Home News Global tensions and hostile neighbors await Taiwan’s new leader

Global tensions and hostile neighbors await Taiwan’s new leader


Taiwan’s incoming president, Lai QingdeTaiwan’s president, who is set to take office on Monday, faces tough choices about how to secure Taiwan’s democratic future at a time of turmoil – wars raging abroad, disagreements at home over U.S. global security priorities and political divisions over how to safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty. A fragile peace with China.

Mr. Lai has pledged to guide Taiwan on a safe path through these dangers, a theme he is likely to emphasize in his inaugural speech in Taipei’s public square.He said he would continue to strengthen Relations with Washington and other Western partners, while countering Beijing’s threats and strengthening Taiwan’s defenses. However, Chinese leader Xi Jinping may also extend a tentative olive branch to Beijing and welcome the resumption of talks if he sets aside his key precondition: Taiwan recognizing itself as part of China.

“We will see national security, cross-strait issues and foreign policy continuity being taken seriously,” said Li Wen, director of the international department of Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party and the new leader’s incoming spokesman.

But Mr. Lai, 64, faces obstacles as he tries to hold on. The route set by his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen.

Both Tsai Ing-wen and Lai Ching-te belong to the Democratic Progressive Party, which advocates Taiwan’s separate status from China. But Lai has a different personality: more diplomatic in public, less experienced in foreign policy negotiations and often making combative comments that could come back to haunt him. He also must deal with two emboldened opposition parties that won legislative majorities earlier this year — a challenge Tsai Ing-wen has never faced in her eight years as president.

When Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, Xi Jinping’s hard-line policies began to stir Western opposition. But now Western countries are also under pressure from wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. Xi Jinping has been seeking to weaken alliances against China. The upcoming elections in the United States have increased uncertainty about the direction of its foreign policy.

“For Lai Zhi, the international environment in 2024 is more worrying than Tsai Ing-wen in 2016.” Carice TemplemanA researcher at the Hoover Institution, a think tank at Stanford University, he studies Taiwanese politics. “The war in Ukraine, China’s shift to harsher domestic repression, deteriorating U.S.-China relations, and the past eight years of cross-strait hostility have all put Jimmy Lai in a more difficult position.”

Beijing has made it clear that it hates Lai more than Tsai Ing-wen. In the coming weeks and months, it is likely to ramp up military and trade pressure on Taiwan in an attempt to weaken his presidency. Xi’s team of officials has also actively courted Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang, which advocates closer ties with China and won the most seats in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan in this year’s election.

While Mr. Lai is not as reckless and incendiary as Chinese officials portray him to be, they will not back down from his 2017 remarks, calling him a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan independence,” said Brent Christensen, the agency’s former director. Brent Christensen said. American Institute in Taiwan He met Jimmy Lai when he was a rising political star. (Washington has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and the institute serves as a de facto embassy.)

“Beijing has had this on his record for a long time and has a lot of distrust of him,” Christensen, now an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University, said of Mr. Lai. “They’re going to continue to test him for years to come.”

“This unwavering and unquestionable determination to defend democracy will not weaken the defense of places like Taiwan,” Taiwan’s outgoing Foreign Minister Joseph Wu wrote in a statement. recent articles in foreign affairs. “Indeed, this is a key deterrent against adventurism for Beijing.”

Even so, there is debate in Taiwan over how much the United States can go to help Taiwan build up its military in the coming years while remaining focused on the wars in Ukraine and Israel-Gaza, neither of which are expected to end anytime soon.

As of the end of April, Taiwan’s backlog of undelivered U.S. weapons and military equipment orders had grown to nearly $20 billion. It is estimated Eric Gomez and Benjamin Giltner from the Cato Institute, a think tank in Washington. Gomez said in an email that the additional funding for Taiwan recently approved by Congress will be “helpful, but not a panacea.”

Lai’s opponents in Taiwan say he risks leading the island into a security dead end – unable to talk to Beijing but unprepared for any confrontation. Kuomintang Fu Kunji, a member of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan who recently visited China, used Ukraine as a warning.

“Since ancient times, people of small countries or small regions have never fought with the largest neighboring country,” Fu said in an interview. “Is a war in the Taiwan Strait really in the interests of Americans? I really don’t think so. The United States is facing three battlefields at the same time. Is it possible?”

Domestic political divisions that threaten to drag down Lai’s government were on sharp display in Taiwan’s legislature last week.legislators from rival political parties Pushing, shouting, fighting Proposed new rules on vetting government officials.

Taiwanese government officials and many experts say an immediate confrontation with Beijing is unlikely after Jimmy Lai takes office. Xi Jinping’s desire to stabilize relations with Washington and focus on repairing China’s economy has reduced his willingness to risk a crisis in Taiwan.

Currently, Xi Jinping is likely to exert military, economic and political pressure on Taiwan. In recent months, China has dispatched coast guard ships near Kinmen, a Taiwan-controlled island close to mainland China, in a move aimed at intimidation while avoiding a potential conflict with Washington.

Several experts said Mr. Lai may be able to begin to curb tensions with Beijing by offering reassuring words in his inauguration speech. That could include underscoring his commitment to the constitution, under which Taiwan is known as the Republic of China. Others close to Lai are skeptical that significant improvements in relations between the two countries can be achieved.

Xi Jinping “wants to push for unification, and he wants to make progress on that,” said Lai Yizhong, chairman of the Vision Foundation, a government-funded think tank in Taipei and no relation to the president-elect. “But Taiwan cannot make more concessions at this point, and this is the dilemma Lai faces when dealing with China.”

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