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Taiwan’s New President Calls for Peace Through Strength in Inaugural Speech

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Follow Steve Postal: @HebraicMosaic

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Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te was sworn into office, following his predecessor Tsai Ing-Wen being termed out after eight years. The following are highlights from President Lai’s inaugural speech:

Offering Peace To China, but Demanding Relations Based on Respect

Lai offered an olive branch to China, calling on both countries to “together pursue peace and mutual prosperity.”

But Lai also set terms for acceptable China-Taiwan relations, in that China needs to “…face the reality of the Republic of China’s [i.e., Taiwan’s] existence, respect the choices of the people of Taiwan, and in good faith, choose dialogue over confrontation, exchange over containment, and under the principles of parity and dignity, engage in cooperation with the legal government chosen by Taiwan’s people.” As first steps towards better relations, Lai offered mutual resumption of tourism, and enrollment of mainland Chinese in Taiwan’s universities.

While hopeful, Lai maintained a somber assessment of China’s threat, calling on Taiwan’s citizens to “…not harbor any delusions.” He called on China “to cease [its] political and military intimidation against Taiwan.” Even after recognizing the Russia/Ukraine and Hamas/Israel wars, Lai maintained that “China’s military actions and gray-zone coercion are considered the greatest strategic challenges to global peace and stability.”

 

Offering Peace Towards Opposition, While Establishing Common Denominator for Politics

President Lai congratulated his party, the DPP, for being the first in Taiwan’s democratic history to win a third consecutive term. But at the same time, he remained very conciliatory towards the opposition. For example, Lai emphasized that he will govern as the leader of all Taiwanese, and that “[t]he new administration will work tirelessly and to the best of our ability, as all the nation’s people put us to the test.” He saw the split vote in the legislature not a cause for alarm, but as an opportunity where “ruling and opposition parties are now all able to share their ideas, and that we will be undertaking the nation’s challenges as one.” He stressed “people above all” and “nation above party.”

 

However, Lai established a common, non-negotiable denominator for acceptable political discourse, stating that “[a]ll of the people of Taiwan must come together to safeguard our nation; all our political parties ought to oppose annexation and protect sovereignty; and no one should entertain the idea of giving up our national sovereignty in exchange for political power.”

Making The Case for Taiwan’s Value to the World

Lai stressed Taiwan’s importance to the world. First and foremost, Lai mentioned that there is a “…strong international consensus, that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait are indispensable to global security and prosperity.” Lai also stressed that Taiwan continues to be a “global beacon” in democracy and freedom.

Lai emphasized that Taiwan is “…a key player in supply chains for global democracies,” and because of this, “Taiwan has an influence on global economic development, as well as humanity’s well-being and prosperity.” To that end, Lai stressed Taiwan’s cutting edge advancements in advanced semiconductor manufacturing and AI, both in high demand globally. He specifically mentioned his goal “to develop Five Trusted Industry Sectors, namely semiconductors, AI, military, security and surveillance, and next-generation communications…” He also stated that Taiwan needs to make “bold investments” in precision medicine, quantum computing, and robotics, as well as to be a leader in UAV and next generation medium- and low-orbit communications satellites.

While Taiwan continues to keep Chinese aggression at bay, as well as to heal its political divide and continue to grow as a global innovator and beacon for democracy, Taiwan’s new president seems eager to take on his country’s many challenges.

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China

Rejecting Détente Offer, China Throws Shade at Taiwan’s New President

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Follow Steve Postal: @HebraicMosaic

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China’s propaganda machine has responded to Taiwan President Lai Ching-te’s inauguration address, which was conciliatory to the mainland, with belligerence. Rather than accepting Lai’s olive branch of détente based on mutual respect, China used Lai’s inauguration speech to slander the new president, claim that he does not have the mandate of his own people, and threaten to use force on the island.

China Slanders Taiwan’s New President

China reacted to Lai’s inauguration speech by slandering the new Taiwanese president. A Global Times article asserted that Lai “wants to deceive Taiwan residents,” and is “malicious.” Chen Binhua, a spokesperson for China’s State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, stated that Lai has “an extremely arrogant attitude and more radical views,” and that Lai’s inauguration speech was “[f]ull of hostility and provocation and made up of lies and deception,” according to another Global Times article. Similarly, Zhu Fenglian, another spokesperson for China’s State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, called Lai’s actions “vile,” according to a third Global Times article. A China Daily editorial labelled him a “diehard separatist, ” while another China Daily editorial called Lai’s quest for Taiwan’s independence an “evil pursuit.”

China Claims Lai Doesn’t Speak for the People of Taiwan

Despite Lai winning Taiwan’s democratic election, China portrayed Lai as going against the will of his people. Chen Binhua, a spokesperson for the China’s State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, called Lai is  “a traitor to mainstream public opinion on the island and a disruptor of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” according to Global Times. Zhu Fenglian, another spokesperson for China’s State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, stated that “insightful individuals in Taiwan have expressed deep concern” about Lai, “reflecting the shared sentiments of the majority of Taiwan compatriots,” and that Lai’s colleagues in the DPP party are “in fact very insecure and fear that compatriots on both sides of the Straits will come closer together,” according to Global Times.

China Threatens to Use Force on Taiwan

China also responded to Lai’s inaugural speech by issuing threats and not-so-veiled threats to use force against Taiwan. One Global Times article stated that “Lai’s ‘Taiwan independence’ remarks are playing with fire, and those who play with fire will be bound to get themselves burned.” According to China Daily, the naval exercises conducted around Taiwan by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from May 23-24 in response to Lai’s speech were “legitimate countermeasures” that send “a clear message that [the PLA] will prevent ‘Taiwan independence’ at all costs.” Another China Daily article stated that the Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun “…left no one in any doubt that should it prove necessary Beijing will not hesitate to use force to quash any bid to divide the nation. Calling the separatists’ pursuit of ‘independence’ an act of self-destruction, he stated unequivocally that ‘Whoever dares to sever Taiwan from China will be crushed.’”

Another Global Times article maintained that “[t]he actions of the Lai authorities will definitely invite lessons and countermeasures from the mainland” and that “[i]f Lai tries to escalate tensions in the coming years, the mainland will respond and use all available tools to make the Taiwan authorities pay a heavy price.” A third Global Times article, quoting “analysts” stated that “the pursuit of ‘Taiwan independence’ is a futile endeavor that will lead to detrimental and calamitous consequences for Taiwan island.”

Rather than accepting Lai’s reasonable offer to resume cordial relations based on mutual respect, China has chosen to ratchet up its propaganda attacks against the island. As China continues to beat the drums of war, will Taiwan hold the line?

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