FACT CHECK: Did Vivek Ramaswamy Propose That The U.S. Surrender Taiwan To The Chinese Communist Party?

Christine Sellers | Fact Check Reporter

In an Oct. 10 speech at the Hudson Institute, South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott claimed fellow 2024 hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy has proposed that the U.S. surrender Taiwan to the Chinese Communist Party.

Verdict: Misleading

Ramaswamy stated in multiple interviews that the relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan could change based on “semiconductor independence” at the end of his first term. However, the presidential hopeful has made no remarks directly stating the U.S. would “surrender” Taiwan to China if he became president.

Fact Check:

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently labeled Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega an “opportunist” dictator over his support for the “one China” policy, according to Taiwan News. The Ministry said Taiwan has “never been ruled by China” in response, the outlet reported.

Scott delivered remarks on Israel during his over 28-minute speech. At the 25-minute mark, the Republican South Carolina Sen. made the claim about Ramaswamy. “Vivek Ramaswamy has said that the definition of success is reducing America’s support for Israel and he’s proposed that we surrender Taiwan to the Chinese Communist Party as long as we’ve relocated some factories,” Scott said.

While Ramaswamy has not called for a direct retreat of forces, he proposed the idea of reevaluating U.S-Taiwan relations after a certain point. In an Aug. 28 letter to the editor to the The Wall Street Journal, Ramaswamy emphasized that he would defend Taiwan. “[I would] defend Taiwan until the U.S. achieves semiconductor independence, then resume the posture of strategic ambiguity when the stakes are lower for the U.S. The American way of life depends on leading-edge semiconductors manufactured in Taiwan, and we can’t risk China gaining near-total leverage over the entire U.S. economy,” Ramaswamy wrote.

Ramaswamy also explained his approach to Taiwan in an Aug. 14 interview with radio show host Hugh Hewitt.

“What will I do? We’ll literally take destroyers from the group we have in Japan, take one per month, move it through that Taiwan Strait, move a couple of our Ohio class SSGNs, put them in the South China Sea, put them in the Pacific. This is something that will actually send a strong signal to China. They will not take the risk of making that move, especially if they know that the U.S. is only biding our time until we have semiconductor independence. That’s where strategic clarity actually helps us…”

Ramaswamy further says in the interview:

“Let me make it really simple. Let me make it really simple for Xi Jinping’s translator, okay? Do not mess with Taiwan before 2028, before the end of my first term, okay? We are going to go to full length to make sure that you do not mess with Taiwan. We’re going to move those two Ohio-Class SSGN’s. We’re going to surface them, and we’re going to bring them to the Pacific. We’re going to bring them to even the Indian Ocean and elsewhere, okay? You’re not going to like that very much, because they’re loaded up with 150-plus Tomahawks apiece that have thousand-plus mile range. That could reach the Chinese mainland. So do not mess. But listen to the second part, too. That commitment is only as far as 2028, by which point I will have led the United States of America to achieve semiconductor independence, and we will not take the risk of war that risks Americans lives after that for some nationalistic dispute between China and Taiwan.”

The New York Post ran a similar article about the interview, noting U.S. commitments to Taiwan would change following semiconductor independence.

“After that, our commitments to Taiwan — our commitments to be willing to go to military conflict — will change after that, because that’s rationally in our self-interest. That is honest. That is true, and that is credible,” the outlet quoted Ramaswamy as saying.

Tricia McLaughlin, Ramaswamy’s campaign spokesperson, denied the claim made by Scott in an email to Check Your Fact.  (RELATED: Breaking Down White House’s Claim It Was Forced To Build A Section Of The Southern Border Wall)

“[The claim is] false. Vivek is the only Presidential candidate willing to state that we WILL defend Taiwan. The U.S. currently doesn’t even recognize Taiwan as a nation. Democrats and Republicans both unquestioningly endorse the ‘one China’ policy and embrace ‘strategic ambiguity’ toward the island. No other presidential candidate is willing to commit to militarily defending Taiwan,” McLaughlin said.

Dr. Zhiqun Zhu, a political science and international affairs expert at Bucknell University, said that Ramaswamy’s comments “does not constitute” surrendering Taiwan.

“Based on his own explanation, Ramaswamy’s Taiwan comment does NOT constitute a U.S. surrender of Taiwan.  He mentioned in his interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that he believed China was the biggest threat to US interests and he was the only presidential candidate who explicitly said the US should defend Taiwan. He did not say that the US should surrender Taiwan to the Chinese Communist Party, as Tim Scott claimed,” Zhu told Check Your Fact via email.

“Actually he is right that the official US policy regarding Taiwan has been ‘strategic ambiguity,’ making both Taipei and Beijing guess whether the US would come to Taiwan’s aid if a war broke out in the Taiwan Strait,” Zhu continued. “In recent years, Biden has said at least four times that the US would defend Taiwan, but each time he said it, the White House would backtrack a little and reiterate that the US long-standing policy remains unchanged. That long-standing policy is ‘strategic ambiguity.'”

Zhu added that some confusion stems from “some members of Congress and US officials including Biden himself [having] said that the US should defend Taiwan, attempting to move from “strategic ambiguity” to ‘strategic clarity.’ But after realizing that it will be counterproductive by provoking China and perhaps emboldening the DPP government in Taiwan to move towards independence (thus potentially dragging the US into war with China), most people agree that we’d better stick to ‘strategic ambiguity.'”

“It seems that Ramaswamy was arguing that the US should explicitly state its intention to defend Taiwan now, but after the US has achieved semiconductor independence, Taiwan’s value to the US may decline to some extent, and then the US can return to ‘strategic ambiguity,’ without specifying what the US will do in a Taiwan Strait conflict. He did not say the US should abandon Taiwan after achieving semiconductor independence. So his comment is more aligned with the long-standing US policy as well as recent changes in the US-China-Taiwan dynamics,” Zhu further explained.

Dr. Allen Carlson, an associate professor of Cornell University’s Department of Government, also called the comment “a bit hyperbolic” in an email to Check Your Fact.

“In that Taiwan is not the U.S.’s to surrender. As it is not “our” territory,” Carlson explained. “What it is is at the center of the dispute between the de facto government of Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.”

Carlson pointed to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which pledged the U.S. to support Taiwan if it needed to defend itself, including a legal obligation to send aid to the island.

“In other words, it would be fair to say that US stopping arms sales to Taiwan, and not coming to its assistance should it be attacked would be a form of surrender.  But, there are so many conditionals in such a statement that it strikes me as more than a little bit vacuous,” Carlson added.

He also stated that any surrender of Taiwan was “highly unlikely” regardless of administration due to the impact such a move would have on U.S. alliance credibility.

“Yes, there is a theory that Taiwan is shielded by its dominance of the production of semiconductors, but it is beyond silly to think that that one issue should or is predominant within the complex and changing relationship that exists between China the US and Taiwan,” Carlson concluded.

Dr. Howard Stoffer, an international affairs expert at the University of New Haven, said Ramaswamy’s proposed policy was not “pragmatic” in a phone interview with Check Your Fact.

“If he articulates a policy like that, it defeats it. It’s not a pragmatic policy. It shows the naivety of Ramaswamy, who doesn’t know foreign policy well. It’s not viable. The moment he stated it, it makes it not viable whatsoever,” Stoffer said.

Stoffer also refuted the idea that the U.S. would surrender Taiwan.

“The U.S. would use military force to repel any attempt by China to take Taiwan by force,” Stoffer said. In addition, he mentioned that President Joe Biden has publicly said the U.S. would support Taiwan in the last two years.

Finally, Stoffer said he thought neither Scott nor Ramaswamy’s comments are “going to amount to much anyway,” because he didn’t think either of them “would be in a position to make foreign policy.”

Check Your Fact has also contacted Scott’s campaign and multiple experts for comment and will update this piece accordingly if one is received.

UPDATE: This article has been update with additional comments from experts. The rating remains unchanged.

Christine Sellers

Fact Check Reporter