Taiwan’s motto has become ‘get it where you can’

China has put the island democracy in the invidious position of having to take whatever friends it can get

ChinaDiction was founded by Chris Taylor, a long-time observer of China, Taiwan, and cross-strait affairs. Below is an edited extract of the ChinaDiction newsletter from September 30. Click here for the original version on the ChinaDiction website.

One of the worst things about being a de-facto state by accident of post-World War II history is you don’t get to choose your friends – assuming anyone or any country really does get to do that.

Taiwan has had to deal with sieges and occupations by the Qing Empire, the Spanish, the Dutch, the Japanese and the Chinese Nationalist army in retreat from the Chinese Communist Party, who now want it for themselves.

The latter is despite the fact the CCP’s arch enemies, the Nationalists, or Kuomintang (KMT), have been voted out of power by the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Most of the thoroughly unsavory types follow the money, which saves Taiwan some taint by association.

But China is beginning to make itself so pinch-the-nose dislikable that Taiwan is now gathering the usual coterie of friends that all democracies have to invite to dinner.

Some of them get greedy – Paraguay, for example, wants US$1 billion to stay friends – and will likely drift away. Others – take Mike Pompeo; does he really represent the United States and is he really the kind of friend anyone wants? – are probably around for the long haul.

Foreign Policy reports on Italy’s pivot to the right and why it could be good for Taiwan relations. It’s a pity that Italy had to swing right for that to happen, but so it is and we’re all still figuring out what really happened to the country.

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Meanwhile, according to the Taiwan News, the United Kingdom’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, who’s shaping up to be the least popular British political leader since, well, Boris Johnson, said in a CNN interview broadcast “that the UK is determined to cooperate with allies to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself.”

But overall, Taiwan’s sudden arrival in the limelight has to be seen as a positive development as it will hopefully give China pause for thought about a globally unpopular military action that could result in a devastatingly punitive backlash – and worse still (for Beijing) defeat.

As The Diplomat recently noted all foreign recognition and support for Taiwan is probably best seen in a positive light:

Since January 2021, European Parliament Vice-President Nicola Beer and members of her delegation, who visited Taiwan in July this year, have worked actively to raise Taiwan-related issues in the European Parliament and helped pass 20 resolutions supporting Taiwan.

Following congressional delegations from Europe to Taiwan, the European Parliament passed resolutions backing Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and called on partners of the European Union, such as Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and India, to voice support for Taiwan against Beijing’s intimidation.

European companies also followed suit by enhancing ties with Taiwan via collaborating with Taiwanese partners on joint projects, notably green energy, the offshore wind industry, digital innovation, biotechnology, and electric vehicles.

The hope in Taipei, and increasingly elsewhere, is that Taiwan becomes a normal global partner in business, technology and progressive, inclusive ideology, making the very thought of acting on dubious territorial claims unthinkable.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of China Factor.