Taiwan’s economy hopes to identify itself more closely with an emerging “Indo-Pacific” bloc of Asian economies, while China is still angry over the last Taiwan crisis. The consequences of 1996 crisis disrupted naval shipping and commercial air traffic, causing harm to island’s economy.
Taiwan can play a significant role in building the alternative sphere of influence, minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said in a recent interview. Chang Hsiao-yueh added as well that an island would like to see the more detailed substance of Trump’s Indo-Pacific alliance plan.
The U.S., Japan, Australia and New Zealand, India and Southeast Asia “should work together to ensure that [Asia] is stable” and Taiwan can contribute, Chang suggested.
“We hope China can act as a stakeholder of peace and stability instead of trying to show a more assertive role.”
Taiwan’s drive to strengthen trade and investment links with the 10 ASEAN countries, as well as with South Asian nations plus Australia and New Zealand, began last year when President Tsai Ing-wen’s government launched a “New Southbound Policy.” But recent events have added impetus to the move.
This is being driven by both push and pull factors, officials say. On the one hand, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s perceived strong-arm rule is making Taiwan officials and businesspeople nervous about having “too many eggs in the same basket” so far as economic dependence on China is concerned.
According to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council Chang, island’s priority is to ‘preserve peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits’. So far, the situation is stable, there is no sign that there will be any incident or confrontation. Moreover, the recent US assurances of continued military and other support for Taiwan have added comfort.
Undoubtedly, it is logically that Taiwan wants to reduce economic dependence on China, Taipei’s freedom of manoeuvre and agreements with countries investors is limited by Beijing’s insistence that it is a part of China and not an independent state. But countries in and beyond Asia that are anxious to temper China’s assertiveness may be more willing to regard Taiwan as a partner.