Faced with the expansion of authoritarianism in the world, President Tsai Ing-wen warns that the invasion of this island claimed by Beijing would be a defeat for democracies
Endurance. Or, as they say now, resilience. That has been the most repeated word this Monday in the speech of the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, for the celebration of her National Day. Actually, what is celebrated this October 10, or ‘Double Ten’, is the 111th anniversary of the Wuchang Uprising, in Wuhan, which ended the Qing empire and brought about the first Republic of China.
But that state was reduced to the tiny island territory of Taiwan when its Kuomintang (KMT) government, led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, fled mainland China after losing the civil war against communist revolutionary Mao Zedong in 1949. Soon after, On October 1 of that year, he founded the People’s Republic of China, which has since claimed sovereignty over Taiwan.
After decades of vindication, which even saw armed confrontations and invasion attempts, the growing tension between both parties exploded last summer, when Beijing surrounded the island with its largest military maneuvers after the controversial visit of the president of the House of Representatives of United States, Nancy Pelosi. With this dangerous blockade, which would be the preliminary step to a hypothetical Chinese invasion, and the war in Ukraine as a backdrop, Taiwan has celebrated its National Day flaunting its sovereignty and its democratic system.
“Russia continues its war against Ukraine and Beijing’s military activities in the South China Sea, the East Sea and the Formosa Strait undermine stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific region. We cannot in any way ignore the challenges that this military expansion poses to the democratic and free world order,” President Tsai warned in her speech.
Before those attending the National Day parade, all equipped with masks due to the covid protocols still in force in Asia, the Taiwanese president criticized China’s increasingly frequent provocations. “It is unfortunate that, over the past few years, the Beijing authorities’ escalation in their military intimidation and diplomatic pressure has attempted to erase ROC-Taiwan sovereignty, threatening the status quo of cross-Strait peace and stability. and in the region.
For the past 73 years, the people of Taiwan have lived together on this island and have formed a strong sense of their own identity and belonging. The broadest consensus among the people of Taiwan and their political parties is that we must defend our national sovereignty and our free and democratic way of life. At this point, there is no room for compromise », he proclaimed to the applause of the crowd.
With such a declaration of intent, Tsai flatly rejects the Chinese offer of reunification under the formula of ‘One country, two systems’, which has been shown to be a fallacy in Hong Kong, and, incidentally, the recent suggestion by billionaire Elon Musk of integrate into China as a “special administrative area”, which is causing so much controversy.
Defying the clouds that covered the sky of Taipei, the Taiwanese have celebrated this National Day with a parade where the festive atmosphere has predominated, but in which the Army has also worn its best clothes, its fighters and its helicopters against the threat from Peking. Although Taiwan is only recognized by a dozen states and its place in the UN was taken by China in 1971, it is a “de facto” independent state with its own democratic government, its currency, its army, its borders and its passport.
After earning the success of its democratic transition after four decades of dictatorship by the Koumintang Party (KMT), the last thing most of its 23 million inhabitants want is to return to an authoritarian regime like China’s. This was seen in the 2020 presidential election, in which Tsai Ing-wen was overwhelmingly re-elected and benefited from the crushing of Hong Kong protests calling for democracy.
“The differences between the two sides of the Strait stem from historical factors and different experiences in democratic development. The Beijing authorities should not make any misjudgments on behalf of Taiwan’s vigorous democratic system. Do not be mistaken in thinking that there is room for the commitment of the people of Taiwan to democracy and freedom,” the president warned.
Gradual resumption of relationships
Although he extended his hand to Beijing, trusting in “the gradual resumption of relations” and recognized that “confrontation is not good for any party”, he made it clear that rapprochement will only be possible “by respecting the Taiwanese commitment to our sovereignty, democracy and freedom” and “as long as there is rationality, equality and mutual respect (…) to find a new agreement to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.
In view of how difficult this is, Tsai advocated reinforcing Taiwan’s defense with “new precision missiles, ships, mobile weapons for asymmetric warfare” and expanding military training for reservists and the rest of the civilian population. In his opinion, not only is the future of the island at stake, but also the future of the free and democratic world.
“A safer Taiwan means a more prosperous and peaceful region in the world,” said Tsai, who recalled the importance of the island for the world economy due to its hegemony in the microchip industry. “The concentration of the semiconductor sector in Taiwan is not a risk, but rather a key to the reorganization of the industry,” he tried to calm Western fears of hypothetical control by China in the event of an invasion. So that this does not happen, he promised to “guarantee the security of our infrastructures” and “integrate ourselves more into the international community by increasing our cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and Eastern and Central Europe.”
In her speech, Tsai welcomed that “as the spread of authoritarianism is threatening the global order, friends from all over the world have come to Taiwan to express their warmest support. In fact, Taiwan is now receiving more attention than ever. The Republic of China-Taiwan has become an important global symbol of democracy and freedom. The international community knows that supporting Taiwan is supporting regional stability and democratic values.”
For this reason, he warned that “the destruction of Taiwan’s freedom and democracy would be a serious defeat for world democracies.” Flagging the main theme of her speech, President Tsai proclaimed that “the most important national priority is to make Taiwan a more resilient country.”
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