Taiwan seeks to build alliance to counter China

Tsai also proposes economic alliance to shift supply chains away from China

Tsai delivering speech at Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue. (MOFA photo)

Tsai delivering speech at Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue. (MOFA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Tuesday (Sept. 8) appeared to call for an alliance to counter China while also proposing an economic pact to shift critical supply chains away from the regional hegemon.

During a speech delivered at the start of the Ketagalan Forum-2020 Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue on Tuesday, Tsai touted the government's "Taiwan Can Help" motto to promote its efforts to aid other countries suffering during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. She said that Taiwan is motivated to provide this assistance because "helping ourselves enables us to help others."

Tsai asserted that this is an important approach "as we all face daunting security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region." This was undoubtedly in reference to the buildup of Chinese military assets in the South China Sea and frequent military exercises and provocative actions by People's Liberation Army (PLA) air and naval forces in the Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and Taiwan Strait.

In an obvious reference to Beijing, the president declared that Taiwan "stands at the forefront of defending democracy from authoritarian aggression." She then highlighted Taiwan's key role as a bastion of "democracy and its values" in the region.

Taiwan's commander-in-chief then remarked on the many weapons the country has procured from the U.S. to bolster its asymmetric warfare capabilities, clearly in response to the PLA's quantitative advantage in every category. She then emphasized that Taiwan has made progress in developing its own defense industry, citing the successful flight of the domestically designed T-5 Brave Eagle in June.

Segueing to the topic of military alliances, Tsai stated that a single country cannot realize its goals of "maintaining regional peace, prosperity, and security alone." She stressed that these require "far-reaching collaboration" and with others.

Tsai proposed that "like-minded countries and democratic friends in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond" enter discussions about a "framework" for establishing a long-term "strategic order" to counter China's aggressive behavior. While calling for an approach that encourages peaceful solutions, Tsai contended that the framework must unequivocally express "our resolve to protect our democracies."

Pivoting to the challenge of weaning the world off China, Tsai pointed out that the pandemic has shown that global supply chains and trade mechanisms are "often subject to coercive measures by aggressive actors." Tsai said the upshot of the pandemic is that it gives the world the opportunity to restructure supply chains and strengthen trade rules.

The president mentioned last week's forum hosted by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) titled "Forum on Supply Chain Restructuring: Improving Resilience Amongst Like-Minded Partners," which drew participants from the EU, Japan, the Czech Republic, and Taiwan. During the forum, the discussion focused on the need to restructure supply chains, and Taiwan and the U.S. issued a joint declaration on 5G security.

In the declaration, the two sides agreed to focus on evaluating 5G hardware and software suppliers and supply chains to ensure the security of 5G architecture. Tsai said that the declaration also called for the two countries to work with "like-minded partners" on generating standards, guidelines, and best practices.

Appearing to speak in more general terms, Tsai implied that the 5G agreement marked a new chapter for nations in the region and "a new future for the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific." Tsai then purposedly described the collaboration as an "alliance" that would protect the values of "freedom, safety, human rights, and democracy."

In an apparent response to Tsai's speech, Hu Xijin (胡錫進), editor-in-chief of China’s state-run mouthpiece the Global Times, that same day posted a tweet in which he exhibited the same antagonistic behavior Tsai had mentioned. Hu then threatened Chinese sanctions against U.S. officials for visiting Taiwan as well as American companies they are tied to.

He also threatened to ban these officials and companies from entering China and warned they will "lose Chinese mainland market."