Taiwan expects greater China pressure after Xi cements power: FM

Beijing claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to take control of the island, by force if necessary

October 26, 2022 09:36 pm | Updated 09:36 pm IST - Taipei

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu | Photo Credit: AP

Beijing will step up efforts to pick off Taiwan's last remaining allies after Xi Jinping secured a third term in power, as Chinese officials up the ante to show loyalty to the president, Taipei's Foreign Minister said on Wednesday.

A major gathering of China's communist leaders at the weekend saw Mr. Xi cement his status as the country's most influential leader since Mao Zedong.

Beijing claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to take control of the island, by force if necessary.

It has spent decades encouraging Taiwan's diplomatic allies to break ties in favour of China.

"It is conceivable that our diplomatic situation will become grimmer," Taiwan's top diplomat Joseph Wu said on Wednesday.

He anticipated China would step up pressure on the 14 countries that still maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan as a way for Chinese officials to "show loyalty" to Mr. Xi.

"We have seen some warnings in intelligence. We hope our diplomatic relations will not be influenced by China," Mr. Wu said at a parliamentary session.

"All of our embassies and missions are highly vigilant now... We will verify the intelligence and take advantageous measures to consolidate diplomatic relations."

Beijing has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taipei since the 2016 election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Ms. Tsai on Wednesday offered her first public comments on China's Communist Party Congress that ended at the weekend, calling for unity in the face of "the expansion of Chinese authoritarianism".

"The more prepared we are, the less chance Beijing will advance rashly, while the more united we are, the stronger and safer Taiwan will be," she said at a meeting of her ruling party.

Tensions between Taiwan and China soared to their highest level for years in August after Beijing staged huge and unprecedented military drills to protest against a visit to the island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Beijing lashes out at any diplomatic action that might lend Taiwan international legitimacy and has responded with growing anger to visits by Western politicians.

When asked by a lawmaker if Beijing is speeding up its timeline for taking Taiwan, Mr. Wu said the military threat has been "rapidly growing" in recent years.

"Whether China decides it's next year, the year after next year, 2025, 2027, 2030 or whatever time they see the conditions as mature to attack Taiwan, the most important thing for us is to be well prepared to defend ourselves," he said.

Separately, Mr. Wu announced that Taiwan planned to donate $56 million to Ukraine to help it rebuild schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

There has been an outpouring of public support for Ukraine in Taiwan since Russia's invasion, which has deepened fears that Beijing might similarly follow through on threats to annex the island.

"Ukraine stands as a role model for Taiwan," Mr. Wu said at a reception for visiting lawmakers from Ukraine and Lithuania.

"We both are fighting for freedom and democracy, and we know Ukraine is going to prevail. Ukraine is going to win. Glory to Ukraine and we will win with Ukraine."

The donation, pending parliament's approval, follows a public fundraising drive for Ukraine that collected nearly $33 million in just four weeks earlier this year.

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