Taiwan Government and International – December 2021

Taiwan opened the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania in November, making it the island's first de facto embassy in Europe to use Taiwan” in its name. Photo: Martti Chen

By Brian Tsui and Grace Faerber

Taiwan Opens Rep Office in Lithuania

Taiwan last month opened its Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania, the first of the island’s de facto embassies in Europe to use the name “Taiwan.” In response, China has downgraded its diplomatic representation in Lithuania to that of charge d’affaires. According to Lithuanian officials, China also reduced its trade links with Lithuania and pressured companies in other countries against doing business with the small Baltic nation.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte stated that “Lithuania wants a more intense economic, cultural, and scientific relationship with Taiwan” and emphasized that such a policy “does not mean any conflict or disagreement with the ‘One China Policy.’” Lithuania will open its representative office in Taiwan at an unspecified future date.

A delegation of Lithuanian legislators also visited Taiwan in late November. The delegates, along with representatives from Belize, Estonia, Latvia, and Mexico, were invited to join the Open Parliament Forum, a platform to discuss the promotion of democracy and strengthen Taiwan’s ties with democratic governments worldwide.

Taiwan Discussed at Biden/Xi Summit

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a three-hour virtual summit in mid-November, during which both leaders stressed the need to reduce tensions between their respective countries. While Xi emphasized that “no conflict and no confrontation is a line that both sides must hold,” Biden highlighted the importance of “commonsense guardrails” in the relationship “to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict.”

According to U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who was present at the summit, the discussion “spent a good amount of time on the question of Taiwan.” Both the U.S. and Chinese readouts of the talks stressed the importance of avoiding violence in the Taiwan Strait. The dialogue did not, however, produce substantive agreements on the issue.

Two U.S. Congressional Groups Visit Taiwan

A delegation of four U.S. senators and two members of the House of Representatives visited Taiwan on November 9-10, meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen and calling on the Ministry of National Defense (MND). Taiwan’s senior military officials briefed the representatives on China’s recent military incursions. The delegation also met with senior executives at the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) headquarters in the Hsinchu science park. Senator John Cornyn, who led the delegation, said that the visit’s purpose was to expand U.S.-Taiwan economic ties and strengthen Taiwan’s defense. Later in the month, another Congressional delegation composed of five House Members made a short visit to Taiwan. The delegation met with defense officials as well as President Tsai and held discussions focusing on regional security.

Report Highlights Rising Chinese Threat

In its 2021 National Defense Report, the MND warned that China’s People’s Liberation Army is preparing for operations against Taiwan, including force confrontation drills, joint landing exercises, cyberspace attacks, and increased long-distance training flights. In a first, the report was released simultaneously in Chinese and English.

The report raises the alarm on China’s “gray zone” tactics, citing 554 intrusions by Chinese warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone between September last year and the end of August. The MND reported that Beijing’s armed forces already have the power to blockade Taiwan’s key harbors, airports, and outbound flight routes. The report also disclosed over 380 active military exchange programs between the U.S. and Taiwan involving 2,700 military personnel over the past two years.

In response to China’s increased military actions, the MND said it is strengthening Taiwan’s asymmetrical warfare operations, combat force training, and indigenous defense manufacturing capability. The Legislative Yuan in November approved a bill authorizing the government to draft a special budget of up to NT$240 billion (US$8.63 billion) to upgrade Taiwan’s anti-air and anti-surface capabilities over the next five years.

Independence Support Criminalized in China

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) announced in November that supporters of Taiwan independence would be held criminally liable for life. TAO Spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian stated that individuals deemed “stubbornly pro-Taiwan independence,” including Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang, Legislative Yuan Speaker You Si-kun, and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, would be added to China’s global blacklist, which imposes lifetime criminal charges on listed entities and individuals. The listed individuals will be denied entry to China, Hong Kong, and Macau and barred from engaging in business with Chinese people or entities.

In response, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) stated that China’s unilateral legislation has no binding force on the people of Taiwan. The MAC warned that Beijing is damaging cross-Strait ties, and that Taiwan may consider legal countermeasures in response.

Taiwan Invited to U.S.  Democracy Summit

President Biden has included Taiwan on the list of 110 democracies invited to participate in a virtual democracy summit scheduled for December 9-10, 2021. Representing Taiwan at the online event will be Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s representative to the U.S., and Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang.

Responding to the news about Taiwan’s inclusion at the summit, China’s TAO called the move a mistake and stated that Beijing opposes any official interaction between the U.S. and Taiwan. The TAO urged the U.S. to adhere to the “One China Principle,” the term China uses to refer to the notion that both Taiwan and China belong to the People’s Republic of China. The U.S., on the other hand, has its own “One China policy,” which acknowledges that the People’s Republic is the sole legitimate government of China.

A spokesperson for Taiwan’s Presidential Office thanked President Biden for the democracy summit invitation, stating that Taiwan is a force for good in international society and will work with like-minded countries to protect universal values.

Far Eastern Group Fined by China

Textile and cement subsidiaries in China of Taiwan’s Far Eastern Group were fined over US$13.87 million for violations of the law, including environmental protection and work safety rules. The move is seen as a warning from Beijing to Taiwanese investors against using profits from their operations in China to fund pro-independence individuals and groups in Taiwan.

Far Eastern is a prominent donor to the DPP but also donates to KMT candidates. In Beijing, TAO Spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian said China welcomes and supports Taiwanese investment but warned that China would not allow those that support Taiwan independence or hinder cross-Strait relations to profit from business on the mainland.