European Union ‘driven by China’s aggression’ to pursue ties with Taiwan: analysts

A recent visit by members of the European Parliament to democratic Taiwan shows that European countries are starting to take seriously China’s threat of possible military invasion of the island, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and whose 23 million people have no wish to submit to authoritarian rule by Beijing, analysts told RFA.

Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy, a politics scholar at Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit Brussel, said the visit — which concluded that Taiwan would be an excellent place from which to counter China’s information wars — was unprecedented.

“This is the first time that the European Parliament authorizes a visit of one of its committee delegations to visit Taiwan,” Ferenczy said. “I think we are going through a shift here where Taiwan has been elevated on the European Parliament’s agenda.”

She said there is growing unease among EU member states over China’s aggression towards Taiwan, which is a democratic, self-governing island using the name of the 1911 Republic of China founded by Sun Yat-sen after the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

“The situation in the region has escalated to an extent where the regional peace and stability is being undermined,” Ferenczy said, adding that visits like the recent one headed by Raphaël Glucksmann would continue to build consensus in Brussels about the need to form a coherent approach to China.

“With the pandemic, that has really shifted views and hardened views of China inside the EU, I believe that we are getting closer to convergence,” she said.

French journalist and international relations expert Bassam Tayara said China’s stepping up of military flights and political rhetoric around annexation of Taiwan by force in recent years had largely driven the shift in thinking in Europe.

“For the past couple of years, particularly during the increased tensions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has pursued an aggressive policy focused on competition with the United States, while pursuing a systemic and totalitarian repression of the Uyghurs and constantly threatening behavior towards Taiwan,” Tayara said.

“The EU, spurred on by the brutality of China’s behavior towards Hong Kong, is waking up to all of that now, and finally recognizing the danger this small island — the No. 1 manufacturer of semiconductors in the world — is in,” he said. “Chinese aggression is increasingly driving the EU into a closer relationship with Taiwan.”

Growing media coverage

Antoine Bondaz, a research fellow at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (FRS) with a specialist interest in Taiwan, said growing media coverage of Taiwan in the European and U.S. media have put the island in the international spotlight, partly due to its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, its democratic politics, and its leading role in emerging technologies.

“First, the strengthening of cooperation between EU member states and Taiwan has indirectly made the EU aware of the need to take common measures to deal with pressure from China, especially economic pressure,” Bondaz said.

He said the European Parliament has passed more than a dozen Taiwan-friendly resolutions this year, and, while none is legally binding, they reflect public opinion in the bloc and put political pressure on the Chinese government.

“Parliamentary work and parliamentary diplomacy didn’t just play a key role in setting the political agenda; they also were instrumental in raising awareness of the importance of this kind of cooperation,” Bondaz said.

“This visit of seven members of the European Parliament to Taiwan is very symbolic. Its significance lies in particular in the fact that it is a delegation specifically concerned with foreign interference in democratic nations,” he said. “Because Taiwan is also the target of such interference.”

Bondaz said he didn’t foresee any changes brewing in the EU with regard to diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.

“But member states no longer fear threats from China, and are taking the initiative to engage with Taiwan, and they have also inspired the EU to speak out against China’s threatening behavior,” he said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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