Lai Ching-te calls on China to ‘face reality’ and stop intimidating Taiwan

New president’s speech draws criticism from Beijing

Taiwan’s new president has called on Beijing to stop its political and military intimidation of the self-governing island, to recognise that it exists and to respect its people’s choices. Lai Ching-te was speaking after an inauguration ceremony in Taipei that featured drummers, dancers, rappers and acrobats as well as a military guard of honour, a flypast by fighter jets and a 21-gun salute.

“I hope that China will face the reality of the Republic of China’s existence, respect the choices of the people of Taiwan, and in good faith, choose dialogue over confrontation, exchange over containment, and under the principles of parity and dignity, engage in co-operation with the legal government chosen by Taiwan’s people,” he said.

Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province which must be reunified with the mainland, preferably by peaceful means but by force if necessary. Only a handful of states sent serving leaders to Monday’s inauguration because most adhere to a One China policy and have diplomatic relations with Beijing rather than Taipei.

“So long as China refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan, all of us in Taiwan ought to understand, that even if we accept the entirety of China’s position and give up our sovereignty, China’s ambition to annex Taiwan will not simply disappear,” Mr Lai said.


Beijing criticised the speech sharply, accusing Mr Lai of promoting “separatist fallacies” and inciting confrontation across the Taiwan strait. Taiwan affairs office spokesman Chen Binhua said that Taiwan was an inalienable part of China and that Taiwan independence was incompatible with peace across the strait.

“We have firm determination to resolve the Taiwan question and realise national reunification; we have strong capabilities to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity; and we will take resolute actions to fight separatist activities seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ and external interference,” he said.

Mr Lai described Taiwan as a frontline guardian of world peace because of its strategic location, adding that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait were indispensable to global security and prosperity. And he highlighted the strength of the island’s democracy and the liberal pluralism that saw it become the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.

“Whether in terms of democracy or freedom, Taiwan is consistently highly ranked among Asian nations. Democratic Taiwan is already a global beacon. And this honour belongs to all the people of Taiwan. As we move forward, my administration will continue using Taiwan’s democratic vitality as a force for good, to promote national development and deepen international co-operation,” he said.

Although the US has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it views the island’s autonomy from Beijing as an important strategic interest and offers major military support. Secretary of state Antony Blinken said Mr Lai’s inauguration demonstrated the strength and resilience of Taiwan’s democratic system.

“The partnership between the American people and the Taiwan people, rooted in democratic values, continues to broaden and deepen across trade, economic, cultural and people-to-people ties,” he said.

“We look forward to working with President Lai and across Taiwan’s political spectrum to advance our shared interests and values, deepen our long-standing unofficial relationship, and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times