiwan’s limited defense budget, won’t be operational for years, and will be vastly outnumbered by China’s huge fleet of capable fighters. The U.S. should instead provide the munitions and weapons that support an effective asymmetric defense strategy.

One key to deterrence is demonstrating American resolve and refusal to be barred from sensitive international waters, such as the Taiwan Strait. But at what point does a judicious signal of resolve become a belligerent dare that invites escalation? The U.S. can best help Taiwan by maintaining a steady operational tempo in the region and restoring needed funding to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, whose commander pleaded for an additional $20 billion above the Pentagon’s recent budget request, submitting a report to Congress titled “Regain the Advantage.”

Recent high-profile pieces of legislation may comfort friends in Taiwan. But they do little or nothing to achieve their stated objectives of gaining admission for Taiwan in the WHO or preventing its few remaining diplomatic partners from defecting. Instead, they harden Beijing’s resolve to deny Taiwan access to international space and recognition. Direct U.S. engagement with Taiwan officials, as legislation calls for, can make sense. It can be virtual, as was done recently between health ministers on COVID-19, or in person, as by then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy’s visit to Taiwan in 2014 as part of a longstanding environmental program.

But whereas substantive high-level engagement plays a role in sustaining Taiwan’s international standing and can be both constructive and defensible, theatrical gestures seemingly designed to bait China do not. This is evident in this week’s annual World Health Assembly. Clearly a significant level of international pressure on Beijing would have been needed for it to accord Taiwan a role in an international forum, as it did in the Ma Ying-jeou era. But there is an art to persuasion, particularly with a rigid and ideological government like China’s, and misapplied pressure produces obstinance instead of compromise. For the U.S. to be able to reduce Chinese resistance to even observer status for Taiwan, Washington will need better statecraft.

We will soon learn if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will represent the U.S. virtually at Tsai’s inauguration, which in an unhappy coincidence immediately precedes the rescheduled opening of the People’s Republic of China’s National Peoples’ Congress. What would be the effect of skating so close to the edge of the One China Policy, other than to infuriate Chinese officials as they gather and to put Xi Jinping on the spot? And the Commerce Department just announced a new rule aimed at denying Huawei access to advanced semiconductor equipment, on the same day that Taiwan’s world-class chip maker, TSMC, agreed to build an advanced semiconductor plant in the U.S. What plan does the U.S. have to protect Taiwan from retaliation by Beijing?

Even in the best of times, there is no substitute for being smart—and these are far from the best of times. We are afflicted by a global pandemic, facing an economic crisis, and in the midst of an escalating dynamic of U.S.-China strategic rivalry. Now more than ever, the U.S. must use skill, care, and strategy to ensure that our actions are helping, not harming, Taiwan’s democracy, security, and prosperity—as well as our own interest in peace across the Taiwan Strait.

The United States should emphatically support Taiwan. Taiwan is a full-fledged democracy with which the U.S. shares common values such as freedom, democracy, rule of law, a market-based economy, and respect for human rights. Several principles should be applied in making decisions about when and how to support Taiwan. First, the U.S. should follow the international relations equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath: do no harm. An action taken by the U.S. on Taiwan’s behalf is likely to provoke a strong response from Beijing, aimed at punishing Taiwan. Therefore, the U.S. should consider, in consultation with Taiwan’s government, whether such action is desirable. Second, the U.S. should carefully evaluate the potential risks and benefits of every policy under consideration. In most instances, policies should be implemented only when the benefits outweigh the risks. Third, symbolic moves are sometimes necessary to provide reassurance to the government and people of Taiwan, but these should be carefully selected, and the emphasis of U.S. policy should be on substantial and impactful actions. In addition, the U.S. must abide by its commitments under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. These commitments include “[providing] Taiwan with arms of a defensive character” and “[maintaining] the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.”

An “America Can Help” campaign for Taiwan should also include a strong economic component. The U.S. should launch negotiations aimed at concluding a free trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan. A U.S.-Taiwan FTA would help Taiwan reduce its economic reliance on China. It might also encourage other countries to sign FTAs with Taiwan. Even if not, the benefits of a bilateral FTA would prevent Taipei from falling further behind as its neighbors reach trade agreements among themselves.

U.S. policy regarding Taiwan’s international space is a bit clunky, but it is exactly right: America “supports Taiwan’s membership in international organizations that do not require statehood as a condition of membership and encourages Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations where its membership is not possible.” The U.S. should bolster its efforts to create a coalition of countries that will jointly push for the reinstatement of Taiwan’s observer status in the World Health Assembly, as well as appropriate status in the International Civil Aviation Organization, Interpol, and other international and regional organizations where Taiwan’s inclusion is necessary to ensure the wellbeing of the people of Taiwan and where Taiwan’s expertise would benefit the rest of the world.

China’s recent campaign of increased military, diplomatic, and economic pressure on Taiwan is worrying and deserves a series of strong U.S. responses. China’s air and naval activity this year alone includes at least 10 transits and military exercises near Taiwan, with multiple deliberate incursions across the centerline by dozens of aircraft. Regular U.S. Navy transits through the Taiwan Strait and occasional flights by U.S. B-52 bombers near Taiwan such as took place in February to signal U.S. concern and resolve are appropriate. It is debatable whether all such U.S. military activities should be made public, which is a new pattern under the Trump administration. In some cases, the U.S. should warn the People’s Republic of China that it will incur a cost if it exerts more pressure on Taiwan. For example, Washington should make clear that if Beijing poaches more of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, it will permit Taiwan’s president to visit, not just transit, the United States.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified competition between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) across a wide range of economic and security issues. Sino-American relations are at their lowest ebb since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1979. It is within this context that on May 20, Tsai Ing-wen will begin her second term as Taiwan’s president.

For Americans, the event should mark a time for both celebration and serious policy reflection.

Celebration, in part, because President Tsai’s inauguration is a validation of the “One China Policy” and Taiwan Relations Act observed on a bipartisan basis by all American administrations for over four decades. Taiwan’s achievements at home and abroad since the U.S. shifted diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing have been extraordinary. Per capita GDP (measured in purchasing power parity) has risen from less than U.S.$3,500 to more than $55,000. Taiwan’s population of 23 million ranks 57th globally but its volume of international trade ranks 15th. And—in an era when democratic institutions find themselves under stress around the world—Taiwan’s democratic model of governance, while buffeted by fierce interparty competition and changing generational political preferences, is proving resilient and even inspirational.

While the people of Taiwan are the authors of their own success, the United States, through its implementation of the Taiwan Relations Act, has helped create the security environment in Asia that has made these accomplishments possible.

In light of sharply escalating U.S.-PRC tensions, however, we ought to consider the right and wrong ways for the U.S. to support Taiwan in the coming years. While bad outcomes in trade disputes can impact economic growth forecasts at the margins, a strategic miscalculation in the Beijing-Taipei-Washington triangle could pose existential threats to all three actors and to international stability.

Three suggestions to U.S. policymakers:

First, remember that Taiwan remains first and foremost a sovereignty issue not only for the leaders of China’s Communist Party, but for the 1.4 billion citizens it rules. The U.S. should refrain from policy measures that unnecessarily excite hypernationalism in the mainland. Continue supplying Taiwan necessary arms and quietly improve military interoperability, but eschew purely symbolic actions such as U.S. Navy ship visits to Kaohsiung.

Second, avoid moral hazard by asking Taipei to do its part. Taiwan’s defense spending has impressively increased during President Tsai’s first-term, but as a percentage of GDP is still far below that of, say, South Korea or Israel. Taiwan has abandoned a robust system of universal military service and has no viable reserve system. The U.S. should bolster the Island’s deterrence, not provide a substitute.

Third, expand Washington-Taipei exchanges in important and still emerging nontraditional security domains. For example, Taiwan is on the frontline of PRC cyberwarfare and influence operations. Extensive collaboration in such areas (including response to pandemic threats) offers hugely mutually beneficial opportunities.

Historically, America has understandably struggled to reconcile ever-changing geopolitical interests with enduring advocacy of universal democratic values. This struggle will become even more acute regarding its future Taiwan policy.

The more that Taiwan thrives as a vibrant, successful society with deeply rooted democratic governance, the better partner it will be of the United States. U.S. policy should be guided by efforts to support Taiwan’s journey down this path. American support for Taiwan should be oriented toward helping Taiwan feel confident in its security, treated with dignity and respect around the world, and in a strong position to increase the prosperity of its people.

Security. There is much the United States can do to signal its resolve to deter the threat or use of force for determining Taiwan’s future. The U.S. should continue to make arms sales available to Taiwan pursuant to the Taiwan Relations Act. It also must maintain a persistent U.S. military presence near Taiwan. At the same time, the U.S. also should sustain direct and authoritative channels of communication with Beijing to shrink space for miscalculation about the intended messages of each other’s actions in the crowded geography of the Taiwan Strait. Another subject that Washington should raise with Chinese counterparts in this channel is Beijing’s stubborn determination to view Tsai as a secessionist rather than as the steady and predictable leader she has been. Beijing’s blindered view of Tsai’s intentions is making a difficult situation worse.

International space. The United States and Taiwan have made important strides in recent years to strengthen Taiwan’s position in the international system, even amidst Beijing’s efforts to lure away diplomatic partners and stifle Taiwan’s participation in international organizations. This has proven that Taiwan’s dignity and respect on the world stage is not measured by numbers of diplomatic partners, but rather by the quality of its contributions to global challenges. Going forward, Washington and Taipei should pursue opportunities to showcase Taiwan as a cutting-edge leader with much to contribute on 21st-century challenges such as pandemic response, cancer research, green energy development and deployment, and regulatory decisions around uses of the Internet of things and artificial intelligence technologies.

Economics. Recent polling shows Taiwanese people strongly support deepening economic relations with the United States. The United States should act on this broad consensus within Taiwan to advance the economic relationship. Rather than trying to untie the Gordian knot to arrive at a U.S.-Taiwan free trade agreement (FTA), negotiators should take a step-by-step approach of negotiating chapters of an eventual FTA, steadily achieving progress toward greater market access, and eventually arriving at a trade agreement.

President Tsai has focused on strengthening Taiwan’s economic competitiveness and improving the quality of democratic governance. The United States should support and prioritize such goals. The more confident that leaders and people in Taiwan are in the strength and endurance of their partnership with the United States, the more likely they will support decisions that will advance the U.S.-Taiwan relationship.

To be sure, the United States Government should try harder to obtain representation for Taiwan in all public international organizations for which statehood is required for membership. Taiwan meets all the requirements for recognition as a “state,” and no U.N. resolution or other international law stands in the way. At least the U.S. government should increase pressure for granting the island immediate observer status and other types of meaningful participation pending its full admission to these organizations. The struggle against Beijing’s persistent and thus far successful efforts to exclude Taiwan must intensify.

Yet American support for Taiwan’s formal participation in international organizations cannot achieve maximum effect unless the U.S. government abandons its various recent withdrawals from international institutions and arrangements, as well as its declining cooperation with allies and other countries that still might welcome American influence, including with respect to Taiwan. Moreover, the U.S. should continue to imaginatively but cautiously expand contacts not only between Taiwan’s government and our own but also between Taiwanese leaders and the American people. The State Department should, for example, cancel barriers preventing American audiences from exchanging ideas with Taiwan’s president, vice president, and other top officials who wish to visit our country.

The U.S. government should also encourage all countries to establish offices in Taiwan if they have not yet done so. And it should encourage countries to enhance their “unofficial” bilateral relations with Taiwan by expanding the political activities engaged in by existing trade, cultural, and other supposedly non-diplomatic offices on the island and by Taiwan’s reciprocal missions in their own capitals. If most of the world’s significant nations can be mobilized to follow suit together within a short time, this may have a strong impact and promote the current gradually emerging new form of international relations without risking the kinds of sanctions that Beijing imposes on countries that make such moves in isolation. This will in turn improve Taiwan’s prospects for eventual participation in multilateral organizations.

Taiwan has been admirably restrained in avoiding provocative actions that would assert symbols or implications of “Taiwan independence.” It has become one of the most liberal democracies not only in East Asia but also among the entire cohort of “third wave” democracies. And among advanced industrial democracies, its record of preserving liberty while containing the COVID-19 pandemic is unmatched.

Yet Taiwan faces a rising existential danger as a result of the box that Xi Jinping has placed himself in. Having spurned President Tsai Ing-wen’s pragmatism and restraint, and having failed in his effort, through intimidation and disinformation tactics, to pressure Taiwan to accept “one country, two systems,” Xi must now either embrace accommodation or further escalate the pressure, with no clear pathway to success. Moreover, by eliminating term limits, Xi has now inherited full responsibility to “resolve” the Taiwan question during his indefinite leadership of China, further raising the stakes.

To genuinely help Taiwan, the United States has to continue to walk a fine line between resolve and deepening partnership on the one hand, and avoiding needless provocation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the other. Enhancing military assistance and cooperation has a role to play, but as much as possible this should be done in the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt’s maxim, “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” The bottom line is that Chinese Communist Party leaders—and the People’s Liberation Army—must have no doubt that if Taiwan is assaulted militarily without provocation, the United States will respond with military force. And that—along with the imperative of countering the PRC’s growing militarization of its illegal claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea—requires substantial and sustained enhancement of U.S. naval deployments in the Asia Pacific region. In this respect, and in an era of obvious limits to America’s global military engagements, the “pivot to Asia” must become a long-term fixture of our national strategy.

Beyond this, the U.S. should deepen economic and political cooperation with Taiwan, both as a symbol of our commitment to its security and freedom, and as an urgent practical imperative at a time when we must reduce our dependence on supply chains from the PRC. The recent announcement by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC) of its intent to build a $12 billion manufacturing plant in Arizona is a beautiful demonstration of the new symbiotic character of America’s economic partnership with Taiwan. Needed now is progress toward completing a bilateral trade agreement between Taiwan and the United States. Each of the two governments must now spend some political capital to resolve the remaining issues over agricultural trade. As a large, bipartisan congressional coalition noted in a December 19 letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement would not only enhance Taiwan’s standing and security, it would spur American economic competitiveness and job creation—goals that have assumed greatly enhanced urgency as a result of the pandemic. Taiwan is a natural economic partner for America.

What are the most constructive ways for the U.S. to support Taiwan without unnecessarily inflaming the delicate cross-Strait balance? Donald Trump’s Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger, a mid-level political appointee, has come up with a clever new strategy: simple speeches he delivers in Chinese that are pithy, intelligent, explanatory, and symbolic.

Before joining the U.S. military and serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Pottinger reported from China for Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. He was working in the private sector advising businesses investing in China when Michael Flynn tapped him to advise the then president elect. Having kept his head down and survived for more than three years, Pottinger has now hit on a high-visibility, effective way to deliver diplomatic messages to China. In his second speech in Mandarin this month, delivered as a video for the virtual inauguration ceremony of Tsai Ing-wen—the first was given to mark the anniversary of the May 4th Movement—he expressed U.S. support for Taiwan’s democratic Chinese experiment in a form that is new, spellbinding, and informative. Standing in front of the White House, he quoted dissident astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, said the U.S. would “continue to press other countries and organizations, like the WHO, to put human lives above politics, and choose freedom over oppression,” praised Taiwan’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and wished President Tsai well in her second term.

In the great game of propaganda and “influence seeking” on which the People’s Republic of China spends billions of dollars around the world each year, Pottinger has hit on a low-cost, highly effective way of directly addressing Chinese people about issues that have undermined the foundations of “engagement” as a workable strategy and sent the U.S.-China relationship into a tailspin. Pottinger, who has no cabinet-level rank and is thus an ideal voice to express official U.S. support for Taiwan, said he hoped his speech in Mandarin at the beginning of the month would “open up a conversation with friends in China and around the world.” With this second speech, he has done just that, setting Chinese-speakers the world over achatter. In fact, now that Pottinger has shown the way, if some American institution—even the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs—really wanted to get the attention of Xi Jinping and the Chinese people, and penetrate the Great Fire Wall to explain the logic of present U.S. China policy, they might invite a broader group of American officials, scholars, journalists, and NGO staffers who speak good Chinese—many of whom have been expelled from China—to deliver a series of such short talks. For there is no more an intriguing spectacle to the Chinese “broad masses” (to put it in Party parlance) than foreigners speaking the mother tongue. But they must speak well. There is a saying: “We are afraid of neither heaven nor earth. Only of foreigners trying to speak Chinese.”