Speaking to Euronews, Remus Li-Kuo Chen spoke of “devastating and catastrophic repercussions” if the status quo in the Taiwan Strait is altered.
Protecting Taiwan’s democracy against a potential Chinese invasion will be “truly a life-and-death matter” that will require the involvement of the entire international community, warns Remus Li-Kuo Chen, Taipei’s representative to the European Union.
“This is actually our future and destiny,” Chen told Euronews in an exclusive interview.
“If there’s any kind of undesirable, unprovoked escalation of tensions or any kind of war scenario happening in the Taiwan Strait, we will have the strongest ever resolve and determination to defend our own country, to safeguard our territory and our democratic way of life.”
Chen’s stark word of caution comes in the midst of a steep deterioration in relations between the West and China over Beijing’s perceived pro-Russian positioning on the Ukraine war and its continued refusal to condemn the invasion. The conflict in Europe has renewed attention over Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers a breakaway province that should one day be brought together with the mainland.
The narrative about reunification has sparked fears of a Chinese military intervention against Taiwan, a decision that Chen said would unleash “devastating and catastrophic repercussions” for the whole world, possibly grounding international commerce to a halt.
The regular military manoeuvres that Beijing carries in the Taiwan strait, which Chen described as “military provocations” and a “pressure campaign” ahead of the island’s 2024 presidential election, have only lent plausibility to the worst-case scenario.
“We have to preserve the peace and stability in this time and also safeguard the freedom and democracy of Taiwan because, really, the destruction of Taiwan’s democracy will be a grave defeat of the world’s democracies,” Chen said.
During his interview with Euronews, the Taipei Representative drew a parallel between Ukraine and Taiwan, two democracies under constant threat of being encroached upon by their autocratic neighbours. As in the case of Kyiv, whose untiring resistance relies on Western supplies of ammunition and financial assistance, Taipei would too require foreign aid if push came to shove.
“Taiwan’s case is quite similar: Taiwan is small, China is big,” said Chen.
“This is actually truly a life-and-death matter for our Taiwanese people. And we are not, of course, giving up any kind of opportunities that we can get any helping hand. It’s obvious that, if that kind of scenario happens, we cannot do it alone.”
The Taiwanese government and American intelligence officials have pinpointed 2027 as the year Beijing might order a full-scale operation to invade the island and bring it under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.
“We learned from the lessons that Ukrainian people are now facing because no one can predict when the leadership in Beijing would take any kind of drastic move. Their centralised grip on the power is becoming more and more unpredictable,” Chen said about the projections.
In order to address the fraught situation in the Taiwan Strait, the envoy suggests two simultaneous lines of action. On the one hand, Western democracies should send a “powerful message of deterrence” and make clear that any Chinese intervention will come with an “unaffordable price.” On the other hand, Taipei and Beijing should talk things out.
“They (China) should not continue down this road, this course of coercion, economically speaking, and also militarily intimidating Taiwan but to continue to think about other actions of having the resumption of dialogue. Let’s sit down and talk on an equal footing,” Chen said.
“And why not actually have the benefit and well-being of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to be well-maintained? They (China) definitely have all of the possible ways to make peace and also stability in the Taiwan Strait maintained.”
The Harvard-educated diplomat insisted that Taiwan would not seek to make “unilateral changes” to the status quo, a term that refers to a deliberately ambiguous policy under which Taipei rejects reunification with China, the use of force and, crucially, the pursuit of independence.
This approach is also defended by the vast majority of the international community, including the European Union, which is keen on maintaining close trade ties with both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The practice, however, has left Taiwan without recognition as an independent, sovereign state, despite its system of liberal democracy and capitalist economy that put the island on par with Western nations.
Beijing closely monitors any diplomatic overture to Taiwan and is quick to denounce any countries that appear to defy the so-called One China policy. This was the case when Lithuania allowed the opening of an office – in practice, a de facto embassy – under the name of Taiwan, rather than Taipei, a departure from the usual diplomatic protocol.
China reacted furiously and retaliated by downgrading diplomatic relations and imposing a customs block on Lithuanian-made products, a move that forced the European Commission to file a legal case before the World Trade Organization (WHO). The punishment, though, failed to have a dissuasive effect: recent months have seen delegations of lawmakers from France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the European Parliament make official trips to Taipei in a bid to strengthen cooperation.
“We would like to make sure that whichever country in the EU or any other parts of the world that would like to deepen ties with Taiwan is their sovereign state’s discretion and decision, which should not be dictated by any other external party or forces,” Chen said regarding the Lithuanian example.
A new commercial dispute is now looming as Washington encourages allies to ban exports of advanced semiconductors to China, a step the Netherlands has already decided to take. Taiwan, the world’s leading producer of microchips, finds itself at the crossroads of the clash between technology and geopolitics, further intensifying scrutiny over the island’s future.
“The whole world gets to know that without Taiwan playing this role to supply all these chips, it will be unimaginable any kind of normal operation for our economic prosperity,” Chen said, warning about the “misuse” of semiconductors if they fall in the hands of “authoritarian regimes.”
“You have no idea whether or not they’ll be using these (chips) to kill innocent people worldwide.”