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Beijing to continue pressure on Taiwan after Lai's inauguration: Scholars

05/21/2024 07:26 PM
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CNA photo May 20, 2024
CNA photo May 20, 2024

Taipei, May 21 (CNA) China is likely to further pressure Taiwan after President Lai Ching-te's (賴清德) inaugural address on Monday, which Beijing criticized as promoting Taiwan independence, scholars said Tuesday.

Beijing could interpret Lai's remarks as attempts to internationalize the Taiwan issue, said Wang Hsin-hsien (王信賢), a deputy director of the Institute of International Relations (IIR) at National Chengchi University, during a panel discussion in Taipei.

Beijing is also likely to interpret Lai's speech as indicating an intent to collude with the United States and seek Taiwan independence by further arming the military, he added.

"I believe these were the statements that concerned the mainland the most yesterday," Wang said.

In his speech, Lai emphasized that the future of cross-strait relations will have "a decisive impact on the world." He called on Beijing to cease its political and military intimidation of Taiwan, while stating that the country "must also raise our defense awareness and strengthen our legal framework for national security."

Wang predicted the policies to pressure Taiwan will continue, noting that different ministries in Beijing are now probably "checking their toolboxes and deciding what to deploy and when," which may include military exercises, media criticism, and economic sanctions.

"Further pressure on Taiwan will continue under the condition that it won't escalate into a war," he said.

Chen Te-sheng (陳德昇), a research fellow from the same institute, said that Lai's speech highlighted a strong sense of sovereignty as he mentioned "Taiwan" 79 times and "China" seven times.

It "might have shocked people to some extent," Chen said.

As a comparison, Lai's predecessor Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) did not use the term "China" in either of her inaugural addresses in 2016 and 2020. Instead, she referred to "the other side of the [Taiwan] Strait," with only 41 and 47 mentions of Taiwan in her speeches, respectively.

Chen said that after Lai's speech, it will be more challenging to establish a foundation of trust between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, due to Lai's emphasis on Taiwan's sovereignty, which could lead to a communication crisis.

"Despite heightened tensions between China and the United States, their ministerial-level interactions remain frequent. Antony Blinken (the United States secretary of state) is able to visit China, and they have hotlines between their leaders to mitigate unforeseen risks," he said.

If the crisis of trust and communication cannot be resolved, the potential for unexpected military risks will persist, Chen added.

Although Lai only mentioned "the United States" once in his speech, IIR Director Kou Chien-wen (寇健文) said he sees Lai as primarily targeting Washington.

"Given the competitive relationship between the United States and China, Taiwan must take a clear stance and align itself with the United States; therefore, how Beijing feels becomes secondary," Kou said.

What Lai said appears acceptable to the U.S., but it may not necessarily be accepted by Beijing, he added.

In an email response to CNA on Monday (U.S. time), a U.S. State Department spokesperson welcomed the comments made by Lai in his inaugural address, saying that if Beijing chooses to escalate tensions or pressure Taiwan as a result, it should be seen as the provocateur.

In contrast, China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Chen Binhua (陳斌華) said in a statement on Monday that the speech delivered by "the leader of the Taiwan region" "stubbornly insisted on the position of Taiwanese independence."

(By Sunny Lai)


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