Beijing Incensed After Taiwan President Says ‘China’ Instead Of ‘Mainland’


(image by VOA, via Wikimedia Commons)

On May 5 Taiwanese President Ts’ai Ying-wen held a meeting with journalists from several Asian countries in an attempt to promote her administration’s ‘New Southbound Policy‘ (NSP).

The NSP, which aims to strengthen ties between Taiwan, ASEAN countries, South Asia and Oceania, has been regarded by some as a reaction to China’s Belt and Road initiative. Ts’ai Ying-wen, however, denied that her administration is trying to directly compete with Beijing’s geopolitical strategy.

Ts’ai met with reporters from The Hindu (India), Kompas (Indonesia), The Sun (Malaysia), The Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Straits Times (Singapore), The Nation (Thailand) and other foreign media outlets. The Taiwanese President stressed during the meeting that the purpose of the NSP is to promote mutually beneficial international relations, and not to “compete with China.”

Taiwanese and international reports did not pay much attention to Ts’ai’s use of the word ‘China‘ until Chinese media as well as pro-Beijing Hong Kong media picked it up and criticized her for not referring to the PRC as ‘mainland China’.

Chinese media emphasized that during the interview Ts’ai Ying-wen repeatedly used the word ‘China’ instead of ‘mainland China‘, a term which implies that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to ‘one China‘. This is the nucleus of the so-called ‘one China principle’ advocated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as well as the Guomindang.

Chinese media quoted an older article from Taiwan’s pro-unification newspaper China Times: “if the [Taiwanese] government … neglects the mainland’s (大陸) position and role in the region it will clearly deceive others and itself. Most importantly, confronting the vigour and power of the mainland on the [Asian] market and replacing co-operation with antagonism is not a good strategy. After all, time is not on [Taiwan’s] side.” In 2005 China passed the ‘anti-secession law’ that legalizes the use force to prevent a formal independence declaration by Taiwan.

Since Ts’ai Ying-wen took office, Beijing has escalated cross-strait tensions hoping that Taiwan will eventually back down. Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson of the Chinese government, stated at a press conference in January that “only by sticking to the 1992 Consensus, which reflects the one-China principle, could cross-Straits ties see steady development and develop further, while destroying this political foundation would see a storm gather over the Straits.”

Ts’ai Ying-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has refused to publicly state its adherence to the ‘one China’ policy and is unlikely to yield to Beijing’s pressure on this issue. Ts’ai’s predecessor, Guomindang‘s Ma Ying-jeou, had pursued a policy of rapprochement with the CCP that many Taiwanese viewed as damaging the status quo of de facto independence. Ts’ai Ying-wen won the 2016 elections by pledging to reduce Taiwan‘s reliance on Beijing.

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