10th October is the national day of the Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan, and it commemorates the start of the democratic revolution of 10 October 1911 which led to the end of the Imperial Ching Dynasty in China and the subsequent establishment of the Republic of China on 1 January 1912.
Taiwan’s national day was celebrated in Brussels by a reception at the International Press Centre of the Residence Palace, at which Ambassador Harry Tseng Hojen delivered the keynote address. He voiced concern about the vision for the future of Taiwan-China relations.
“China’s president XI Jinping is hell-bent on achieving what he sees as reunification with Taiwan. It’s clear this has become a deeply personal mission for him,” he said.
Beijing is still promoting the concept of “one country, two systems” as a model for Taiwan to be brought under the governance of the People’s Republic of China. But the test in Hong Kong of this mantra, adopted when the territory was handed back to China in 1997 is proving to be awkward. Beijing promised that it would not meddle with the way of life enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong for 50 years. This promise was enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and in the Basic Law of Hong Kong.
But when Taiwan looks across to the images in Hong Kong of streets packed with young protesters, standing against authoritarianism in the shape of the Hong Kong police, backed by China, it isn’t hard to understand why the people of Taiwan have no faith in the model of “one country, two systems”.
On the positive side Taiwan can boast stellar economic achievements. With a population of just over 23 million people, it generates the 22nd largest GDP in the world according to the IMF. It is the 13th most competitive economy in the world according to the IMD, and accounts for the world’s 5th largest foreign exchange reserves.
Taiwan works effectively and cordially with the European Union, in areas ranging from trade and technology to the environment and human rights. The country shares and upholds the core values of democracy, the rule of law, freedom of the press, the right of assembly and religious freedoms. These are values that Taiwan has worked incredibly hard to protect its way of life as a liberal democratic republic.
Ambassador Tseng delivered his address on the same day that Turkish armed forces invaded Kurdish controlled territory in Syria, drawing into sharp relief the reality that in today’s international politics military adventures by totalitarian governments can be triggered without warning. Xi Jinping the President of the People’s Republic of China has refused to rule out the use of military force to invade Taiwan. He will be watching carefully how the USA responds to the aggression by President Erdogan to cause turmoil in the Middle East. Here in Europe we should take care to ensure that through trade, diplomacy and international friendship the efforts over decades by the Republic of China in Taiwan to build a model democracy on their island home is protected and their way of life respected.