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José María Liu, Taiwan's representative in Spain: "Although retaliation has increased after Pelosi's visit, we have been suffering from China's threats for many years"

The Taiwanese diplomat welcomes the arrival of the Speaker of the US Congress on the island and denounces Beijing's harassment
José María Liu

ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ  -   José María Liu, Ambassador and Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Bureau

Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan has sparked an unprecedented escalation of tensions between the United States and China, which are locked in a geopolitical race for world hegemony. The Asian giant interpreted the landing of the speaker of the House of Representatives as a clear challenge to its 'one China' policy, a key project of Xi Jinping's presidential mandate. The response was swift: political, commercial and military retaliation, with the largest-ever live-fire manoeuvres around the enclave. Taipei, backed by Washington, is responding with its own defence drills in the event of an invasion. The representative of the Taiwanese Economic and Cultural Office in Spain answers Atalayar in the midst of tensions to establish Taipei's position. 

Question: What is your assessment of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan? Is it positive or negative for the island?  

A: Absolutely positive. In Taiwan, our doors are always open to welcome visits from friendly countries, such as the United States, our strategic partner. Even more so when it comes to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who has insisted that the US continues to oppose any unilateral attempt to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and stressed that "US solidarity with Taiwan is more important than ever, at a time when the world is divided between autocracy and democracy. 

Q: How have the various political actors and investors received Pelosi's arrival?  

A: During her two-day stay in Taiwan, Nancy Pelosi met with the President of the Republic of China, Tsai Ing-wen, and was also received by the Acting Speaker of the Legislature, as well as meeting with prominent human rights activists. Our President honoured Pelosi in recognition of her long-standing efforts to improve Taiwan-US relations in all areas, and for her support for Taiwan's participation in the international community. During the President's luncheon, Pelosi met with business leaders, particularly from the chip sector, in which Taiwan has 63% of the world market. President Tsai emphasised that Taiwan is a reliable and trustworthy partner of the United States, and that she will continue to work to strengthen cooperation in areas such as Indo-Pacific security, economic development, talent cultivation and supply chains, in order to further boost the relationship between the two sides.

José María Liu
ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ  -   José María Liu, Ambassador and Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Bureau

Q: What reasons do you think prompted her to land in Taiwan despite not having the express authorisation of the White House and not putting it on your agenda? Is it a challenge, as China says, or a sign of support, as the US says? 

A: It is a clear commitment to the international community to the unity that democratic countries must show in the face of the attitude of hegemonic powers such as China. The third highest US official, Nancy Pelosi, said after their arrival in Taiwan that the US delegation's visit "honours America's unwavering commitment to support Taiwan's vibrant democracy". Pelosi, who insisted that the US "will not abandon Taiwan" and was proud of the "enduring friendship" between the two countries, also stressed that the talks with Taiwanese leaders reaffirmed US support for Taiwan and promoted "our shared interests, including the development of a free and open Indo-Pacific region". Pelosi says the US will stand unwaveringly behind Taiwan and encourages other world leaders to visit Taiwan. 

Q: What do bilateral relations with the United States mean for Taiwan? What about relations with China, given that Beijing is Taiwan's largest trading partner? 

A: Our relations with the US in all areas have always been and continue to be fundamental for us, since it is, together with the European Union, our main strategic partner, which has shown on numerous occasions, especially since Joe Biden became President, that its commitment to Taiwan is 'rock solid'. As for China, despite political differences, it is indeed our main trading partner. In 2021, our bilateral trade with China amounted to US$273.2 billion. We exported $189 billion to China and imported $84 billion, resulting in a surplus of $104.8 billion in favour of Taiwan. Therefore, if the current situation were to worsen, and trade sanctions such as those already being applied by China, which has announced a ban on imports of, so far, hundreds of products from multiple Taiwanese food companies, were to become more widespread, it would be very damaging for both sides of the Taiwan Strait. 

Q: China has also reacted by deploying the largest live-fire manoeuvres in its history around Taiwan. 

A: The manoeuvres defy international order and disrupt peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the whole region. For 72 hours, more than 110 military aircraft raided Taiwan's air defence identification zone, and more than 20 even crossed the Taiwan Strait's median boundary line, an unofficial border, but one that has been tacitly respected until now. Every day, more than 10 Chinese military vessels took part in the manoeuvres and some also entered the adjacent waters of Taiwan's territorial sea. China launched 11 ballistic missiles, four of which flew over Taiwan's skies. As a result, hundreds of flights have been cancelled and Taiwan has suffered a sea and air blockade. China announces that military manoeuvres around Taiwan will be a regular occurrence from now on, and in fact they have already begun again. By crossing the middle dividing line in the Taiwan Strait, Beijing is trying to make this a regular occurrence and thereby establish a "new normality" that is a unilateral alteration of the 'status quo' in the Taiwan Strait.

José María Liu
ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ  -   José María Liu, Ambassador and Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Bureau

Q: China's retaliation has also led you to break off bilateral cooperation with the United States in certain areas. Do you fear that a complete rupture between Washington and Beijing will further compromise the situation in Taiwan? 

A: Although Chinese retaliation has increased after Nancy Pelosi's visit, we in Taiwan have been suffering from China's threats for the past few years. This is something we are unfortunately used to, with around 1,000 incursions by Chinese military aircraft last year and around 800 so far this year, in addition to China's continued efforts to block Taiwan's international engagement. We are counting on our determination to overcome the challenges and are determined to fight for the sovereignty, survival and prosperity of the Republic of China, as well as the security and well-being of all Taiwanese. We know that defending Taiwan is our own responsibility, and we will not ask other countries to fight to defend us, but we do expect them to provide us with defensive armaments. We intend to work on self-defence and ensure our national security, and our military is working to improve its defensive combat capabilities and asymmetric combat capabilities to respond to China's military provocations. We do not seek conflict, as we know that there are no winners in wars, only losers, but we will do our utmost to defend ourselves. In Taiwan, Chinese threats create more mistrust towards Beijing. 

Q: Do you believe that, in the event of a Chinese invasion, you will be able to count on US military support? 

A: During the recent videoconference conversation between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping on July 28, the fifth time between the two, the US president stressed once again that US policy on Taiwan has not changed, and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the 'status quo' or undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Since taking office, President Biden has emphasised several times, as I mentioned earlier, that the US commitment to Taiwan is "rock solid", and he has stressed the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.