Taiwan's president said her people 'will not bow' to China and China didn't like that

(AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

As Jazz pointed out over the weekend, Xi Jinping’s latest statement about reunification with Taiwan was more diplomatic than other recent comments on the topic. One day after Xi’s speech, Taiwan celebrated the 110th anniversary of its founding and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen made very clear that independent, democratic Taiwan has no interest in being subjugated by communist China. She said Taiwan would not “take the past China has laid out for us” and that its people would not “bow to pressure.” Here’s a bit of her full speech translated to English.


At this moment, the global political landscape is undergoing drastic change. Free and democratic countries around the world have been alerted to the expansion of authoritarianism, with Taiwan standing on democracy’s first line of defense…

The situation in the Indo-Pacific region is becoming more tense and complex by the day. After taking complete control of Hong Kong and suppressing democracy activists, the Beijing authorities also shifted away from the path of political and economic development that they had followed since “reform and opening up” began decades ago…

…resolving cross-strait differences requires the two sides of the strait to engage in dialogue on the basis of parity.

We hope for an easing of cross-strait relations and will not act rashly, but there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure.

We will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us. This is because the path that China has laid out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people…

Let us here renew with one another our enduring commitment to a free and democratic constitutional system, our commitment that the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China should not be subordinate to each other, our commitment to resist annexation or encroachment upon our sovereignty, and our commitment that the future of the Republic of China (Taiwan) must be decided in accordance with the will of the Taiwanese people.


That last part really upset mainland China which has warned in the recent past that “independence means war.” State media has been even more belligerent calling those in Taiwan who support independence, “an evil force the mainland must crush.” Today, a spokesman from the Taiwan Affairs Office responded to President Tsai Ing-wen’s speech saying the idea that China and Taiwan should not be subordinate to each other was tantamount to calling for state-to-state relations between two equal countries.

On Wednesday, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the mainland Taiwan Affairs Office said when asked about Tsai’s comments: “Both sides across the Taiwan Strait belong to one China and their relations are by no means ‘state-to-state’. The so-called ‘not subordinate to each other’ is the explicit rhetoric of the ‘two-state theory’.”…

“Since 1949, although the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have not been completely reunified, the fact that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China has never changed and cannot be changed,” Ma said.

Taiwan has never been ruled by mainland China and the only way it will be is by a military invasion. The biggest obstacle to that plan, which China is clearly pursuing, is the United States. Since 1979 we’ve maintained a policy of strategic ambiguity about what me might do if Taiwan were invaded. Yesterday a retired Marine Colonel suggested in Stars and Stripes that it was time for that policy to end.


“Make it clear to the Chinese leaders that they will lose everything if they start a war over Taiwan,” retired U.S. Marine Col. Grant Newsham, a senior researcher with the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo, wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes. “The U.S. also needs to take the lead and help Taiwan break out of 40 years of military and diplomatic isolation.”

Newsham’s comments followed video shown by Japanese TV on Tuesday of Chinese troops conducting exercises that suggest preparations for invading Taiwan, an island 100 miles off the mainland coast…

“There is no deal to be cut with [China] over Taiwan,” he said. “Taiwan is this era’s version of Czechoslovakia in the 1930s when the Germans were demanding it be handed over. The stakes are that high for our generation.”

Of course the counter argument is that the US can’t win a war for Taiwan and that there’s nothing there worth fighting for anyway, therefore we shouldn’t commit to defending the island but rather accept China will have its way eventually. We may find out sooner than most people expect which path the US will take if the island is invaded.

Here’s an interesting DW analysis of the current situation.

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