Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday in California for talks that were short on deliverables but high on symbolism, as Washington and Taipei seem keen to deepen ties and normalize high-level bilateral interactions despite threats of retaliation and scathing criticism from China.

Beijing, which condemned the move as a “serious violation of the one-China principle,” stepped up its military presence near the self-ruled island, deploying an aircraft carrier battle group near Taiwan’s southeastern waters as well as a formation of maritime law enforcement ships in the north-central part of the Taiwan Strait.

However, China’s military activities have so far fallen short of what Taiwan witnessed in early August when McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taipei.