Taiwan’s foreign minister on Tuesday told AFP that any conflict between Taiwan and China would be “a disaster — not only for Taiwan but also for China and the rest of the world”.

Speaking during a visit to Slovakia, Joseph Wu also said that China may be ramping up tensions with Taiwan to “divert domestic attention” from an economic slowdown and power shortages.

Joseph Wu
Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu speaking at an event held by Globsec in Slovakia. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC, via Twitter.

Tensions have soared as Beijing steps up air incursions near Taiwan, a self-ruling democracy that the growing Asian power has vowed one day to take over, by force if necessary.

“The classical theory of authoritarian regimes is that, whenever there is a domestic crisis, they would like to create external crises to divert domestic attention.

“This might be the problem we need to confront,” Wu said after giving a speech at an event organised by Globsec, a Slovak international affairs think tank.

“If you look at the current Chinese situation internally, the economy has been slowing down and Western sanctions on China seem to be taking a toll and in recent months we saw that there is a serious shortage of power.

“These kinds of situations might create an environment for the authoritarian leader to think about an action externally to divert domestic attention,” he said.

“The threat is there and the threat is getting worse,” he added.

Taiwan flag
Photo: Taiwan Office of the President, via Flickr.

In his speech in Bratislava, Wu also called for stronger economic ties as part of a “democratic supply chain”, talking up in particular Taiwan’s potential to help the automotive industry — the backbone of the Slovak economy.

“Having reliable suppliers with shared faith in democracy and freedom will supercharge our economies. This is especially important when authoritarian regimes are weaponising trade and orchestrating coercions against democracies,” he said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian earlier protested against Wu’s visit to Slovakia and neighbouring Czech Republic saying he was “a typical Taiwan independence separatist”.

“China firmly opposes these countries conniving with Taiwan independence separatists and demands that relevant countries abide by the ‘one China’ principle and do not provide a platform for activities of Taiwan independence separatists,” he said.

Wu’s visit comes as a  delegation focused on boosting trade and economic ties tours those countries as well as Lithuania, another EU member state that sparked a diplomatic row with China by agreeing to let Taiwan open a representative office under its own name.

Earlier in the year, Lithuania also left China’s 17+1 cooperation forum with Central and Eastern Europe, calling it divisive.

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