At Witt’s End: Yuh-Line Niou’s Taiwan/Israel Conundrum

Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou
Assembly member and congressional candidate Yuh-Line Niou. Photo screenshot from Niou’s campaign website
Stephen Witt

When PoliticsNY’s Ethan Stark-Miller this week asked the six leading candidates for New York’s Congressional District 10 race about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial trip to Taiwan and their views on the China/Taiwan conflict overall, five of the six articulated their views.

The sixth candidate, Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, through a spokesperson declined to comment due to a packed schedule. This kind of threw me because Niou is a Taiwanese-American. It strikes me that she would possibly have a strong view on the issue.

And the question is very current and legitimate. Weighing in on foreign policy – including being asked to vote on declarations of war – is in the Congressional wheelhouse. 

But in some ways, I understand Niou’s reluctance to answer the question. She is the one lone Asian candidate in the race – Taiwanese-American at that – and with the rise of Asian hate crimes perhaps the issue cuts too close to the bone.

This same thing often happens to me as an American-Jewish journalist when it comes to issues surrounding Israel. I’m pretty sensitive about it. While I feel for the Palestinian people and would love to see a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, at the end of the day, I’m team Israel all the way. It’s hard-wired into me. 

So in this, I found it shocking that Niou is too busy to express a view on the China/Taiwan conflict, but has found the time to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. It appears at best to be a double-standard and at worst negligence for someone running for congress to weigh in on one avenue of foreign policy and not the other, 

Perhaps both are purely political decisions. Supporting BDS certainly garnered Niou support from the far left and fringe left anti-Zionist Jewish crowd. Maybe there is something I don’t know about the inner workings of the Chinese versus Taiwanese part of her Asian constituency where she didn’t want to touch the subject.

But I would argue even as a pro-Israel American Jew, that the United States’ competitive and often fraught relationship with China – along with the economic engine that makes up the Pacific rim – is as strategically important and perhaps more so than our Middle East policy and particularly the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Now, I’m not about to make any allegations as to Niou’s character. I do not know her personally and one can never know what is really inside another person’s heart. 

But as a political journalist, I’d like to know why Niou, as a potential congress member, has such strong opinions about Israel, but doesn’t have time in her busy schedule to weigh in on the crucially important China/Taiwan issue. 

Voters deserve this answer.