Last week, Vice President Mike Pence was once again critical of China in a speech that was well-received by many in Taiwan. According to media reports and analysts, however, with this speech, Pence expressed hope that Congress will not pass acts that more strongly support Hong Kong and do damage to the deals Donald Trump is trying to reach in the U.S.-China trade war. Former President of the Republic of China Chen Shui-bian responded to a reporter’s question on this issue by saying, “If U.S. interests conflict with Taiwan’s interests, Taiwan’s interests must be sacrificed to ensure those of the U.S.” If one imagines that interaction between China and the U.S. is focusing on peace, not war, then the goal of the trade war is to ultimately seek cooperation. Taiwan must clearly understand this.

America does not consider Taiwan to be a part of the American democratic system of government. Being pro-American is a natural choice for us, and we must cooperate with U.S. international and economic strategy. Still, when a country is in the midst of unusual international changes, those in power should have autonomy over the future of their country’s development. Being pro-America does not mean that we can relax. Taiwan’s present situation is unique. If our views of national identity are diverse, how much more muddled is the international community’s understanding of Taiwan? How much of our country’s interest does Taiwan have to sacrifice to ensure the interests of the U.S. are met?

In his recent criticism of China, Pence reiterated what he said last year, this time praising Taiwan as a beacon for Chinese culture and democracy, and stating that the U.S. stands with Taiwan and Hong Kong. But is it correct to put Taiwan and Hong Kong on the same level? And isn’t lumping Taiwan and Chinese culture together creating the same image of Taiwan that the Kuomintang government spread internationally during its time in power?

When Pence speaks of Taiwan and Hong Kong as if their situations are similar, how are people in mainstream American society supposed to regard the relationship between China, Taiwan and Hong Kong? The U.S.-Taiwan relationship relies on upholding the Taiwan Relations Act, which is part of the foundation for maintaining Taiwan’s status quo. Regarding Hong Kong, the U.S. has the Hong Kong Policy Act, which recognizes China’s “one country, two systems” framework. While the U.S. and China have official diplomatic relations, Taiwan and the U.S. do not. As the saying goes, without diplomatic relations, a thousand words are merely smoke. Taiwan, as a small country, must clearly recognize this reality and maintain a policy to protect itself at all times.