Over the past 25 years, the European Union and the United States have focused on having critical dialogue with China. The promised result was a China that would engage positively with the rest of the world. This has not happened, and stronger measures are needed if our democracy and our values are to be defended. Not least the survival of democratic Taiwan
The US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, visited Taiwan on August 9. This was the highest level official meeting between an American administration and the Taiwanese government since 1979. A new law, the USA Travel Act, now makes such visits possible – allowing all level of the US government to visit Taiwan. Of course, this visit sends a strong message to China that the United States supports Taiwan. We in Taiwan Corner argue that the European Union should follow the same policy and practice.
When democratic nations such as Taiwan are experiencing increasing threats from China (such as the increasing and continuing military incursions into Taiwan airspace), the EU needs to show concrete support. This needs to go beyond written statements. Action speaks much louder than mere words. Support has to go beyond the kind of lip service we saw in July at the third EU-Taiwan Human Rights Summit. This event, and those like it – we are tempted to say – seem to be no more than a club for talking heads, with each year’s conclusions the same as the previous occasion. Much handwringing but little clear support. [https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202007170020].
In the light of Taiwan’s unequalled performance against the coronavirus, EU health ministers should – for that reason alone – visit Taiwan and learn from their experience. Such a move – let it be remembered – does not violate the EU’s One China policy, which says nothing about these kinds of visits.
Stop the fear of engaging with Taiwan
Over past three to four years, the United States has engaged more strongly with Taiwan – allowing high level visits and increasing arm sales to Taiwan (such as the recent sale of badly needed new F16V fighters).
The EU, on the other hand, continues to fear that a stronger engagement with Taiwan will anger China. That may be true, but recent American experience shows that China is less powerful in this area than we might think. This is what we should learn from the past three or four years of US engagement with Taiwan.
Over the past 25 years, the European Union and the United States have focused on having critical dialogue with China. The promised result was a China that would engage positively with the rest of the world. This has not happened, and stronger measures are needed if our democracy and our values are to be defended. Not least the survival of democratic Taiwan.
Combating the kind of fear that paralyses and undermines our principles also starts with our political leaders. Political leaders must be encouraged show responsibility when they are in power and can do something about promoting democracy and Taiwan. It is not enough to become fighters for democracy and lovers of Taiwan only when they have relinquished office and run no risk.