Is Taiwan declaring independence?

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

The past week has seen China becoming much more aggressive in its policy of trying to isolate Taiwan. In fact, its naval and air forces have become so aggressive that there are fears that this will result in a virtual blockade of Taiwan. The body of water between China and Taiwan has always been considered an international area. However, recently China has called the Taiwan Strait an internal body of water.

All these moves are reminiscent of China’s aggression in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea. All this aggression will not force Taiwan into formal reunification with the mainland.

The expansion of China’s military and naval forces into Taiwan-controlled spaces could reach the intermediate objective of preventing the island from proclaiming formal independence while preserving Beijing’s option to use force sometime in the future.

There are also reports that Beijing was very angered by the inaugural speech of the newly elected Taiwan President Lai Ching-Te, who was formerly viewed as a pro-independence advocate. While China has not formally annexed Taiwan, it has strongly opposed any formal declaration of independence and insists that the world formally accepts a one-China policy.

However, newly-elected President Lai in his speech called himself as the “16th term president of the Republic of China,” which apparently has angered Beijing since this openly violates the one-China policy. President Lai also said, “On this day in 1996, Taiwan’s first democratically elected president took the oath of office, conveying to the international community that the Republic of China Taiwan is a sovereign, independent nation in which sovereignty lies in the hands of the people.”

This sounds either like a declaration or an affirmation that Taiwan is a truly independent country.

In another paragraph, President Lai said: “I also want to thank my fellow citizens for your support, for refusing to be swayed by external forces, for resolutely defending democracy, for pressing onward without turning back and for turning a new page in Taiwan’s history.”

While he did not mention mainland China, there are those who are concluding that President Lai meant mainland China’s aggressiveness to be the “external forces” which are threatening democracy in Taiwan.

He continued: “As for international affairs, we will continue working with other democratic nations to form a democratic community and share our experiences across a range of fields. We will work together to combat disinformation, strengthen democratic resilience, address challenges and allow Taiwan to become the MVP of the democratic world.”

This statement can be interpreted to mean that Taiwan means to reach out to the rest of the world and try to break out from the isolation that has been imposed on it by mainland China.

President Lai also seems to have accepted its role in preventing mainland China from expanding. He said, “Taiwan is strategically positioned in the first island chain and what affects us here affects global geopolitical development.” The first island chain refers to the countries Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines which supposedly are on the frontlines geographically of preventing the expansion of mainland China.

President Lai therefore said “Taiwan is a frontline guardian of world peace.”

He further said, “I also want to call on China to cease their political and military intimidation against Taiwan, share with Taiwan the global responsibility of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as well as the greater region and ensure the world is free from the fear of war.”

Finally, President Lai gave two statements that ask China to recognize Taiwan as an independent country. The first one says: “Therefore, I hope that China will face the reality of the Republic of China’s existence, respect the choices of the people of Taiwan and, in good faith, choose dialogue over confrontation, exchange over containment and under the principles of parity and dignity, engage in cooperation with the legal government chosen by Taiwan’s people.”

The second statement was towards the end of President Lai’s lengthy speech: “The Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China are not subordinate to each other.”

Reading President Lai’s speech, one can conclude that this may not sound like a formal declaration of independence but it certainly comes very close to sounding like one.

If mainland China’s aggressiveness leads to a blockade of Taiwan, it means it will militarize the body of water between Taiwan and Batanes. The Philippines must therefore prepare for this possible scenario.

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Don’t miss out on Write Things’ final summer creative writing workshop for 2024, our tenth year! Join us in our hybrid workshop for kids and teens on June 24, 26, 28, July 1, 3, 5 (MWF, 3-5 pm) in Fully Booked BGC and via Zoom. For more info: [email protected].

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