Taiwan’s attitude towards Chinese efforts to unifiy too weak: former President

Lee Teng-hui says China’s unification strategy includes military, economic, technological, and academic aspects

Lee Teng-hui speaking in Okinawa, Japan, 2018

Lee Teng-hui speaking in Okinawa, Japan, 2018 (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said China’s efforts towards unification with Taiwan are increasing, and Taiwan’s sense of urgency about this is too weak, in an interview with Japan’s Sankei Shimbun published on Jan. 5.

Lee suggested that China’s efforts to control Taiwan go beyond military means to include economic, scientific and technological, and academic exchanges. He said China is using “salami tactics,” in which opposition is removed piece by piece without arousing too much suspicion.

Lee made the comments during an interview on Oct. 4, 2018, as well as through follow-up correspondence. The article was published as part of a two-part feature printed on Jan. 4-5.

Lee said that Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) is the most dictatorial since Mao Zedong (毛澤東), and that because Xi has less political achievements than Mao, he is seeking to strengthen his position within the Chinese Communist Party by trying to unify with Taiwan.

Lee said that the U.S. will support Taiwan in a potential conflict between China and Taiwan, as the U.S. is bound by law, but the extent to which the U.S. would become involved is unclear. In this respect, Taiwan should not have excessively high expectations, and at the same time, the Taiwan Relations Act poses large risks to China.

In the case that China takes over Taiwan through military force, Lee thinks that the economic losses inflicted on China would be innumerable, and he pointed to the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, when China was sanctioned and excluded from the international community.

When asked about what policy Taiwan should have towards China, Lee said that it should focus on the medium and long terms and try to maintain Taiwan’s existence. It is important for Taiwan to continue to cooperate with Japan and the U.S., and to share democratic values, he added.

Pointing to China’s semiconductor industry, Lee said that Taiwan should make greater efforts to protect Taiwan’s technology, and develop measures to stop technology and expertise transferring to China.

In regards to the local elections held on Nov. 24, 2018, Lee said he had mixed emotions, and that he feels Taiwan’s democracy has made another step forward.