By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Taiwan has raised concerns over the growing domestic instability in China, warning that it might give the communist regime an impetus to launch an external aggression to divert the people’s attention from the local crisis.
“I urge the international community to pay attention to the possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan,” Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu said.
“Taiwan is so conveniently located right next to China. We are concerned that Taiwan might become a scapegoat for China’s internal problems,” Wu said at a press conference with the global media delegation in Taipei on Nov. 18.
Wu warned that Beijing is likely to resort to its typically cunning tactic. “When the authoritarian country is unable to handle domestic stability, what the authoritarian government might do is to create an external crisis to divert domestic attention to keep its country together,” he said.
Mass protests against the Chinese government’s strict zero-Covid measures have erupted across the communist nation. The rare explosions of defiance were the culmination of the growing discontent among the Chinese population fed up with the Community Party’s oppressive policies.
Protesters are calling for the ouster of President Xi Jinping, who has overseen a strategy of mass testing, prison-like lockdowns and digital tracking.
“We are concerned about the deterioration of social stability in China,” Wu said.
Taiwan, which was under martial law rule until 1987, became a full-fledged democracy when it held its first democratic elections in 1996.
“People still remember what it was like being under martial law. People did not enjoy press freedom and did not have free elections. These are all past history now and this is something that we are proud of,” Wu said.
“You will see rallies here. That’s one of the things that the people of Taiwan enjoy. We have intense political competition but we don’t have political violence. We treasure our democratic way of life and we will fight for our democracy and freedom,” he added.
However, he said Taiwan’s democracy is under constant threats from China, which insists on reunification with the self-ruled island that it considers a renegade province.
The People’s Liberation Army has been amplifying its missile tests around the Taiwan Strait in the past three months in protest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August.
Wu expressed concerns over Beijing’s increasing pressure to alienate Taiwan from the international community.
“The Chinese government is getting tougher in pursuing its nation’s interest. It may also attempt to acquire Taiwan and this might be something that we need to confront in the near future,” he said.
Taiwan has been beefing up its forces, allocating 2.6 percent of its national budget to defense, and mobilizing its people to join the army as well as training its civilian citizens to defend themselves in the event of a China invasion.
“We should not let war happen in this part of the world. If there's going to be a war, it will be a disaster not just for Taiwan but for China as well,” Wu said.
“As they did with Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, I am sure fellow democracies are also thinking of finding ways to sanction China and they will suffer the consequences of its military actions.,” Wu said.
“These are all hypothetical. What we want to do right now is to beef up our defense capabilities and to engage more with our fellow democracies, especially the U.S., for security issues so that they can become a strong deterrence against Chinese aggression against Taiwan. We are asking them to tell China not to invade Taiwan.”
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Now is the time to help Taiwan, not during or after the war, according to when the invasion happened, said Che-Jen Wang, an assistant research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research.
Wang said Taiwan is duty-bound to defend itself. While not asking for military support, he said Taiwan is asking the international community for weapons.
Officials said the Taiwanese government has allocated a sufficient budget to purchase weapons. However, the international community, under duress from China, is inhibited from supplying Taiwan with arms.
“It is our responsibility to defend ourselves,” Wang said. “If we can’t show the world that we do not defend ourselves, how can we expect to be helped?”
Read "Inside Taiwan: A Special Report" in the print and digital editions of the Pacific Island Times's December 2022 issue.