China warns that Taiwan’s push for international space presents ‘seismic risks’

Foreign Affairs

Beijing is very unhappy with statements in the last two days from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen and from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the future of the island nation that China sees as a breakaway province.

taiwan international space
Illustration for SupChina by Derek Zheng

Debate over Taiwan’s political status and the future of the Taiwan-China status quo has ramped up in the past month. A few key events concerning the parties directly involved include:

  • After China sent a record number of warplanes into Taiwan’s ADIZ (air defense identification zone) at the beginning of the month, Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正 Qiū Guózhèng), warned that the situation was “the most dangerous” he had seen in 40 years.
  • China’s leader, Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, reiterated Beijing’s position against Taiwan independence, while Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) argued for “maintaining the status quo” and insisted, “nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us.”
  • Tsai told CNN in an interview on October 26 that the threat from Beijing is growing “every day,” and twice warned against what she called China’s “expansionist tendencies.” Tsai also confirmed reports that a small number of U.S. troops have been conducting training in Taiwan.

The European Union and the United States have recently made significant moves to support Taiwan.

  • Last week, EU lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution that calls for enhanced partnership with Taiwan.
  • Three EU countries — the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Lithuania — hosted a Taiwan trade delegation last week, while Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吴钊燮 Wú Zhāoxiè) visited the Czech Republic and Slovakia early this week.
  • Several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are expected to travel to Taiwan next week and discuss a possible EU-Taiwan investment agreement.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden said in a town hall event last week that the U.S. has a “commitment” to defending Taiwan, though the ultimate significance of the off-the-cuff remark is unclear.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on UN Member States to support “Taiwan’s robust, meaningful participation throughout the UN system and in the international community,” citing difficulties that Taiwan had faced at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and World Health Organization (WHO).

China has blasted the EU and U.S. efforts to support Taiwan. The messages to Europe were relatively boilerplate:

  • The nonbinding EU resolution “will seriously damage the foundations of China-EU relations,” the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress said last week.
  • “Not having official exchanges in any form with Taiwan authorities” is a political foundation of EU-China relations, the Chinese Mission to the EU said yesterday in response to reports of the upcoming MEP visits to Taiwan.

Beijing’s response to U.S. advocacy on behalf of Taiwan was more fierce: Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚 said yesterday (in English, Chinese) that Washington’s “touting and whitewashing of Taiwan’s so-called democracy” was an attempt to “mislead others,” and that the U.S. was “​​making an issue out of Taiwan’s participation in the ICAO and WHO to angle for sympathy.” Zhao warned:

Should the U.S. side choose to continue playing the “Taiwan card”, it would inevitably pose seismic risks to China-U.S. relations, seriously undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and gravely harm the interests of the U.S. itself.

Additionally, in multiple statements over the past week, the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. has criticized various American officials for making statements in support of Taiwan.

  • The embassy criticized Blinken’s “hyping” of “so-called ‘values,’” and accused Taiwanese authorities of “brownnosing foreign forces” such as the U.S. to “expand the room for ‘Taiwan independence.’”
  • The embassy also claimed that a U.S. State Department official’s interpretation of UN Resolution 2758, which recognized the government of the People’s Republic of China as “the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations,” constituted “blasphemy of the international conscience and the authority of the UN.”

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