President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) spoke with Czech president-elect Petr Pavel by telephone on Monday in what is being regarded as a diplomatic coup for Taipei. Taiwan and the Czech Republic do not have formal relations; dialogue between a president and a president-elect is therefore significant.
That it happened at all inevitably led to comparisons with the Dec. 2, 2016, phone call between then-US president-elect Donald Trump and Tsai. At the time, many commentators assumed that Trump taking the congratulatory call was a stroke of luck for Tsai, and that he had accepted it either because of his political naivete and ignorance or his maverick nature. One writer referred to it as an “accident.”
Former representative to the US Stanley Kao (高碩泰) has said that the call was no accident, but the result of a year of preparation by the staff of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US.
The first ever direct interaction between a US president — or president-elect — and the president of Taiwan since 1979 was, indeed, a diplomatic coup, and needless to say, Beijing was not happy about it. Trump’s subsequent assertive policies toward China suggest he was aware of the significance of the call.
The Tsai-Pavel call might not be considered as significant or important as its Tsai-Trump precursor, due to the strong ties between Taiwan and the US — especially under the Democratic Progressive Party — until it is seen in the context of a growing trend among countries to support Taipei and reject blind obedience to Beijing’s “one China” principle.
Pavel promises to be far more willing to align with the West and democratic countries than Czech President Milos Zeman, who, until the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year, had promoted friendly ties with Russia and China. The EU has recently been more vocally pro-Taiwan, but it is notable that Pavel’s direct contact with Tsai is a first for the head of a European nation.
Tuesday saw a number of interesting responses to China’s objections to the Tsai-Pavel call and how it contravenes Beijing’s “one China” principle. China has a restrictive definition of this principle and routinely fails to clarify the difference between it and the “one China” policies that other countries ascribe to.
Pavel said that the Czech Republic is a sovereign nation and can do what it believes to be right; Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said that the country can maintain its “one China” policy while having good relations with Taiwan; and EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy spokesperson Nabila Massrali said that member states are free to maintain a good relationship with Taiwan while observing the bloc’s “one China” policy.
Members of the international community are increasingly willing to push back against Beijing’s insistence on adherence to its strict definition of the “one China” principle, and are clarifying the distinction between Beijing’s principle and their own individual “one China” policies, which allow for them to maintain ties with Taiwan.
During the call on Monday, Pavel expressed an interest in boosting cooperation with Taiwan in all aspects; significantly, he also said that Prague’s “one China” policy should be supplemented with a “two system” principle that would allow significant flexibility in dealing with Beijing and Taipei at the same time, with no implicit conflict.
Pavel’s further articulation of a “two system” principle is an interesting development, one more step away from the formula unilaterally prescribed by China. It is one that the government should encourage other countries to develop.
The US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment for this year certainly cannot be faulted for having a narrow focus or Pollyanna perspective. From a rising China, Russian aggression and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, to climate change, future pandemics and the growing reach of international organized crime, US intelligence analysis is as comprehensive as it is worrying. Inaugurated two decades ago as a gesture of transparency and to inform the public and the US Congress, the annual threat assessment offers the intelligence agencies’ top-line conclusions about the country’s leading national-security threats — although always in ways that do not compromise “sources and methods.”
Let’s begin with the bottom line. The sad truth of the matter is that Beijing has trampled on its solemn pledge to grant Hong Kong a great deal of autonomy for at least fifty years. In so doing, the PRC ignored a promise Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) made to both Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the wider world back in the early 1980s. This was at a time when Beijing, under Deng and his successors, appeared to be seeking an equitable accommodation with the West. I remain puzzled by China’s recent policy shift. Was it because Hong Kong was perceived
The recent meeting in New Delhi between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov — the first such high-level interaction since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — suggests that diplomacy might no longer be a dirty word. The 10 minute meeting on the sidelines of the G20 gathering occurred after US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reportedly urged Ukraine to show Russia that it is open to negotiating an end to the war. Together, these developments offer a glimmer of hope that a ceasefire is within the realm of the possible. The
French police have confirmed that China’s overseas “police service stations” were behind cyberattacks against a Taiwanese Mandarin Learning Center in the European nation. This is another example of Beijing bullying Taiwanese organizations, as well as a show of contempt for other countries’ sovereignty and for international laws and norms. L’Encrier Chinois, a Chinese-language school that opened in 2005 in Paris, became the second Taiwanese Mandarin Learning Center in France in 2021. The school was targeted by at least three cyberattacks last year, which were reported to French police, who discovered that the attacks originated from China’s overseas police stations. Overseas