CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A bipartisan delegation of lawmakers made a surprise trip to Taiwan during an Indo-Pacific tour, despite ardent protests from America’s greatest global competitor.

Nancy Mace (R-SC) was among the lawmakers to visit the island, which has long been a point of contention for China.

While China claims jurisdiction over Taiwan, Taiwan continues asserting independence; the United States walks a careful line between supporting democracy and maintaining diplomatic relations with China.

The stop came after the group of lawmakers spent time in Alaska, Japan, and Korea over the Thanksgiving holiday, but plans were kept largely under wraps until the lawmakers had arrived.

Mace and other lawmakers said that “when news broke of [their] visit to Taiwan, China’s embassy demanded [they] cancel the trip.”

The trip went ahead, and China conducted multiple show-of-force operations, which Mace described as “incursions across the air zone next to Taiwan.”

While there, the group met with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. Ing-wen said that their “support strengthens [her] conviction that our democratic partnership will continue to be a key force for good in the region and world.”

Mace echoed the sentiment, saying “this is just the start.” She told News 2 that a strong relationship with Taiwan is critical to the United States’ global interest.

“Taiwan is an important piece to economies in China and in the United States and other countries around the world. It’s an important relationship, it’s an important friendship and partnership for the United States.”

While Mace drew some criticism for referring to Taiwan as ‘The Republic of Taiwan,’ she said that the Tweet was a nod to her support for democracy in the disputed region. She also said that the message was well-received by the Taiwanese people.

Mace acknowledged the contentiousness of the situation, and the need to toe the line between supporting Taiwan and discouraging escalations by China.

“Nobody wants a war with China. I mean, everyone wants peace. And to do that, we’ve got to be able to find ways to work together. And that Tweet was just an expression of support for Taiwan.”

Working together is something that Mace says needs to happen on the home front as well. Despite being the only Republican on the trip, Mace said the politics stopped at the water’s edge. The bipartisan group worked largely as one, displaying a united front on behalf of the United States.

She went on to say that the divisiveness in politics right now could damage our global reputation.

“When we are a divided country showing all this…vitriol… this really nasty, divisive content that we keep spewing out, it makes us look weak on the world stage,” Mace said. She continued, saying “when we are cohesive, like in this bipartisan delegation, it shows great strength around the world. And that is important for us so that our friends and our allies can depend on us to come together in a time of need. And we’ll be there for them.”