National Security

Taiwanese President Touts U.S. Partnership, Slams China on Human Rights

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Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen extolled the progress of the Taiwanese-American relationship and sharply criticized China's treatment of Hong Kong in a speech Wednesday, at a video event cohosted by the Center for American Progress and the Hudson Institute.

"The relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. has never been closer," she said. "Taiwan is on the frontlines of freedom and democracy."

Tsai announced her focus on increasing military cooperation, multilateral engagement with "a community of like-minded democracies," and working through a new free trade agreement with the United States.

This week, Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan in what one panelist called a "gesture of goodwill" between the two countries. Azar engaged in constructive dialogue, particularly around Taiwan’s successful management of the coronavirus pandemic.

Beyond diplomatic overtures, the United States and Taiwan have worked together on securing the sale of high-tech drones to increase Taiwan’s asymmetric defense capabilities, as well as missile defense systems to deter an invasion from Taiwan's increasingly aggressive cross-strait rival.

"Beijing must recognize that Taiwan is a democracy whose future is decided by our own people," Tsai warned in her speech.

With Washington’s help, Taiwan’s defense systems are "cost effective but lethal enough to become deterrents, to make the consideration of invasion very painful," Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan's representative to the United States, said in a panel following the speech.

Aside from discussing Taiwan's partnership with the United States, Tsai also gave renewed attention to China’s hostile takeover of Hong Kong.

"When the rest of the world has been distracted in responding to one of the most significant crises in recent history, we’re seeing a growing effort to pose ever more challenging threats to free and democratic societies," she said. "Nowhere is this more apparent than in Hong Kong."

Tsai called upon the United States, Taiwan, and other allies to "take a forceful stand in the defense of global democracy." To this end, Bi-khim made note of fresh efforts to draw Taiwan closer to Japan and India as regional partners.

The event—and its bipartisan nature—was regarded by Taiwan's diplomatic office as a milestone in the Taiwanese-American relationship. "This marks the very first time for these two influential U.S. think tanks to cohost a high-level event on Taiwan, which demonstrates the solid support from the U.S. think tank community on advancing robust Taiwan-U.S. relations," a statement from the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office reads.