On January 2, China’s President Xi Jinping delivered a speech to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the so called China’s Message to Compatriots in Taiwan. Coercive messages read in his speech apparently showcased China’s attempts to impose the “one country, two systems” model on Taiwan and accelerate efforts towards unification; to deny the legal status of Taiwan’s popularly elected government by holding direct talks with political parties; to keep all options on the table in its quest for unification with Taiwan, including the use of force; to warn external forces against intervening in China’s internal matter with the unfounded claim that Taiwan is part of China.
In response to Xi’s speech, President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Tsai Ing-wen, addressed the nation on the same day to reiterate Taiwan’s position, saying the country had never accepted the “1992 Consensus” defined by Beijing as “One China” as well as ”one country, two systems“.
President Tsai’s firm stance was followed and reinforced by the European Union’s statements on January 30 supporting Taiwan’s democracy and endorsing the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. The statements were made in a European Parliament Plenary Debate, during which some 20 senior Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from various political groups also criticized the Chinese leader for refusing to renounce the use of force and his intent to impose the “one country, two systems” framework on Taiwan, thereby heightening tensions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and in Asia-Pacific region.
China’s Hostility towards Its Neighbors and International Norms
In recent years, China’s coercive powers and the temptation for Beijing to use them have tremendously grown in terms of scope and frequency. For example, China has taken advantage of the freedom, diversity and openness that exist in democratic nations worldwide to wield “sharp power” and comprehensively penetrate their media, governments, economies and societies. Militarily, China has expanded its maritime power to the South China Sea, East China Sea, and even beyond the island chains into the Western Pacific. Over the past two years, China has made it a regular practice to dispatch military planes and vessels to circle Taiwan. In the sphere of trade and commerce, Beijing has pressured international corporations to change their designation for Taiwan to “Taiwan, China”.
Taiwan’s Appeal to Like-Minded Countries
In a sharp contrast with China, Taiwan shares in common with most other countries respect for democracy, human rights, freedom of press, speech and religion, and other core universal values. While finding itself on the frontlines of the democratic community’s effort to counter China, Taiwan government recently urges the international community and all like-minded nations to commit to the following:
- Collectively safeguard Taiwan’s democratic system of governance: The existence and development of a democratic Taiwan provides a force for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific, and is crucial to the steady advancement of democracies worldwide. The country calls on the international community to safeguard common democratic values and reject China’s “one country, two systems” framework, which seeks to negate Taiwan’s democratic system.
- Oppose China’s military intimidation of Taiwan: China has declared that it will not renounce the use of military means to bring about unification with Taiwan. This runs counter to the principles laid out in the UN Charter on the peaceful settlement of disputes, jeopardizes peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific, and will certainly harm the interests of countries in the region. The international community should condemn and push back against China’s intimidation, and support Taiwan in playing a constructive role for peace and stability in the region.
- Recognize the fact that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent nation: It is an indisputable fact that Taiwan exists as an independent nation in the international community. Taiwan has never been ruled by, nor been part of, the People’s Republic of China. The country has staunchly opposed to the Beijing authorities’ efforts to impose the “one country, two systems” model on it. China is attempting to sow division in Taiwan and erode its independence and autonomy. The international community needs to squarely face this issue, stand behind Taiwan, and support the Taiwanese people’s right to determine their own future.
- Strengthen substantive ties with Taiwan and support its international participation: Taiwan is a key member of the international community. China’s constant pressure and intimidation pose not only a tremendous challenge to Taiwan’s survival but also a grave threat to the international community. Many issues of global concern require active involvements of all nations at all levels. Taiwan is ready and willing to fulfill its obligations and make concrete contributions to the international community. Therefore, Taiwan calls on countries to strengthen ties with it and support its international participation.