- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2014

China’s communist government has postponed an effort to court Republican dignitaries by hosting an all-expenses-paid tour of Beijing, The Washington Times has learned.

The decision followed public opposition from members of the Republican National Committee — the GOP’s national governing body — as well as objections from the government of Taiwan, a longtime U.S. ally.

The planned junket, first reported last month by The Times, had the potential for awkward optics: Republican VIPs hobnobbing for the cameras with Communist Party leaders shortly after the RNC officially condemned China for aggressive behavior around the globe.

“Per our conversation, the China trip has been indefinitely postponed, tactfully and without incident. Take care,” longtime Michigan Republican activist Saul Anuzis, the trip’s GOP organizer, wrote in an Oct. 24 email to two members of Taiwan’s unofficial diplomatic corps in Washington.

The U.S. government does not permit Taiwan — formally known as the Republic of China — to call its government’s top emissary here “ambassador” or the building in which he and his staff work an embassy.

Mr. Anuzis, a former Michigan GOP chairman, cited a time-honored diplomatic dodge to explain the postponement.

“The Chinese Embassy notified me that the potential hosts in China had scheduling conflicts, and therefore wanted to look at doing this another time,” Mr. Anuzis said in an interview this week.

But after the published reports last month on Mr. Anuzis’ China trip, several RNC colleagues raised concerns, though others in the party saw it as a harmless exercise in international diplomacy and information gathering.

The origins of the trip date to a reception at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, where the diplomatic staff of Ambassador Cui Tiankai had accepted Mr. Anuzis’ offer to organize the trip.

“I was invited to a reception with the ambassador over a year ago at the embassy and had a discussion with some of his staff about bringing Republican Party leaders over for one of their trips,” Mr. Anuzis said last month. “They liked the idea and asked if I would help organize it. I said ‘yes.’”

The prospect of national GOP officials socializing with the communist government in Beijing at the time when that government has been clashing with democracy activists on the streets of Hong Kong and with the democratically elected government of Taiwan enraged many in the GOP.

“This would be particularly offensive at this time, as Hong Kong is petitioning for greater freedom promised it by the People’s Republic of China under the ‘one country, two systems’ formula initiated when the mainland took over Hong Kong,” South Carolina RNC member Cindy Costa, who led a 10-member RNC delegation to Taiwan last month, said in an email to fellow Republicans condemning the trip.

The Taiwanese government paid the expenses of the RNC delegation’s visit, just as the Beijing government intended to pay the expenses of the Anuzis trip. The difference is that committing the U.S. to defending Taiwan’s democracy is part of the Republican Party’s national platform.

“It is abundantly clear to each of us that a trip paid by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to mainland China for current members of the RNC, especially if meetings were held with Communist Party officials, would be a gross insult to the Taiwanese leadership and people,” said the letter signed by Mrs. Costa and the nine other RNC members visiting Taiwan.

“It would be especially damaging if it were known that a visitor to the PRC was identified as a member of the RNC, as it most assuredly would be advertised by the communist government,” Mrs. Costa said.

Something else that particularly angered some national committee members was that the RNC a month before had unanimously approved a resolution chastising China’s behavior around the globe.

“You need to know that this trip is being paid for by the Communist Chinese Government,” prominent Kansas audiologist Helen Van Etten wrote in a letter to her fellow RNC members. “I am deeply concerned that this trip is sending the wrong political message to China, especially in light of the resolution we passed.”

Mr. Anuzis said “indefinitely” means “not soon, probably not anytime this year” for the Beijing trip, whose participants included “current and former Republican state party chairmen.”

Who initiated the postponement? “I don’t know,” he said. “I was notified by staff at the Chinese Embassy.”

Regardless of what his party’s leaders think, Mr. Anuzis insisted he’ll stick with his plan to assemble GOP visits to communist China.

He defended the idea behind the trip, saying that “it is critical that political leaders have a firsthand knowledge, understanding and personal relationship with all countries, especially China.”

He said China is a “leading and growing world power that deserves much more than some isolationist approach. Building relationships and friendships with political leaders is only common sense from my perspective.”

Whose interests were harmed or helped by the cancellation? “No one’s directly,” Mr. Anuzis answered. “I think developing closer and better ties with the Chinese is in the U.S.’ best interest. But our trip was to be one of many, so I see no harm either way.”

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