The chairmen of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party and the New Power Party (NPP) on Wednesday said that given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) missed an opportunity when she emphasized maintaining the cross-strait “status quo” in her second inaugural address.
Although they did not elaborate, presumably what Taiwan Statebuilding Party Chairman Chen Yi-chi (陳奕齊) and NPP Chairman Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) meant is that the global economic crisis resulting from the pandemic had caused a worldwide backlash against China. Some countries have already begun thinking of ways to decouple their economies from China. Australia, which had called for an investigation into the origins of the pandemic, is now facing retaliatory trade restrictions from China. As a result, farmers have found new trading partners. Japan and the US have also been seeking to reduce their economic reliance on China, and their governments have proposed providing assistance to companies that relocate their supply chains. Yet what, if anything, does this mean for Taiwan?
The nation could conceivably take up some of the trade that has been shifted out of China or assist companies in other countries with relocating to Southeast Asia, where it has significant experience due to the government’s New Southbound Policy.
However, in terms of Taiwan-China relations, it is much less clear what effect the pandemic has had.
Taiwanese businesses have also been seeking to move out of China, but that started with the US-China trade dispute last year. It might also have had an effect on China’s “united front” efforts, since cross-strait exchanges have come to a halt, but the pandemic has done nothing to curb Beijing’s ambitions regarding Taiwan. China has continued to conduct military exercises near Taiwan in the past several months. Fortunately, the US has also not ceased its surveillance and right-of-passage activities in the area.
None of this implies that Taiwan should not — or should, for that matter — amend its Constitution or laws governing cross-strait relations, but it should inform the public that the threat of war from doing so has not gone away amid the pandemic. One argument is that Beijing, emboldened by the pandemic, is moving forward with its South China Sea ambitions while countries are distracted by a health crisis. Perhaps China has been dissuaded from attempting an invasion of Taiwan due to the US’ continued presence, but whether it would continue to be deterred if cross-strait laws were amended is hard to predict.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) last week was pressured to retract a proposed bill that would remove “unification of the nation” from the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), because it would throw cross-strait ties off balance ahead of Tsai Ing-wen’s reinauguration. Whether the DPP was responding to a threat from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) on May 9 that Taiwan should not “underestimate the strong will and determination of China’s 1.4 billion people to maintain sovereignty” is unclear. However, the threat shows that China has not backed down.
If Taiwan wants a “good opportunity” to amend laws or the Constitution, it should seek a clear commitment from the US or other friendly nations to provide military aid. The US has always maintained that it would not accept unilateral change to the “status quo in the Taiwan Strait,” but US-China relations have significantly destabilized under US President Donald Trump. Now might be an opportune moment to pursue a change in the US’ stance.
In Japan, as in Taiwan, interest in President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inaugural address on Wednesday last week for her second term was widespread. In her speech, which I listened to online, Tsai talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the global political economic order and altered global supply chains. This is an issue that Japan must also face, so I would like to present an idea for the people of Taiwan to consider. In the wake of the pandemic, Japan and Taiwan must consider the risks arising from supply chains’ dependence on China, as well as the risks that arise from
According to Japan’s Kyodo news agency, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is to hold military exercises in August centering on an attack on the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) in the South China Sea. Taiwan’s military leaders have let it be known that, should the islands be invaded by a hostile force, the nation would respond in one of three ways: a complete withdrawal, a fight to the death or surrender. The islands became a hot topic in Taiwan overnight, but any discussion of the Pratas Islands should factor in the ignominy on Taiwan’s loss of Thitu Island (Jhongye
As last year drew to a close, Taiwan lost several of its dwindling set of diplomatic allies, and China all but claimed victory in the long quest for universal recognition of the Peoples Republic of China. While Taiwan remained marginalized from traditional international institutions, intensifying protests in Hong Kong raised the specter of military repression in the territories still coveted by Beijing. At celebrations marking 70 years of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) also reasserted China’s ultimate goal of reunifying Taiwan with the mainland. Then COVID-19 hit. The pandemic has opened deep wounds in the increasingly