Tsai pledges to defend Taiwan, calls Beijing's 'one country, two systems' a failure

President Tsai calls for unity in face of increasing Chinese coercion

President Tsai Ing-wen.

President Tsai Ing-wen. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — At Taiwan’s National Day ceremony on Thursday (Oct. 10), President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) called for Taiwanese unity in defying Beijing’s attempts to assert control over Taiwan.

The Taiwanese government celebrated its 108th anniversary on Thursday morning with a ceremony held at the Presidential Office, where hundreds of foreign leaders, legislators, and other representatives were invited to a series of performances by the Taiwanese military, law enforcement, and civil groups.

In her 10-minute remarks, Tsai began by addressing the threat China poses to Taiwan, pledging to defend the country’s sovereignty and protect the free and democratic way of life on the island. “When freedom and democracy face challenge, and when the survival and development of the Republic of China are threatened, we have to stand up and defend,” said Tsai, calling for unity in Taiwanese society.

China continues its attempts to push the “one country, two systems” formula on Taiwan and has adopted various coercive measures against the country, which also puts the stability of the region at risk, said Tsai. Contending that the failure of Beijing’s rule in Hong Kong has put the semi-autonomous city “on the verge of losing order,” the president said the entire population of Taiwan should have the greatest consensus on rejecting Beijing’s proposal.

Elected into power three years ago, the Tsai administration has suffered considerable criticism from political rivals for stagnating cross-strait relations. Tsai has, however, insisted on her government’s commitment to maintaining a “status quo” relationship with China.

The Taiwanese government has in recent years put much effort in strengthening ties with the U.S. and Southeast Asian nations, a course quite different from Tsai's predecessor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Kuomintang (KMT), whose pro-China policies led to the occupation of Taiwan’s legislature in 2014 by student protesters fearing that stronger economic ties with Beijing would threaten the country’s security.

Deeming Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) pro-independence forces, Beijing cut official contact with the Taiwanese government in 2016. In recent years, the Chinese government has ramped up pressure on the island nation by poaching its allies and thus shrinking its international presence, sending fighter jets to circle the island, and forcing international organizations and private enterprises to label Taiwan as part of Chinese territory.

“We do not provoke or take risks,” said Tsai, adding that her administration will continue working with nations sharing similar values to maintain the stability of the Taiwan Strait and the region. The president also vowed to increase Taiwan’s international space while consolidating the country’s economic power.

Tsai reaffirmed her government’s policy of exploring economic opportunities across the globe, replacing its past reliance on the Chinese market. She added that the government would continue helping Taiwanese enterprises to return to the island to avoid the fallout of the trade war between the U.S. and China.

In the same vein of her other recent speeches, the president’s remarks reflected her independence-leaning stance while also coming across as an appeal to the independent and KMT-leaning electorates, as the presidential election is just three months away. “The Republic of China has been established [in Taiwan] for seven decades,” said Tsai, adding that people on the island share a common memory and should not be divided by their political orientations.