What you need to know
She also recommended the immediate closure of Confucius Institutes in the U.K., which could be replaced by institutions from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Former U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss called for an “economic NATO” to jointly resist China’s economic coercion in a keynote speech in Taipei, criticizing Western countries who are still seeking cooperation with China or unwilling to decouple from China economically. “Without freedom and democracy, there is nothing else,” she said.
Truss arrived in Taiwan on Monday for a five-day visit and is scheduled to meet with senior Taiwanese government officials. Following Margaret Thatcher, she’s the second former British Prime Minister to visit Taiwan in 27 years.
Taiwan knows what threats are because there is an authoritarian regime just 80 miles away, and the threat it poses will not disappear, said Truss. She praised Taiwan as a beacon of freedom and democracy and recognized its crucial role in the ongoing struggle between democratic countries and authoritarian regimes.
She said China doesn’t want to see Taiwan exist in its current state because Taiwan is a direct challenge to the Chinese Communist Party. Taiwanese people have a better standard of living than Chinese people, Taiwan is freer than China, and people in Taiwan are happier than those in China, according to the World Happiness Index, where Taiwan ranks 37 places higher than China (Taiwan is ranked 27th, while China is ranked 64th).
Truss proposed explicitly recognizing China as a threat in the U.K.’s foreign and defense assessment reports, referring to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s characterization of China as the U.K.’s biggest long-term threat.
She recommended the immediate closure of Confucius Institutes in the United Kingdom, which could be replaced by institutions from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
She also suggested that the U.K. should suspend trade talks with China and urged the U.K. to reduce dependency on China in various fields in preparation for future conflicts.
Truss believed trade agreements can serve as stepping stones for upholding freedom. She expressed satisfaction with the U.K.’s recent accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and encouraged the U.K., Japan, and Canada, along with other allies, to openly support Taiwan’s accession to the CPTPP.
She hoped for collaboration between the U.K. and major CPTPP members to support Taiwan’s accession into the alliance and jointly establish an “economic NATO” that is crucial for countering Chinese economic coercion.
Chen Tang-shan, Chairman of Taiwanese think tank Prospect Foundation, acknowledged Truss’s strong support for Taiwan during her tenure as Foreign Secretary and urged the Western world to provide more support to Taiwan and ensure its ability to defend itself. Chen also highlighted that the U.K. is the second-largest provider of military aid to Ukraine and the first country to supply Ukraine with long-range weapons.
The U.K. has said supporting Ukraine doesn’t mean a shift in support for Taiwan. The British government has approved a significant increase in the export of submarine components and technology to Taiwan last year.
Freedom and democracy
Truss criticized European countries for irresponsibly distancing themselves from Taiwan due to the geographical distance, saying that the Taiwan Strait issue concerns Europe’s core interests. Any blockade or invasion of Taiwan would undermine freedom and democracy in Europe, just as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine did. Similarly, China’s invasion of Taiwan would disrupt freedom and democracy in the Pacific.
She pointed out that many in the West say they don’t want another Cold War, but it’s not a choice it can make. She emphasized that China, as an authoritarian regime, is now the world’s largest economy and seeks to leverage its position for dominance. Beijing is rapidly developing its navy and conducting the largest peacetime military expansion in history.
Truss said that the free world is experiencing a lot of noise, and there are still too many in the West who believe they can cooperate with China on issues such as climate change. But she pointed out that “without freedom and democracy, there is nothing else.”
This article originally appeared in The News Lens Chinese edition.
TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)
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