Defiant yet direct. Measured yet muscular. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s speech made it clear that the island democracy would not be bullied into submission by China’s autocrats.
She also displayed political pragmatism in the face of the “cult of Xicophants” that now rules in Beijing and the threats to take Taiwan by force.
Just nine days after President-for-Life Xi Jinping crushed all opposition to his rule at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the stakes could not be higher.
“Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is a prime example. It shows an authoritarian regime will do whatever it takes to achieve expansionism,” Tsai said on Tuesday in an address at an international gathering of pro-democracy activists in Taipei.
“The people of Taiwan are all too familiar with such aggression. In recent years, Taiwan has been confronted by threats from China,” she added, listing military intimidation, cyber-attacks and economic coercion, as reported by the Associated Press.
Behind the scenes:
- Taiwan has been called “the most dangerous place on earth.”
- Cold War-style tension has reached unparalleled levels since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 24-hour visit to Taiwan in August.
- In response, China launched live-fire naval drills, virtually encircling the island in a show of naked aggression.
- Overhead, jets screamed through the skies amid the sound of missile launches.
- “The exercises [China is conducting] are unprecedented,” state-run Global Times reported at the height of a highly choreographed operation.
Delve deeper: Comrade Xi received rapturous applause from the more than 2,300 hand-picked delegates in the Great Hall of The People last week when he warned that the “renegade province” belongs to China. Yet the Communist Party’s claim has no historical precedent.
What he said: “The wheels of history are rolling on toward China’s reunification and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and the complete reunification of the motherland must be achieved and can definitely be achieved.”
Warning from history: Admiral Mike Gilday, the chief of US naval operations, was quick to point out the risks facing Taiwan. Last week, he made it clear that the American military must be prepared for the possibility of a Chinese invasion of the island before 2024.
Threats and promises: “It’s not just what President Xi says, but it’s how the Chinese behave and what they do. And what we’ve seen over the past 20 years is that they have delivered on every promise they’ve made earlier than they said they were going to,” he warned.
Window of conflict: “When we talk about the 2027 window, in my mind that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window. I can’t rule that out. I don’t mean at all to be alarmist by saying that, it’s just that we can’t wish that away,” he added on the United States Naval Institute website.
China Factor comment: With the “cult of Xicophants” firmly in power, anything is possible.