Interview with Taiwan Ambassador Vincent YC Tsai: "The military actions undertaken by China are not simple exercises..."

(To Andrea Cucco)

In recent weeks, the "usual" Chinese provocations have registered a worrying escalation: the airspace and waters of Taiwan (Republic of China) are being violated more and more heavily and in depth by aircraft and military vessels of the People's Republic of China.

The fuse lit last year in Ukraine has already triggered revolts and changes, from Africa to South America. Even if we don't want to attribute unique responsibilities, at least let's not kid ourselves about the extent of the consequences global of the conflict. The China, ridiculously (!!!) called to assume the role of "peacemaker" (when it is the country that profits most from the blood flowing on the borders of Europe), will take advantage of the crisis to pursue the old goal of reunification, reconfirmed last month by its president?

And in the event of an invasion, which countries will intervene to defend the island?

We asked Vincent YC Tsai, "Taiwan's diplomatic representative in Italy" (for those who fear Beijing and/or are its subjects), "ambassador" for those - like us - who believe in democracy, in law and repudiate the regime's violence Chinese totalitarian. He included those towards his own citizens ...

Ambassador, you studied decades ago in the United States. Can you describe the popular knowledge of the Taiwanese issue then and now?

Taiwan's awareness among the general public has grown in recent years for various reasons. Until a few years ago, what people knew about Taiwan in the United States or Europe was a few things, mainly related to belonging to the group of the four Asian Tigers (along with South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore) raised in the economic field and industrial between 1960 and 1990. Over time, however, away from the spotlight, Taiwan has grown both technologically and politically. It has grown into a mature democracy, an advanced economy, a technological giant.

During the pandemic crisis he reached the front pages of all the world's news thanks to his optimal management of the pandemic and today, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the increasingly aggressive provocations of China, he is at the center of discussions of geopolitics and politics international.

Furthermore, our successes in the economic and technological fields have helped us to become a country respected throughout the world.

Apart from the United States, who are the allies of the "rebel island" so hated by Beijing?

All democratic countries. All those countries that share our same values ​​and ideals: democracy, freedom, the rule of law, respect for international rules and human rights. Which are also the values ​​most feared by the autocracies.

Let me just correct one thing: Taiwan is not a rebel island. Taiwan is a sovereign country, with its own government elected by the people, its own currency, its own army. The narrative that Taiwan rebels against China is misleading.

With a new world order on the horizon that will take shape in a few years, is the invasion of Taiwan less and less distant?

If Beijing moves towards breaking the international order based on shared rules, the risks of an invasion are real. According to Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, China is already preparing to invade. In a recent interview with CNN, the Minister condemned Beijing's actions, highlighting how even Chinese rhetoric is oriented towards the conflict against Taiwan, threats that we cannot accept in any way.

The invasion is a concrete risk because Beijing's objectives include the reshaping of the international order.

Don't the continuous and repeated Chinese threats risk getting the Taiwanese used to provocations and underestimating the risk of an attack?

There is no such risk. Chinese threats are something we are used to, because they have been going on for decades, but being used does not mean underestimating the possibility of an attack. We are ready and constantly on alert. As well as our armed forces.

To use force against Taiwan with the expectation of finding the way clear would be a miscalculation, now and in the future. We are a peaceful people, open to dialogue, but at the same time we are ready and prepared for any eventuality.

Can Taiwan tell the difference between "military exercise" and "dress rehearsal" (before the invasion)?

Certainly. When two or more countries are geographically close, any action taken by one affects the others.

The military actions undertaken by China are not simple exercises, as one would like to believe, but are much more like dress rehearsals. They are gathering intelligence and ringing up provocations aimed at waging warfare on a large scale. And it's not just us who know this. It is almost certain that the other countries of the region know it too, whose stability has been compromised precisely by these acts.

Everyone has always done military exercises, but they are limited and above all they are not aimed at an objective repeatedly declared publicly. "Taking Taiwan by force" is an option publicly fielded several times by Beijing. From this point of view, it is difficult to consider these maneuvers as simple "military exercises"

Various voices inside and outside Taiwan have been raised in the past criticizing the preparation of the Armed Forces and strategic reserves which would not be adequately trained and equipped to deal with a large-scale attack against the island. What has been the response of the authorities so far?

The government, in recent years - and following repeated threats from Beijing - has actually increased its attention to these issues. He increased the defense budget and at the end of 2022 brought the conscription back to one year. It had been reduced to 4 months in 2018 but recent developments have forced us to revise that decision.

We have increased efforts to counter disinformation and cyber warfare and restructured the entire military sector.

Maybe a few years ago Taiwan wasn't ready, but it's also true that times have changed and we are aware of it.

The war in Ukraine has triggered a global "domino". Is the fact that China will inevitably (sooner or later) pay the higher price helping some countries to move closer to Taiwan?

The war in Ukraine has highlighted the difference between those who want to maintain the international order based on shared rules and those who instead want to break that order, endangering peace and global stability.

The Russian invasion has caused the majority of democratic countries to rally together and so, in the face of threats from Beijing, more and more countries have drawn closer to Taiwan, showing attention to the security of the Indo-Pacific quadrant.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and the response given by countries with which we share values ​​and ideals is the best possible response.

Photo: Defense Online