Taiwan President Begins Her Second Term by Rejecting Chinese Rule

Taiwan President Begins Her Second Term by Rejecting Chinese Rule
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Vice President William Lai attend inaugural celebrations at the Taipei Guest House on May 20, 2020. (Taiwan Presidential Office)
Frank Fang

TAIPEI, Taiwan—President Tsai Ing-wen was inaugurated for her second term in office on May 20, telling Beijing that she will continue to engage in cross-strait talks but China’s proposal of “one country, two systems” model is off the table.

“Here, I want to reiterate the words ‘peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue.’ We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo. We stand fast by this principle,” said Tsai in her inaugural speech.

The model is currently used in Hong Kong since the city’s sovereignty was handed over from Britain to China in 1997, whereby Beijing promised to preserve freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland. However, the city has seen the encroaching influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in local politics and education.

Beijing has proposed the idea of using this model to govern Taiwan, as it views the self-ruled island as its territory, despite the fact that Taiwan has its own military, currency, and democratically-elected officials.

Beijing’s proposal has been overwhelmingly rejected in Taiwan. According to a March poll by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, a government agency that deals with cross-strait affairs, 90 percent of 1,089 locals surveyed said they objected to the model.

Meanwhile, 76.6 percent said Beijing was unfriendly toward the Taiwanese government, and 61.5 percent said Beijing was unfriendly toward Taiwanese people—both of which were all record highs in the past 15 years.

“We have made the greatest effort to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait over the past four years,” Tsai said, before adding that she will continue to “engage in dialogue” with Beijing in the next four years, so that the two neighbors can “find a way to coexist over the long term.”

Tsai said she will also continue to fight for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations.

Amid the current pandemic, the issue of Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization (WHO) has gained urgency, given the island’s enormous success in containing the spread of the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

It was recently blocked from taking part in a virtual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA)—the WHO’s decision-making body—which commenced on May 18.

Tsai also said she will continue to “strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation with our allies, and bolster ties with the United States, Japan, Europe, and other like-minded countries.”

“We will also participate more actively in regional cooperation mechanisms and work hand-in-hand with countries in the region to make concrete contributions to peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Tsai said.

Currently, the United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but considers the island a key ally in the Indo-Pacific region.

United States

A number of U.S. officials sent congratulatory messages to Tsai, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this also marks the first time in history that a sitting U.S. secretary of state sent well wishes for Taiwan’s presidential inauguration.
“Support for Taiwan in the United States is bipartisan and unanimous, as demonstrated by the recent enactment of the TAIPEI Act which strengthens our overall relationship and supports a closer economic partnership,” said Pompeo in a statement.
U.S. President Donald Trump signed the TAIPEI Act into law on March 27, a bill that mandates increased American support for Taiwan internationally.

“With President Tsai at the helm, our partnership with Taiwan will continue to flourish,” Pompeo concluded.

China’s hawkish state-run media Global Times, in an editorial published on May 20, expressed anger at Pompeo for congratulating Tsai, in particular how he addressed Tsai directly as “President.”

The editorial accused Washington and the Tsai administration as being “narcissistic,” while boasting that Beijing could “mobilize more international resources” than the two combined.

It also denounced the United States as being “naive” in voicing support to Taiwan, since Beijing could continue to pressure the Tsai administration by sending fighter jets and warships close to the island.

Joseph Bosco, a former China country desk officer at the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, in an interview with The Epoch Times sister media NTD just before Tsai’s inauguration, said the relationship between Taiwan and the United States has never been stronger.

For this reason, “for the short term, I think China will continue to exert pressure and try to intimidate Taiwan and to deter the United States,” Bosco said.

Bosco recommended more U.S. military activities to support Taiwan.

He explained: “We should increase the number of both naval operations and air operations through the Taiwan Strait. We should also continue with the freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and increase those as well.”

During the current pandemic, Beijing has continued its sable-rattling tactics against Taiwan with a series of military operations near the island. In response, U.S. military jets and warships have stepped in to show support for Taiwan, including most recently the sailing of U.S. destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) through the Taiwan Strait on May 13.

Bosco added that the United States should “make it clear explicitly” that it will defend Taiwan in the event of a conflict with China.

“I think more and more countries are realizing that China is a danger to the world in so many different ways. And the pandemic is just the most recent and dramatic example of that,” Bosco said.

Bosco applauded Taiwan’s response to the pandemic, saying it has been “open, transparent, responsible, and competent,” while China is “just the opposite in all those areas.”

“I think it is inevitable that Taiwan will become at least an observer and ultimately a full-fledged member of the World Health Organization because it has earned it in so many different ways,” Bosco concluded.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced after Tsai’s inauguration that about 263 officials from a total of 47 countries and international organizations sent their congratulations to Tsai and Vice President William Lai.
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
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