Acknowledging that Taiwan faces immense pressure from China, its president Tsai Ing-wen (pictured), in an exclusive interview with AFP, urged nations to constrain China which, she said, is a global threat to democracy.
Tsai sought their support in defending against China’s expansionist aims and protecting shared liberal values.
This may be Taiwan’s challenge today and the challenge the region and the world will be facing tomorrow, she said, adding that their democracy, freedom and business will one day be affected by China.
The historic talks between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore provide food for thought. It is a positive development for the international community, Tsai said.
Although the two countries are poles apart in their outlook, their leaders sat down and talked like equals respecting each other. It is an encouragement for countries that are at odds with one another, she said.
Like North Korea, China too should be aware of its responsibility in the region and engage in conversation with Taiwan. Tsai said she would still be willing to hold talks with China’s President Xi Jinping on an equal footing and with no political pre-conditions.
Taiwan is trying to forge new friendships even as China lures its allies away. Tsai said she is happy over the growing support for Taiwan from the US and the proposal for military exchanges. Taiwan wants to improve self-defence capabilities and bolster ties with “like-minded” countries, she said.
While Taiwan wants to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia, China’s growing global influence is acting as a barrier, she said.
China is building bridges across continents through its ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure project by providing a vast network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks. It is also asserting its hegemony in the disputed South China Sea by building military facilities on islands.
China sees Taiwan as a part of its territory to be reunified by force if necessary whereas self-ruling Taiwan, which believes in democracy, sees itself as a sovereign country, although it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
Xi Jinping, whom China made president for life, has said he will not tolerate any move that threatens China’s territorial integrity.
Tsai said despite feeling frustrated at times, Taiwanese people would never give up hope.