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Taiwanese honour guards fold the island’s flag in Taipei on June 22. Photo: EPA-EFE

Letters | Why Taiwan’s assertiveness towards Beijing is not a fleeting trend

  • There is increasing bipartisan consensus on the issue, even from the traditionally pro-Beijing opposition Kuomintang, supported by the Taiwanese people

There is an emerging bipartisan consensus in Taiwan that espouses greater assertiveness towards Beijing.

First, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Kuomintang (KMT) both condemned the violence at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019, with the DPP accusing the Hong Kong authorities of listening more to Beijing than to its people. Then, on May 29, 2020, both parties worked together in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan to issue a bipartisan statement rebuking China’s plan to enforce the national security law in Hong Kong.
Furthermore, both parties have publicly expressed their opposition to Beijing’s proposal of “ one country, two systems” for future unification. Current President Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP rejects it outright while former president Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT said in March that it was “officially dead” after China proposed sweeping electoral reforms in Hong Kong.

These are not aberrations, but harbingers of Taipei’s growing bipartisan assertiveness towards Beijing.

The political trend has long been building. A prime example is the subtle recalibration of Ma’s China policy during his leadership. It was originally designed to maintain the status quo of cross-strait relations so as to prepare Taiwan for future unification with the Chinese mainland. Yet, the Ma administration gradually shifted its focus to prolonging the status quo.


Taipei tells Biden’s delegate it will counter ‘provocations’ with US amid Beijing’s military moves

Taipei tells Biden’s delegate it will counter ‘provocations’ with US amid Beijing’s military moves

This was exemplified by the Ma government’s reluctance to restore the National Unification Council, which was established in 1990 to formulate guidelines for Taiwan’s future unification with China, and abolished in 2006.

Indeed, in contrast to his earlier contention that the only nexus of cross-strait relations was to set a timetable for eventual unification, president Ma admitted in 2015 that unification was not on his agenda because Taiwan was not ready.


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Taiwan says it will fight ‘to the very last day’ as Beijing sends fighter jets
Since then, the KMT has become less receptive to Beijing’s requests and more determined to face up to its threats. KMT chairman Johnny Chiang has pledged to take a harder line towards Beijing and done so by calling upon it to acknowledge the existence of Taiwan’s separate political system. Moreover, in an interview with Reuters in March this year, Chiang went even further to describe the mainland as Taiwan’s major threat, a sentiment rarely expressed by KMT members, let alone its leader.

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In short, as Taiwanese citizens continue to show discontent when their politicians lack assertiveness in the face of Beijing’s bullying, it will become increasingly difficult for them to appear soft on mainland China. The Taiwanese government can only become more assertive towards mainland China, irrespective of the political party in power.

Chin Hsueh, Taipei