Interview with Ambassador Vincent YC Tsai: "China is a threat to global security"

(To Andrea Cucco)

Taiwan is a sovereign country whose will, as in any democracy, is defined by its inhabitants.

In the People's Republic of China, however, the regime claims that there is only one China in the world and that Taiwan is part of it, without any authority or sovereignty, without the right to establish diplomatic relations with other countries or participate in international organizations.

The world, perhaps never before, is at a crossroads. The escalation of the global conflict continues unabated.

After last month's elections which saw the victory of current vice president William Lai, last week Beijing unilaterally modified the airport in the Taiwan Strait.

To delve deeper into the events, we met again with Vincent YC Tsai, "Taiwan's diplomatic representative in Italy" (for those who fear Beijing or are still its subjects), "ambassador" for those - like us - who believe in the law and repudiate the violence of Chinese totalitarian regime. First of all those towards its citizens...

Has Taiwan given - democratically - a firm response to Beijing's threats in early 2024?

Certainly. But I want to underline one key aspect: at the moment, China is indeed the greatest threat to Taiwan, but it is also the greatest threat to global security.

China's provocations, such as military exercises, before last month's elections have received much attention. They have also adopted policies of economic coercion, sent spy balloons over our airspace and launched numerous disinformation campaigns.

All with a single purpose: to get people to vote for the candidate most favorable to them.

Has this behavior had the opposite effect in Taiwan?

Certain. The outcome of the elections was an eloquent answer: no! Any intimidation or threat will receive a strong reaction from the Taiwanese electorate.

Our elections in January were not only for the presidency and vice presidency, but also for the parliament. They were therefore a sort of referendum on what type of relations to maintain with the People's Republic.

The outcome showed a unanimous response: we want to maintain the status quo, while not adding anything regarding the issue of Taiwan's independence.

They should have understood by now that, in our country, any provocative tactic or measure adopted will not work.

With the elections we have accumulated a lot of experience on the tactics and strategies of influence of the People's Republic of China. We will summarize them in a report that will be shared with other countries. From Korea which will see parliamentary elections in April, to the United States which will have presidential elections at the end of the year.

This will be a global election year. Significant suffrages will take place in many countries.

Send a copy to Italy! I can perfectly remember our experience of foreign influence in elections years ago… Thank God, this is (or “seems”) in the past.

What were your countermeasures?

The clarity: The next president, current vice president, has firmly stated that he will follow current foreign policy. No changes.

And two simple actions: pursuing stability and peace in the Taiwan Strait and maintaining the status quo between the parties.

Under these two principles we can not only maintain peace locally, but also generate it in the entire Indo-Pacific region.

Isn't this road a dead end? Xi Jinping has clearly said that, by 2049, there will be only one China. You can delay the event, not avoid it.

In addition to "2049", we have previously heard many "2025", "2030", etc.... This proves only one thing: the constant oppression of the People's Republic of China towards Taiwan.

Taiwan is aware of this and prepares accordingly. We will further improve our capabilities, not just military ones.

Last year he underlined the lengthening of military service...

Mandatory detention has been reformed. Starting this year, we increased the length of military service from four months to one year.

We do this because we want to strengthen our military capacity, not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of training.

However, it is not the only measure: this year we would like to increase our military spending.

For our defense we would like to purchase more advanced weapons and systems. They will be fundamental.

We would like to work with other countries such as Italy, the United States, other European countries and Japan, to resist provocations.

Iwhat if you can't?

Without doing so, step by step, China will move forward, further and further.

If the International Community did nothing about Russia's war in Ukraine, it would give China permission to invade Taiwan. To then have a free hand in the region...

Countries like France do not care about Beijing's protests when it comes to supplying armaments. Should they be an example for all of Europe?

If you ask me what the greatest diplomatic result achieved in the last year was, I answer: “the improvement of relations between Taiwan and the European continent". Not only with Italy, but also with France, Germany, the United Kingdom and other Eastern European countries. We have established a very strong partnership.

Obviously the United States and Japan remain our historic allies.

The problem remains the international recognition of Taiwan as an independent state. You have lost Nauru, a small island in the Pacific.

We have historically had several diplomatic moments with Nauru: we have maintained relations with Nauru for many, many years and have put a lot of effort into working on cooperative programs to help their national development.

Unfortunately, after the election, they complied with the demands of the People's Republic of China, severing ties with us.

We pay a lot of attention to that area. Nauru is a small island in terms of size and population, yet it is a critical country in the South Pacific. The area is becoming a point of competition between China and other countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN countries.

After having established military cooperation with the Solomon Islands, now it is Nauru's turn... Their ambition will not stop here!

I want to reiterate the importance campaigns of the South Pacific nations: there are many small island nations in that area but it has turned into a real field of competition. We will do our best to continue working together with our three diplomatic allies in the area.

From these examples you can understand a lot about China.

After our elections, they are changing the rules, starting from the flight route between our countries. The reason why they do it is only one: to change the "status quo" of the Taiwan Strait.

What was the response to Beijing's unilateral decision? Is the action the result of a strategy?

Yes. They carried out military exercises around Taiwan, then they sent spy balloons to fly over our airspace, now they change the flight paths...

The decision could also compromise civil aviation safety by having domestic flights from Taiwan to Kinmen in Matsu, our outlying islands, and increasing the risk to international connections crossing the Taiwan Strait.

Do you mean that an accident could occur with a civilian aircraft?

I think both sides will work with much attention to try to avoid it. But the next step will be an increase in threats.

The middle line represented a consensual agreement between China and Taiwan. Why change it?

I'll explain it to you: they have reduced the buffer zone between themselves and Taiwan. Now we will only have two minutes for the alarm. Before, when their military planes took off from the bases, we had as many as ten of them.

Clear military strategy.

Yes. I think that by shortening my country's response time, they have that sort of ambition.

The biggest issue the new government will still have to address will be the relationship with China, an enormous challenge.

I'm happy to hear that the major improvements in the last year have happened in Europe. Many of China's best allies were right here in the past. Not only thinking about Italy, but also about Germany.

Most European countries have recognized that China's influence is and will be a threat. Not only at the continental level, but also for the global arena.

Not only France, but also other European countries such as Lithuania and the Czech Republic have taken a very strong position against the rule of the People's Republic.

We do not have official diplomatic relations with these countries. But the global environment can change very quickly...

We greatly appreciate the support that European countries have sent to Taiwan for maintaining our security and status quo. We appreciate it very much, including that of the Italian government.

Photo: Defense Online