‘Stop threatening Taiwan’, its new president William Lai tells China

Home US & World ‘Stop threatening Taiwan’, its new president William Lai tells China
‘Stop threatening Taiwan’, its new president William Lai tells China

Taiwan’s newly inaugurated president William Lai has called on China stop threatening the island and accept the existence of its democracy.

He urged Beijing to replace confrontation with dialogue, shortly after being sworn in on Monday.

He also said Taiwan would never back down in the face of intimidation from China, which has long claimed the island as its own.

Mr Lai is loathed by China which sees him as a “secessionist”.

It has also ramped up pressure on Taiwan in recent years.

Military incursions by China around the island’s waters and airspace have become a routine affair in the past few years, triggering fears of conflict. In his speech, Mr Lai called this the “greatest strategic challenge to global peace and stability”.

But the 64-year-old also stuck closely to the formula used by his predecessor president Tsai Ing-wen, whose legacy will be defined by her cautious but steady handling of Beijing.

Mr Lai, a doctor turned politician, won a three-way presidential race in January, securing an unprecedented third term for his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). He had served as Ms Tsai’s vice-president since 2020, and before that as her premier. In his younger days, he was known to be a more radical politician who openly called for Taiwanese independence, which has not escaped Beijing. It labelled him a “troublemaker” ahead of the polls, and Chinese state media even suggested he should be prosecuted for secession.

The Chinese government is yet to issue a statement on Mr Lai’s inauguration. However, the Chinese embassy in the UK held a press briefing over the weekend, asking the UK government to not endorse it. And earlier last week, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office warned that the island’s new leader “must seriously” consider the question of whether he wants peaceful development or confrontation.

And just as Mr Lai was being sworn in, China’s Commerce Ministry announced sanctions against several US companies “involved in arms sales to Taiwan”.

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