Taiwan will not bow to pressure from China and will defend its democratic system, its president Tsai Ing-wen claimed yesterday, after a record of incursions by Chinese military aircraft near the island in recent days.
The 23 million inhabitants of Taiwan live under the constant threat of an invasion from China, which considers this territory as one of its provinces. Beijing threatens to use force if the island formally proclaims its independence.
“No one can force Taiwan to follow the path that China has laid out for us,” Tsai said in a speech on the occasion of the national holiday, commemorating the October 10, 1911 Revolution, which ended the last Chinese imperial dynasty.
“We want a relaxation of relations (with Beijing) and we will not act hastily, but they should have no illusion that the Taiwanese people will bow under pressure,” he added.
The president, who considers her territory as de facto sovereign, assured that Taiwan “is in the first line of defense of democracy.”
Taiwan, which enjoys a democratic system, has been run by its own government since the victory of the Communists on the mainland in 1949.
Tensions between the island and the mainland rose to their highest level in decades under the Chinese presidency of Xi Jinping, which broke official communication with Taipei after Tsai’s election five years ago.
Chinese military aircraft have increased their forays into the island’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
A record 150 Chinese military aircraft, including nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, made incursions into the air defense zone in the days before and after October 1, the date of the Chinese national holiday.
Recent sorties by Chinese military aircraft near Taiwan are record-breaking
On Saturday, Xi promised that “the complete reunification of the country will come true.”
He also pointed out that China’s interest was to achieve this “by peaceful means”, even though military, economic and diplomatic pressure has escalated during his mandate.
In the last year a record of 380 Chinese incursions was broken in the air defense zone and this year there are already more than 600.
This area does not correspond to Taiwanese airspace, but to a larger area that in some cases overlaps with mainland China.
DIALOGUE WITH PARITY
Tsai, who has won two elections, has made no move towards a formal declaration of independence and has proposed negotiations to Beijing, which rejected them.
In her speech, the president reiterated her offer to “start a dialogue based on parity” and said she was in favor of maintaining the current status quo between the two territories.
However, he warned that anything that happens to Taiwan will have major regional and global consequences.
Polls show that the vast majority of Taiwanese do not want to be ruled by Beijing.
Most are in favor of maintaining the status quo, although Taiwanese nationalist sentiment is growing, especially among young people.
Beijing’s growing dominance over Hong Kong, which China sees as a model for how it intends to rule Taiwan, does not reassure residents.
“As a Taiwanese, I don’t think we can accept (reunification), just look at what happened in Hong Kong,” said Hung Chen-lun, who was with his two sons at the national holiday celebrations yesterday.
Chan Yun-ching, another participant, said that many Taiwanese felt powerless.
“We cannot declare independence because the international community does not recognize us. It’s useless, ”he lamented.
In this framework, US special operations forces have been secretly training Taiwanese troops for months, an initiative that China warned could cause “serious damage” in relations between Washington and Beijing.
A Wall Street Journal report on the matter was confirmed last Thursday from the Pentagon, indicating that a contingent of about 20 US special operations and conventional forces personnel has been conducting the training for less than a year.
On Friday, Beijing reacted with force and harsh warnings to these reports. (AFP)