Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen recently delivered a major speech commemorating the 110th National Day of the Republic of China, who, exiled from the mainland in 1949, now governs Taiwan. Below are some key takeaways from this Churchillian speech, where Tsai clearly articulates that: 1) Taiwan is appreciating in value to the world; 2) diplomacy with China can only exist when China treats Taiwan as an equal; 3) Taiwanese sovereignty is non-negotiable; and 4) a robust nationalism and military are essential for Taiwan’s survival.
Taiwan’s has improved its international standing, despite China’s efforts to isolate it
President Tsai highlighted several of Taiwan’s accomplishments on the global stage despite China’s incessant efforts to isolate it. Tsai mentioned growing ties with Japan and the European Union. She also mentioned the resumption of talks with the US under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), as well as Taiwan’s application to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) last month.
Tsai also emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic, the semiconductor chip shortage, and mainland Chinese aggression have only increased Taiwan’s value to the world. On COVID, unlike China, Taiwan sent aid to its friends with no strings attached. Tsai stated: “The face masks we sent out across the world last year showed that Taiwan can help.” On the chips shortage, Tsai rightfully made a plug for her country: “The global shortage of semiconductor chips has highlighted Taiwan’s importance in supply chains.”
And Tsai also mentioned that China’s bullying Taiwan caused the G7, NATO, the EU and the QUAD to “highlight…the importance of peace and security in the Taiwan Strait, while expressing concern over whether China may unilaterally undermine the status quo of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.” Indeed, “a changing situation in the Indo-Pacific has once again brought attention to Taiwan’s key position in the region,” according to Tsai.
In total, in Tsai’s words, “Taiwan today is no longer seen as the orphan of Asia, but as an Island of Resilience that can face challenges with courage.”
Taiwan is committed to diplomacy with China, but on a level playing field
Despite Chinese aggression, President Tsai extended her hand in peace to China, stating that: “I want to reiterate that Taiwan is willing to do its part to contribute to the peaceful development of the region. Our position on cross-strait relations remains the same: neither our goodwill nor our commitments will change…”
However, President Tsai also soberly realizes that peace can be achieved when China treats Taiwan as an equal: “…resolving cross-strait differences requires the two sides of the strait to engage in dialogue on the basis of parity.” She also stated that “the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China should not be subordinate to each other.”
Taiwanese sovereignty is non-negotiable
In addition for setting parameters for diplomacy with China, President Tsai sternly warned China that Taiwan will not be bullied into ceding its sovereignty: “…there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure…nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us. This is because the path that China has laid out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people.”
To that effect, in a world intoxicated with the “One China” policy, President Tsai stands apart as bravely and unapologetically asserting Taiwan’s sovereignty from China:
“Let us here renew with one another…our commitment to resist annexation or encroachment upon our sovereignty, and our commitment that the future of the Republic of China (Taiwan) must be decided in accordance with the will of the Taiwanese people.”
Taiwan is unified under nationalism
While many in the US are propagating Critical Race Theory, criticizing public displays of the US flag, and arguing that nationalism is a bad word, President Tsai wholeheartedly supports Taiwanese nationalism as a great unifying force for her country:
“We all get upset when our national flag is not displayed. We all get angry when Taiwan is suppressed…In this inclusive country, nobody is judged based on when they arrived, nobody is held accountable for the deeds of their ancestors, and nobody is excluded from our shared community because of where they came from. As long as we respect and appreciate this land and what it stands for, Taiwan will always welcome everyone with open arms and bring people together.”
And related to nationalism, Tsai also shows a deep appreciation for Taiwan’s military as a protector of Taiwan’s existence: “Over the past 72 years, our military’s dedication to protecting our nation, as well as our understanding of why we fight, have been rooted in [the conviction to uphold Taiwan’s sovereignty], which has been passed down by generation after generation of Taiwanese.”
President Tsai’s National Day speech shows that in the face of threats from China, Taiwan is resilient and its resolve remains strong.