Taiwan President Calls on Beijing to Change Behavior in Order to Hold Talks

October 10, 2020 Updated: October 10, 2020

TAIPEI, Taiwan—Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she wanted to have “meaningful dialogue” with China but only when Beijing was willing to drop its antagonism and show mutual respect, in a speech on Oct. 10 when Taiwan celebrated its National Day.

“We are committed to upholding cross-strait stability, but this is not something Taiwan can shoulder alone; it is the joint responsibility of both sides,” Tsai said.

“At this stage, the most pressing cross-strait issue is to discuss how we can live in peace and coexist based on mutual respect, goodwill, and understanding,” Tsai said. “As long as the Beijing authorities are willing to resolve antagonisms and improve cross-strait relations, while parity and dignity are maintained, we are willing to work together to facilitate meaningful dialogue.”

Taiwan’s National Day, also dubbed the Double Ten Day, marks the start of the Wuchang Uprising in 1911 that overthrew the Qing Dynasty emperor and the establishment of the Republic of China (ROC).

The ROC eventually retreated to Taiwan after being defeated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Chinese Civil War. Today, Taiwan is officially known as the ROC.

Beijing, which is officially known as the People’s Republic of China (RPC), sees self-ruled Taiwan as a part of its territory, to be united with the mainland by military force if necessary.

Tensions between China and Taiwan have risen considerably in recent months, with Beijing relentlessly flexing its muscle by repeatedly sending bombers and fighter jets into the island’s airspace. There were at least 46 such incidents from Sept. 17 to Sept. 24, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.

On the eve of Taiwan’s National Day celebration, Taiwan’s defense ministry reported another incident when two Chinese military transport planes entered Taiwan’s southeast airspace. In response, Taiwan’s military scrambled jets to intercept the Chinese aircraft.

Tsai in her speech on Oct. 10 quoted Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who recently said that “will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence.” According to China’s state-run media, Xi made the remarks in a speech on Sept. 22 during the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations’ General Assembly.

The Taiwanese president expressed hope that Xi’s words would mark “the beginning of [China’s] genuine change,” given that many countries have expressed concerns about “China’s expanding hegemony.”

Taiwan will nevertheless be active in the international community while working with allies, Tsai said.

“We will play an active role in establishing new regional and international orders. We will forge alliances based on shared values and friendly ties throughout the international community, and continue to enhance partnerships with like-minded and friendly nations,” she said. “We will also participate more actively in regional and international multilateral cooperation and dialogues.”

Prior to her speech, Tsai and Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai met with foreign officials attending the National Day celebration at the Presidential Office Building. Among the officials was William Brent Christensen, Taipei Office’s director of the American Institute in Taiwan, which is the de-facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan.

Washington currently maintains a non-diplomatic relationship with Taipei after severing ties with the island in favor of Beijing in 1979. The bilateral relationship has warmed considerably under the Trump administration.

Two senior U.S. officials have visited Taiwan in recent months—Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Under Secretary of State Keith Krach.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) issued a statement on Oct. 9 recognizing Taiwan’s National Day. The senator visited Taiwan last year to take part in the 2019 National Day celebration.

“In the face of growing hostility, Taiwan has stood strong and tall against the Chinese Communist Party’s oppression and bully tactics. America is proud to stand with the people of Taiwan,” Cruz stated. 

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