(Editor’s notes)The conference “Defending Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights — 2022 International Media Symposium on China’s Democratic Future“ was held in Berlin, from September 29th to October 1st, 2022. It was hosted by Sino Euro Voices e.V. and the Federation for a Democratic China. We publish in retrospect the original conference papers and the Chinese translations at this website.
“Why Taiwan matters to Europe” is the topic I`ve been asked to discuss with you. But rather than elaborating on what most of you already know, I`d like to update my input a bit and put the focus on the question, whether the EU is up to the challenge, posed by the recent and most aggressive Chinese show of military force around Taiwan that followed the visit of Nancy Pelosi in Taipei?
My answer in brief: Rhetorically yes. But definitely not in substance. Substance means, whether and to what extent the repeatedly pledged solidarity with the island republic will be followed up by appropriate actions.
That Taiwan matters to Europe as well is an undisputed fact: In terms of values as one of the most vibrant and stable democracies in Asia and – as a not so well-known part of it – with a very vivid and active civil society. In business the island is an important economic partner for the EU – proved by the volume of trade, the large amount of Foreign Direct Investment by European companies on the island and on top of it by the fact that Taiwan is not only an indispensable supplier of chips, but its leading companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) being hotly sought-after partners for joint R & D.
And finally, the Europeans, albeit somewhat late, have become aware of the pivotal role that the island republic, sitting in the middle of the first island chain in the Western Pacific, is playing for the security in the Indo-Pacific region vis-à-vis a progressively assertive China striving for dominance in the region, including the control of vital sea lanes.
Based on that and combined with China`s escalating threats against the de-facto independent island, a new perception of Taiwan in the regional and global context, has evolved in Europe. The resulting attempts to translate this newly won perception into an upgraded policy towards Taiwan has two main drivers.
Just briefly. At the bilateral level that’s the Central European EU member states Czechia and Slovakia and as the frontrunner further north, Lithuania. At the multilateral level it`s the European Parliament. Just 2 weeks ago, the EP with overwhelming majority passed its 6t or 7th resolution on Taiwan. Apart from strongly condemning the PLA`s continued aggressive posturing around the island, all the resolutions that have been passed and directed to the EU commission and the 27 member states in recent years raise and repeat the same demands: In favor of intensifying and expanding the political dialogue as well as the economic and technological cooperation with Taiwan, supporting the country`s access to international organizations like the WHA and negotiating a bilateral investment agreement (BIA) with Taiwan. That idea, BTW, has been launched in 2015 already but was up to now never seriously followed up.
I do not want to downplay the progress that has been made. It`s visible f.e. in the soundly institutionalized consultations with the EU on matters of trade and economic cooperation and in the remarkably stepped up frequency of exchanges between European lawmakers at the national as well as the EU level and their colleagues in Taipei. But altogether the process lacks determination, is overcautious and fragmented and far away from giving the solidarity pledge the credibility that is needed.
So, what should be done?
First, for effectively adjusting and recalibrating the EU´s Taiwan policy, a coordinated approach is needed. For that the 27 member states (16 of them with de-facto embassies in Taiwan) should take a close look to what the so called One-China policy means and what not. An unbiased check would show that many or even most of the self-imposed restrictions are not justified by obligations but are rooted in political or rather economic opportunism vis a vis the PRC. The only binding obligation is to recognize that there is no other government than the one in Beijing that is rightfully representing China.
Let`s take the case of Germany: In 1997 the then Economic Minister in the Federal Government, Günter Rexroth, visited Taiwan without causing a stir. It was up to today the last visit at cabinet level. It`s not hard to guess why.
Another example: This summer the speaker of Taiwan`s national parliament, You Si-kun, visited several EU countries with France among others, but not Germany. Whereas in other major Western EU countries the ban of official contacts extends to Taiwan`s Big Five in Taiwan (President, Vicepresident, Primeminister, Foreign and Defense ministers), Germany has added it up to the Big Seven, including the speaker of the national parliament and the prosecutor general. When Taiwan`s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu last autumn visited Brussels for talks with EP lawmakers he did it in private capacity. Currently no chance for that in Germany even if an academic organization would invite Joseph Wu as a scholar, actually his profession before going into politics.
To add an interesting historical note: When West Germany and the PRC established diplomatic relations in Oct. 1972, the One-China Policy has been left out in the agreement, because China was not ready to follow the corresponding German request for supporting the reunification of Germany. Things changed only in 2007, after Beijing had strongly protested against the meeting of Chancellor Merkel with the Dalai Lama that took place in Berlin. To appease Beijing, the then Foreign minister Steinmeier in Nov. 2007 wrote a letter to his Chinese colleague Yang Jiechi, stating that the German government will always stick to the One-China Policy, with the claimed “territorial integrity of China” being out of question.
Secondly: One of the lessons the West has learned from the Russian invasion of the Ukraine is, that the war possibly might have been avoided by a timely and strong preventive deterrence aimed at discouraging Putin from invading the neighboring country. Reacting to China`s show of force following Pelosis`s visit in Taipei, the German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock in August has warned Beijing against escalating tensions with Taiwan by saying: “We do not accept when international law is broken and a powerful neighbor attacks its smaller neighbor in violation of international law – and that of course also applies to China.” A pretty tough warning, indeed. But the warning will only be credible in combination with a `big stick`. For that the EU and the US must close ranks, possibly in the framework of the G 7, and deliver the unmistakable message to Beijing, what high a price China would have to pay for any attempt to invade Taiwan. But for that kind of joint action, I`m afraid, there is still a long way to go – with success anything else than granted.
Jürgen Kahl is a journalist (DPA, NZZ). He has observed and commented on political and economic developments in China and East Asia since the early 1980s.
Jürgen Kahl 康友耿
其一，從雙邊層面來看，歐盟裡中歐成員國捷克和斯洛伐克以及更北面的立陶宛是領跑者。其二，從多邊層面來看，動力來自歐洲議會。就在兩週前，歐洲議會以壓倒性多數通過了關於台灣的第 6 或第 7 項決議。除了強烈譴責解放軍繼續對台島咄咄逼人的姿態外，近年來通過並針對歐盟委員會和 27 個成員國的所有決議，都提出並重複了同樣的要求：與台灣進行政治對話以及經濟和技術合作，支持該國加入世界衛生大會等國際組織，並與台灣談判雙邊投資協議（BIA）。這個想法其實已經在 2015 年推出，但到目前為止從未認真跟進。
首先，為了有效調整和修正歐盟對台政策，需要各國協調一致。為此，27 個成員國（其中 16 個在台灣設有事實上的大使館）應該仔細研究所謂的一個中國政策的真正含義。一項公正的檢視將表明，許多、甚至大多數國家的自我設限，都是不合理，沒有法理依據的，這是出於對中國的政治或更是經濟機會主義。唯一具有約束力的義務是，承認除了北京政府之外，沒有其他政府可以在法理上代表中國。
在這裡補充一個有趣的歷史段子：1972年10月西德和中華人民共和國建交時，協議中沒有提到一個中國政策，因為中國當時還沒有準備好接受德國相應的（兩德）統一的要求。直到 2007 年，北京強烈抗議默克爾總理與達賴喇嘛在柏林會晤之後，情況才發生了變化。為安撫北京，時任外長施泰因邁爾於2007年11月致函中國同事楊潔篪，稱德國政府將始終堅持一個中國政策，「中國領土完整」是不在話下的。
作者 Jürgen Kahl 康友耿曾任德新社駐北京記者，現為新蘇黎世報特約記者。自上世紀八十年代就開始記者生涯，為德文媒體進行有關中國政經和社會問題的分析報導。