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HomeWorldTaiwan could become scapegoat for China's domestic woes: chancellor

Taiwan could become scapegoat for China’s domestic woes: chancellor

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The slowdown of the Chinese economy, in part due to restrictions imposed by the Covid-zero policy, could be good news for Taiwan, which sees the Asian country as the biggest threat to its sovereignty.

But Joseph Wu, chancellor of the island that Beijing considers a rebel province, doesn’t see it that way. For the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the greater the social instability in China, the greater the risk that its leader, Xi Jinping, will resort to the idea of ​​invading Taiwan, in what would be a strategy to divert attention from domestic problems —a tactic used many times. by the US in the past.

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For just over an hour, Wu answered, at the chancellery headquarters in Taipei, questions from a group of 32 journalists from different parts of the world, from Chile to Germany, from the island of Tuvalu to South Africa, from Australia to Brazil. , which includes the Sheet🇧🇷 In the only shorter answer of the interview, he was curt when saying Taiwan’s expectations regarding the future government of president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT): “He’s on the left, so we don’t expect much from him in terms of changes in relations”.

Do you think Xi is being rational or just driven by his own rhetoric? Do you need to take his statements about the use of force against Taiwan seriously, or is it something that should be ignored because he will be wary of the economic fallout? China is an authoritarian country, and its decision-making mechanism is very closed. For anyone outside the government it is difficult to understand what is going on inside it. But looking at the last CCP Congress, there are some conclusions. Xi seems to have put more emphasis on the way the Chinese government has been talking about the use of force and how Taiwan is China’s eternal issue, which makes one think that they want to step up a more romantic side. [do problema]🇧🇷

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We’ve also been paying attention to the composition of the highest-level leadership group. All the different factions [do PCCh] are being sidelined, and you’ve certainly seen the footage of former Chinese leader Hu Jintao being removed as cameras roll on him at the congress — it shows that Xi just wants to keep his cadres of trust at the decision-making summit. The problem here is that this arrangement does not allow for different opinions or honest assessments within the decision-making group.

But we are more concerned with the economic front. The Chinese government seems determined to stick to the Covid-zero policy, which is slowing the Chinese economy. You might think it might be nice to see China’s economy slow down as it gives Taiwan a strong response, but it doesn’t, because it leads to a deterioration in social stability. When an authoritarian government cannot manage internal stability, it may want to create an external crisis to divert attention and keep the population together. So Taiwan can become a scapegoat.

The West in general is increasingly tired of the Ukrainian War and its economic fallout. If there were pressure on Ukraine for some kind of deal, with Putin absorbing some of the country’s territory, how might that influence Xi’s decision to invade Taiwan? If we assume that Russia will succeed in annexing parts of eastern and southern Ukraine without much punishment from the rest of the world, it will be a repeat of what happened in 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea, and that would encourage authoritarian rulers. So far, the Chinese government is seeing that democracies around the world have been sticking together, which will be a strong deterrent given the strong sense that they are not just dealing with Taiwan.

The second vector is that the Chinese government also needs to look at why Russian troops are weakening on the battlefield, and if they come to the conclusion that an invasion will have uncertainties and that the outcome may not be what was designed, will think twice about using military force against Taiwan. But China can also jump to the wrong conclusion about the failure of the Russians and think that it is stronger than they are. Those will be the answers for the rest of the world.

In the event of an invasion, will the US actually defend Taiwan? Many people ask us about the possibility of the US sending troops to Taiwan, but this is something we try to explain to the international community and Americans: defending Taiwan is Taiwan’s responsibility, and if we are not determined to defend ourselves, we don’t have the right to ask others to help us. But in the process of preparing our self-defense capabilities, we will need help from the US or other like-minded countries to provide the necessary defense weapons, security collaborations or in serious discussions about how we can best prepare for a military scenario. .

How likely is a war in Taiwan to become World War III? It’s hard to think of this hypothetical situation. The hope of people in Taiwan or serious leaders of democracies is that we must not let a war happen in this part of the world. And if there is a war, it will be a disaster for Taiwan. But China will also suffer, because we are not unprotected, and democracies will find a way to apply sanctions so that Beijing suffers the consequences of its actions.

One possible angle is the economic fallout from a conflict here. A lot is said about the semiconductor industry, and Taiwan produces 63% of global manufacturing — for high-end semiconductors, 91%, 92% of the total in the world. If the semiconductor supply chain is disrupted, there would be a huge impact on the global economy.

If we go back to the beginning of the Covid pandemic, automakers in the US, Germany and Japan made the wrong calculations thinking that the demand for new cars would decrease and, therefore, ordered less chips and semiconductors. But sales soared, and there was a serious shortage of parts of the kind that come from Taiwan. In other words, the best way to avoid disruption to the semiconductor supply chain is to get the international community to tell China not to invade Taiwan.

Do you see the crackdown on the Hong Kong protests as a turning point or even a wake-up call for Taiwan’s efforts to defend itself? I wouldn’t describe Hong Kong as a wake-up call for Taiwan. The situation that started in 2019 and led to the imposition of the National Security Act was a wake-up call for many other countries. The Chinese want to use Hong Kong as a showcase to lure Taiwanese into accepting the “one country, two systems” arrangement, but government opinion polls show that between 75% and 80% of the population opposes it. China’s actions in Hong Kong have made the Taiwanese people believe that Chinese promises are unreliable.

They promised that nothing would change in 50 years, that Hong Kong would enjoy an open market and a semi-democratic political system, as well as a free press. All that is gone. But we have some fundamental differences. Since you’re here, it’s easy to see: we have democratic and free elections, the president has been elected, and Taiwan is so free that you can actually criticize the government. You are in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, we issue passports, we issue visas, we have a local currency, which is a strong symbol of sovereignty. All this shows that Taiwan is quite different from Hong Kong.

In 2018, then-candidate Jair Bolsonaro traveled to Taiwan, which generated high expectations of a change in relations with Brazil. He was elected, but four years later, nothing has changed. What do you expect from President-elect Lula? The new president is on the left, so we don’t expect much from him in terms of changes in relations, but the cultural and economic ties will continue.


X-ray | Joseph Wu, 68

Minister of Foreign Affairs, he holds a doctorate and master’s degree in political science from the Ohio State University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, respectively, both in the US. Before heading the chancellery, he was President Tsai Ing-wen’s chief of staff and secretary general of the National Security Council.

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