Former U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss calls for allies to deepen engagement with Taiwan at the Tokyo Symposium of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC)

Former British Prime Minister, Liz Truss delivers a speech at a symposium of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), in Tokyo, Japan, February 17, 2023. REUTERS/Androniki Christodoulou

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss gave timely, honest, and  powerful speech at the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) @ipacglobal event in Japan this week. In an optimistic speech which condemned the Cameron era’s so-called Golden Era of Sino-British relations, Truss outlined the PRC’s recent escalation of hostilities against Taiwan and condemned them as unacceptable saying, “Taiwan is a beacon of freedom in the world … It is a flourishing democracy with a thriving free press and independent judiciary”

She continued, “We should be doing all we can to strengthen our ties with Taiwan. We know that doing more now will help prevent tragedy later.” Referencing Ukraine, she asked whether if allies had given weapons and support earlier in addition to offering NATO membership, would Putin have invaded, adding that “we must learn from this and ensure Taiwan can defend itself.”

Truss also called for a more developed Pacific Defence Alliance stating, “It is so important we all do what we can to support Taiwan. We know that prevention is better than cure. If we build up defence and economic links [with Taiwan] now, we can help to build up Taiwan and help protect freedom.” Truss called for the G7 and EU to act as an “economic NATO” to ‘friendshore’ supply chains, counter the Belt and Road initiative, and change the UK Government’s country status for the PRC, which still classifies it as a developing economy.

The former Foreign Minister called for the CPTPP to be expanded and to act as “a bulwark for free trade” as well as more bilateral agreements with Taiwan saying, “our strength is in numbers and this must be applied to Taiwan”. Taiwan’s diplomatic status should be elevated and there should be an end to its exclusion from international organisations, mirroring many of the conclusions in the Taiwan Policy Centre’s most recent report, “Taiwan Respected”.

Truss concluded by stating that “the international community should agree a package of coordinated defence, economic, and political measures to support Taiwan now. We need this to protect the interests of the people of Taiwan. But it is also in our interests ensuring that trade and free navigation can continue unimpeded. We need this now before it’s too late.”

Critically, Truss drew attention to Taiwan’s unfair and illogical exclusion from much of the international stage, something that was not in the UK’s own interests. “Taiwan is still excluded from many international organisations such as the World Health Organisation. It’s not just bad for Taiwan, it also damages our access to information. This lack of status was very unhelpful during the Covid pandemic. We had a lot to learn from Taiwan but unfortunately the channels to communicate properly simply weren’t available. Righting this wrong wouldn’t just be in our interests, it would help ensure that the people of Taiwan are able to speak for themselves rather than being spoken for.”

It was a speech which recognised and respecting the Taiwanese right for a seat at the table and one that has been long overdue, the only pity being that that it has been made now she has left office rather than while she was Foreign Secretary or Prime Minister. We are however very pleased to see this discursive shift in debate about Taiwan’s role in the world, it’s right to self-determination, and the UK’s relationship with it. We have reached out to Ms Truss to continue the conversation about the proposals in our report and the work we do educating on Taiwan with this website and across other media. We hope this marks a turning point for how Taiwan is understood and valued across Westminster in a way that is substantially reflected in policy and practice. 

You can watch the full speech focused on Taiwan by @trussliz  – WATCH HERE

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