'Stop The intimidation,' Taiwan’s New President Warns China

The new President of Taiwan, Lai Ching-te has warned China to stop its military intimidation against the self-governed island Beijing claims as its own territory.

He issued this warning in his inauguration speech.

“Fellow compatriots, we have the ideal of pursuing peace, but we must not have illusions,” Lai said after being sworn into office. “As China has not yet given up its use of force to invade Taiwan, we should understand that even if we fully accept China’s proposition and give up our sovereignty, China’s attempt to annex Taiwan will not disappear.”

Africa Today News, New York reports that he takes over from Tsai Ing-wen, who led Taiwan through eight years of economic and social development despite the COVID-19 pandemic and China’s escalating military threats.

Thousands of people gathered in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei for the inauguration ceremony. Wearing white bucket hats, the attendees watched the ceremony on large screens. The event included emcees narrating Lai’s swearing-in ceremony, a military march, and colorful artistic performances featuring folk dancers, opera performers, and rappers. Military helicopters flew in formation, carrying Taiwan’s flag.

Lai, also known by his English name William, has vowed to continue his predecessor’s push to maintain stability with China while beefing up Taiwan’s security through imports of advanced fighters and other technology from close partner the U.S., the expansion of the defense industry with the manufacture of submarines and aircraft, and the reinforcing of regional partnerships with Taiwan’s unofficial allies such as the U.S., Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken congratulated Lai on his inauguration. “We look forward to working with President Lai and across Taiwan’s political spectrum to advance our shared interests and values, deepen our longstanding unofficial relationship, and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Blinken said in a statement from his office.

Lai, 64, takes over from Tsai Ing-wen, who led Taiwan through eight years of economic and social development despite the COVID-19 pandemic and China’s escalating military threats. He is seen as inheriting her progressive policies, including universal health care, backing for higher education and support for minority groups, including making Taiwan the first place in Asia to recognize same-sex marriages.

Lai, who was vice president during Tsai’s second term, came across as more of a firebrand earlier in his career. In 2017, he described himself as a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan’s independence,” drawing Beijing’s rebuke. He has since softened his stance and now supports maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait and the possibility of talks with Beijing.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its own territory and has been upping its threats to annex it by force if necessary.

Lai will build on Tsai’s efforts to strengthen ties with the U.S., which doesn’t formally recognize Taiwan as a country but is bound by its own laws to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

During Tsai’s tenure, Taiwan became the first society in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, though critics say she skirted political responsibility by leaving the decision up to the Supreme Court and a series of referendums.

She oversaw a controversial pension and labor reform and extended the military conscription length to one year. She also kickstarted a military modernization drive, including a program for building indigenous submarines at more than $16 billion each.

Tsai’s leadership during the pandemic split public opinion, with most admiring Taiwan’s initial ability to keep the virus largely outside its borders but criticizing the lack of investment in rapid testing as the pandemic progressed.

Africa Today News, New York

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