China threatened new trade measures against Taiwan on Tuesday, ahead of the island’s weekend presidential and parliamentary elections.
Taiwan has accused China of unprecedented campaign of election interferenceThomson Reuters
· Posted: Jan 09, 2024 10:02 AM EST | Last Updated: January 9
Lai Ching-te, Taiwan’s vice-president and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, waves as he walks next to Hsiao Bi-khim, the party’s vice-presidential candidate, in Taipei, Taiwan, on Tuesday. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)China threatened new trade measures against Taiwan on Tuesday, piling on pressure ahead of weekend elections, as Taipei complained of more Chinese balloons and the ruling party’s presidential candidate warned against “fake peace” with Beijing.
Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary elections are taking place against a backdrop of a ramped-up war of words between Taiwan and China, which views the island as its own territory, despite the strong objections of the Taiwanese government.
Taiwan has accused China of an unprecedented campaign of election interference, using everything from military activity to trade sanctions to sway the vote toward candidates Beijing may prefer.
China has cast the election as a choice between war and peace, and says interference allegations are “dirty tricks” from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to try and win support.
The DPP’s presidential candidate, Lai Ching-te, said on Tuesday he would maintain the status quo and pursue peace through strength if elected, remaining open to engagement with Beijing under the preconditions of equality and dignity.
Beijing has denounced him as a separatist and warned that any attempt to push for Taiwan’s formal independence means conflict.
Despite this, Lai pledged to try to engage with China.
“Peace is priceless and war has no winners,” Lai told reporters at a news conference. “Peace without sovereignty is just like Hong Kong. It is fake peace.”
Supporters of Lai cheer during an election campaign event in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on Jan. 6, 2024. Taiwan will hold its presidential election on Jan. 13. (Chiang Ying-ying/The Associated Press)Beijing is unswayed by Lai’s outreach attempts.
On Tuesday evening, China’s commerce ministry said it was looking into further measures to suspend tariff concessions on products including agriculture and fishery, machinery, auto parts and textiles from Taiwan, following up on a move made against some petrochemical products last month.
“Taiwan authorities have not taken effective measures to lift trade restrictions on China. Instead, they have engaged in political manoeuvring in an attempt to plant blame and evade responsibility,” the Chinese ministry said in a statement.
False alarms and Chinese balloonsAdding to the tense atmosphere, a separate news conference in Taipei on Tuesday with Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu was interrupted by the shrill sound of a government mobile phone alert warning of a possible Chinese air raid.
The defence ministry then had to apologize after the English version of the alert referred to a “missile,” but in Chinese a “satellite.” The alert came around the same time Chinese state media confirmed the launch of a science satellite.
Still, Wu described the launch as part of a pattern of harassment toward Taiwan, just like recent cases of Chinese balloons spotted over the island.
“With these kinds of threats against Taiwan, I think we should be clear-eyed, we should not be provoked.”
Taiwan’s opposition jumped on the snafu, blaming the government for misleading the public.
Taiwan’s Nationalist Party presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih reacts to supporters from a motorcade as he canvassed a neighbourhood in Taipei, Taiwan, on Tuesday. Taiwan holds presidential and parliamentary elections Saturday that China has described as a choice between war and peace. (Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press)Taiwan has continued to complain since last month of Chinese balloons flying over the sensitive Taiwan Strait, some of which have crossed the island, in what its defence ministry has called an effort at psychological warfare, though not directly saying the balloons are for spying purposes.
Xi says ‘reunification’ inevitable The ministry said at its own separate briefing on Tuesday that they had not recovered any remains of the balloons and were not at the moment considering shooting them down.
“We won’t attack and destroy due to the harassment of the balloons,” said Wang Chia-chun from the ministry’s joint combat planning department.
Top Chinese leaders have generally avoided public comments on the vote, though Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a New Year’s address that China’s “reunification” with Taiwan is inevitable.
Lai, on the other hand, told reporters the election will serve as a “testament to our commitment to democracy,” while noting that China’s alleged interference in this election has been the “most serious” yet.