In this ever-changing geo-political climate, democratic nations are facing an immense challenge from authoritarian forces, who would want nothing more than to shape the current world order into their own desired dystopian vision. As all democratic nations are fighting to preserve their values and foundations, there’s one resilient leader, who is currently standing firm against the ultra-nationalistic People’s Republic of China’s desire for expansionism – President Tsai Ing-Wen of Taiwan. Tsai Ing-wen, 62, of the Taiwanese pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), made history when she was elected to be Taiwan’s first female president in January 2016. In modern history, she’s also the first Asian female politician without any political kinship, to be a head of state of an Asian nation. Branding herself as a reformist, Tsai has undergone challenges to reform not just her political party, but for the well-being of the nation. When she was DPP chairwoman, she ultimately led the party out of political abyss to winning the presidency and becoming the majority party in the Legislative Yuan, the nation’s parliament, a first in the DPP history.
Since the 2016 presidential election, the Chinese Communist Party, a totalitarian regime with ambitions to annex Taiwan via military force, has cut off official government communications with the Tsai Administration due to her refusing to accept the non-existing “1992 Consensus.” Despite President Tsai vow to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan strait and good will towards China, the Chinese regime instead has unilaterally caused tension in the Taiwan Strait by snatching five of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, deprived Taiwanese delegations from entering UN-affiliated organizations, dispatched PLAA military jets to conduct military exercises near Taiwanese airspace, and coerced transnational corporations to state that Taiwan is actually a part of the People’s Republic of China. The United States is beginning to notice China’s barbaric tendencies in the Taiwan Strait. In an interview with Voice of America, Patrick Murphy, the State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs said “China has been busy changing the status quo on this arrangement that has produced prosperity, stability, and peace, even with some of the unusual aspects. What I mean by changing the status quo is we have heard voices in Beijing threaten the use of violence directed at Taiwan; we have seen China aggressively try to reduce the number of diplomatic partners that Taiwan enjoys around the world.”
In the face of immense pressure from the CCP, Madame President’s commitment to maintain the status quo while upholding Taiwan’s sovereignty has never wavered. The President, on numerous occasions, has reiterated that Taiwan does not oppose normalized cross strait interactions with Beijing, but that ties cannot rely on political preconditions for direct communication. The Mainland Affairs Council, an agency under the Executive Yuan that handles ties with China, emphasizes that both sides of the Taiwan Strait have joint responsibility to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, but also throughout the entire Asian region.
Under the Tsai presidency, the United States-Taiwan relationship is currently the warmest it has ever been since the Carter Administration broke off diplomatic ties with the Republic of China on Taiwan in 1979. There are a couple achievements that should be mentioned, the first one being when President-Elect Donald Trump accepted an unprecedented telephone call from President Tsai to congratulate him on his election victory in December 2016. This 10-minute telephone marked the first time since breaking off diplomatic relations in 1979 that a sitting Taiwanese president directly spoken with a U.S. President-elect.
The American Institute in Taiwan, the de-facto US mission that handles ties with Taiwan in absence of diplomatic ties, opened a $250 million diplomatic mission compound in Neihu, a district in the capital city Taipei, making the US the first country to build a compound on Taiwanese soil, solidifying the committed relationship between the two nations. Since 2017, a total of $1.42 billion in arm U.S. arm sales has been acquired by Taiwan. Randal Schriver, an assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, recently confirmed that the United States will be moving towards normalizing arm sales to Taiwan, moving from the previous US administration’s bundling arm sales approach to Taiwan. By normalizing weapon sales to the Taiwanese military, it could reduce the length of the approval process, accelerating the speed with which Taiwan receives the weapons systems needed to strengthen its national defense.
President Tsai isn’t a perfect leader in any means. She still has room to improve as a national leader, especially on vagueness on key policy details and communicating with the masses. Tsai’s flaws shouldn’t diminish her domestic and international achievements, as well as the iron-will to protect Taiwan from being colonized by the CCP. There are some elder pro-Taiwanese independence advocates and political pundits, who are still dissatisfied over President Tsai’s performance in office. Certain TV pundits are even going as far as to spread fake news that Tsai’s doctoral thesis is fraudulent. If these pan-green advocates and commenters would like to see a free democratic Taiwan, they should set aside their differences and unite behind President Tsai by voting to keep a government of the Taiwanese, by the Taiwanese and for the Taiwanese people. A pro-China president would be a kiss of death for Taiwanese democracy, and the end of Taiwan as we know it.
Najee J Woods (葉忠正) is a graduate from Wright State University, with degrees in Political Science and Chinese Studies. Najee is currently a writer for American Citizens for Taiwan, a Formosan Association for Public Affairs member and a commentator for the Free China Post.