Patron: Her Excellency, The Right Honourable Dame Cindy Kiro, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand

Tensions play out over Taiwan Presidential changeover

By Dr Anita Perkins

New President ruffles political feathers

The inauguration ceremony for new Taiwanese President  Lai Ching-te (also referred to as ‘William Lai’) took place on 20 May. Media outlets and political experts are watching closely to see what this could mean for Taiwan’s de facto independence and its difficult position sandwiched between US and Chinese tensions.

Earlier in the year US Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent Taiwanese then president-elect Lai a message of congratulations which Beijing termed “a gravely wrong signal” for supporters of Taiwanese independence (see BBC article). Since then, China has continued its warnings against independence.

Lai Ching-te moves from an earlier stronger position to a more moderate stance on independence

Chiang Ying-ying writes: “Taiwan inaugurated Lai Ching-te as its new president, installing a relative moderate who will continue the self-governing island democracy’s policy of de facto independence while seeking to bolster its defences against China. […] Lai, who served as vice president during Tsai’s second term, came across as more of a firebrand earlier in his career. In 2017, he described himself as a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan’s independence”, drawing Beijing’s rebuke. He has since softened his stance and now supports maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait and the possibility of talks with Beijing.”

Source: Radio New Zealand: Lai Ching-te inaugurated as Taiwan’s president in a transition likely to bolster island’s US ties

Christopher Bodeen writes: “In his inauguration address on Monday, Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te called for Beijing to stop its military intimidation and pledged to “neither yield nor provoke” the mainland Communist Party leadership. […] Beijing claims the island is part of China’s national territory and the People’s Liberation Army sends navy ships and warplanes into the Taiwan Strait and other areas around the island almost daily to wear down Taiwan’s defenses and seek to intimidate its people, who firmly back their de facto independence.”

Source Associated Press: Taiwan scrambles jets and puts missile, naval and land units on alert over China’s military drills

China responds to inauguration with military drills

Nectar Gan, Brad Lendon and Eric Cheung, write: “China has launched two days of large-scale military drills surrounding Taiwan in what it called “punishment” for so-called “separatist acts,” days after the self-ruling island swore in a new democratically elected leader who called on Beijing to cease its intimidation tactics. […] China’s ruling Communist Party says Taiwan is part of its territory, despite never having controlled it, and has vowed to take the island, by force if necessary.”

Source: CNN: China starts ‘punishment’ military drills around Taiwan days after island swears in new leader

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes writes: “President Lai’s alleged crime is that in his inauguration speech on Monday he used the word China to describe China. Beijing says that in doing so Mr Lai revealed his true thinking that Taiwan is not China, and they are two different countries. It is, in their eyes, an admission of his “separatist” ideology.

To outsiders this may all sound absurd. But for decades Beijing and Taipei have obfuscated on their definitions of China, and whether Taiwan is part of it. Even former president Tsai was careful to refer to China in euphemistic terms like “the other side of the strait” or “the Beijing authorities”.”

Source: BBC: What do China’s drills around Taiwan tell us?