President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen asserted her nation is “the first line of defense for democratic values,” standing mere miles from its biggest threat in the world, during a speech observing the Republic of China’s National day on Thursday.
Taiwan is a fully sovereign nation with a functioning democracy and thriving economy. The Communist Party of China considers it a rogue province of the “mainland,” its term for the legal boundaries of China, and regularly bullies other countries and international institutions to exclude Taiwan from the international community.
Tsai encouraged her people to embrace their national identity and values of freedom and democracy as an example to the world.
“We are witnessing China’s rise and expansion, as they challenge free, democratic values and the global order through a combination of authoritarianism, nationalism, and economic might,” Tsai said. “As the strategic forefront of the Indo-Pacific region, Taiwan has become the first line of defense for democratic values.”
“China is encroaching on us through their sharp power, but as a crucial member of the region, we know that Taiwan must fulfill its responsibilities to the international community. We will not act provocatively or rashly; rather, we will work with like-minded countries to ensure that the peaceful and stable cross-strait status quo is not unilaterally altered,” she added.
Tsai, up for reelection this year, also hinted at the political divide in the country naturally caused by elections, urging Taiwanese people to resist divisions that could negatively alter national values.
“[W]e cannot be divided amongst ourselves, regardless of party affiliation. No one has a patent on the Republic of China, and no one can monopolize Taiwan,” Tsai affirmed. “The words ‘Republic of China (Taiwan)’ are not the exclusive property of any one political party, and that is the overwhelming consensus of Taiwan society.”
Tsai responded with a resounding rejection to Chinese Communist Party dictator Xi Jinping’s call last week for Beijing to annex Taiwan under the “One Country, Two Systems” policy that has plummetted Hong Kong toward severe police repression of free speech:
The U.S.-China trade dispute continues. And not far from Taiwan, Hong Kong is on the verge of chaos due to the failure of “one country, two systems.”
Nevertheless, China is still threatening to impose its “one country, two systems model for Taiwan.” Their diplomatic offensives and military coercion pose a serious challenge to regional stability and peace.
My fellow citizens, when freedom and democracy are challenged, and when the Republic of China’s existence and development are threatened, we must stand up and defend ourselves. The overwhelming consensus among Taiwan’s 23 million people is our rejection of “one country, two systems,” regardless of party affiliation or political position.
The Republic of China has stood tall on Taiwan for over 70 years. But if we were to accept “one country, two systems,” there would no longer be room for the Republic of China’s existence. As President, standing up to protect national sovereignty is not a provocation — it is my fundamental responsibility.
Xi spoke last week on the dire occasion of the 70th anniversary of communist repression of China and declared that his regime seeks “the complete reunification of the motherland,” including all ethnic Han Chinese people.
“We must uphold the principles of ‘Peaceful Reunification’ and ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ maintain lasting prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao, promote the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, unite all Chinese sons and daughters, and continue to strive for the motherland’s complete reunification,” Xi said.
Xi added that the annexation of Taiwan was “inevitable.”
American Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was present in Taipei Thursday for National Day festivities, the first senator present in 35 years, according to Taipei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“We also will stand up against Chinese efforts to undermine Taiwan,” Cruz told reporters, according to the Taipei Times. “This is a friendship that is incredibly important. This is a military relationship that is incredibly important. This is an economic relationship that is incredibly important.”
What a delight to have Senator @tedcruz visiting #Taiwan for our National Day. Senator, your support for freedom & democracy around the world including #HongKong is admired; your all-out support for Taiwan, a front-line state, is greatly appreciated by the people here. JW pic.twitter.com/qpA90QoIoQ
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) October 9, 2019
Taiwan held a large parade in its capital, Taipei, to celebrate its continued existence in the face of regular harassment and threats from Beijing. The Taiwanese flag also flew in Hong Kong, where the pro-democracy protest movement took a moment to observe the holiday and salute the Republic of China. Some protesters also urged Taiwan not to vote for the opposition Kuomintang (Naitonalist Party), as it maintains friendly relations with the communists.
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) October 10, 2019
Some have called on Hongkongers not to overuse ROC symbols given the Kuomintang’s authoritarian history in Taiwan and conciliatory cross-straits policy.
“If you vote for the KMT, Taiwan will turn into Hong Kong,” shouts a protester at Sun Yat-sen Park.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) October 10, 2019
Although Taiwan is a fully functional sovereign state, China has pressured the United Nations and its affiliated institutions, like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), to exclude Taiwan from participation. This has resulted in the world losing millions in donations for human rights, technology, and public health projects that Taipei has attempted to donate, as well as the expertise of Taiwan’s professionals.
At the United Nations General Assembly last month, Taiwan’s allies – Guatemala, eSwatini, and Palau – condemned the organization for excluding the country from participation.