China should follow Taiwan’s lead in establishing a democratic system of government, Vice President Mike Pence urged Thursday.

“America will always believe that Taiwan’s embrace of democracy shows a better path for all the Chinese people,” Pence said at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank.

That’s a sharp rhetorical shot across the bow at Communist Party leadership that is very sensitive about the status of Taiwan, which Chinese President Xi Jinping regards as a breakaway province. Xi’s regime regards the existence of a democratic Taiwan as a major contradiction to the mainland ideology, according to American experts, and an impediment to Beijing’s ability to reach the open ocean.

“[China’s] Communist Party insists that Confucian cultures, with their high regard for social hierarchy and top-down authority, are inherently unsuited to liberal democracy,” the Hudson Institute’s John Lee wrote in 2015. “While this so-called renegade province makes up only 1.5 percent of the population of greater China, it is the most successful and vibrant Chinese model on offer.”

China has responded sharply to recent American gestures towards Taiwan. “Any attempt to create ‘two Chinas’ or ‘one China, one Taiwan’ will be rejected and is doomed to fail,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a press briefing in September.

Taiwan is the last bastion of the government overthrown during the Chinese Communist Revolution. Both the island leadership and the regime in Beijing have claimed historically to be the rightful sovereign of all China. The United States has helped deter an invasion of Taiwan despite maintaining formal diplomatic relations with Beijing.

“Our administration will continue to respect our One China Policy, as reflected in the three joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act,” Pence said.

That was a nod to the agreements that the U.S. has used to strike a balance between acknowledging the Communist Chinese leadership and supporting Taiwan’s autonomy. And yet, Pence also emphasized U.S. opposition to China’s attempts to convince countries in Latin America and other parts of the world to sever ties with Taipei.

“These actions threaten the stability of the Taiwan Strait, and the United States of America condemns these actions,” Pence said.