Fri, Feb 22, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Seeing Tsai Ing-wen as a positive

By Juan Fernando Herrera Ramos

Ever since Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) became the first female elected president of Taiwan in 2016, there was an almost immediate reaction from China, which did not appreciate the idea of a president who might push for independence.

After defeating the pro-Beijing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) by a landslide, the semi-peaceful relationship that had been ongoing during the presidency of Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) began to fade away.

It is worth noticing that during Ma’s tenure, the aggressive stance that China had maintained toward Taiwan, and more specifically, its plans to take away as many of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies as possible eased considerably.

Before Ma took office on May 20, 2008, China had managed to lure nine countries into breaking relations withTaipei.

However, once Ma took office, Taiwan only lost one ally to China, the Gambia in 2013 (which was reportedly a decision made by the Gambian government without Chinese interference) during the eight years he was in office.

This happened because his government was friendly to China and tried to strengthen its ties to Beijing.

However, that drastically changed after Tsai took office and refused to acknowledge the “1992 consensus” and the “one China” principle. The principle has different interpretations for both nations. For China, “one China” refers to the People’s Republic of China, but for Taiwan, “one China” refers to the Republic of China (ROC).

The renewed aggressive approach toward Taiwan was also fueled by US President Donald Trump, who not only held a telephone call with Tsai, but also made comments after the call that made Beijing uneasy.

Not long after that, China started luring Taiwan’s allies to sever ties. The first one to do so was Sao Tome and Principe, which switched ties at the end of 2016, thereby reducing the number of countries that had formal relations with Taiwan to 21, in a move that was considered by many as a punishment for the Trump-Tsai call.

The next country to switch was Panama, which broke ties in 2017, followed by the Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso and El Salvador last year, leaving Taiwan with only 17 allies.

China has focused on taking Taiwan’s allies one by one in an effort to eliminate any international recognition for Taipei. Using money and investment projects as its main tool, it has effectively taken away a big number of allies in a short period of time.

Its pressure does not stop there. Using access to its giant market, it has also managed to pressure international airlines and companies to eliminate any reference to Taiwan on their Web sites.

However, not all has been bad news for Taiwan. Since Tsai took office there have been a series of actions taken by the US government that one could argue have leveled up the cost that Taiwan has paid through the loss of its allies.

The US government broke official ties with Taiwan in 1979; this was done in order to pursue relations with China.

However, even though the US does not have official ties, it maintains a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan, which is based on the Taiwan Relations Act that was passed in the same year that the US switched its official recognition to China.

The purpose of that act is to continue treating the ROC government as a separate entity. It contained a set of guidelines known as the “Six Assurances,” among which there are commitments to assist Taiwan with its defense capabilities to prevent an invasion from China.

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