On 8 November 2023, the ICDS held an event that featured a panel discussion on “Europe and Taiwan at the times of increasing global tensions” and gathered distinguished guests from government, academia, media, and the public sector.
The event started with the welcoming remarks by Indrek Kannik, Director of the ICDS, who set the tone by stressing that to withstand turbulent times, democratic nations and freedom-loving people should stick together
Director Kannik’s remarks were followed by Dr Jaushieh Joseph Wu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan, who delivered his keynote speech. He emphasised that despite the geographical distance, Taiwan and Estonia not only share similar histories of facing large authoritarian neighbours but also made great strides in democratisation around the same time. Today, China is flexing its muscles, trying to intimidate Taiwan with hybrid warfare and economic coercion and escalating tensions in the Indo-Pacific by sending warplanes and vessels across the median line of the Taiwan Strait on a daily basis. In fact, it has already waged a quiet war against Taiwan in the information space. Together, China and Russia have conducted joint military exercises involving large numbers of bombers and warships. Meanwhile, in Europe, Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and continues to threaten other nations, whereas its atrocities and war crimes prove, beyond doubt, that authoritarian regimes should have no place in modern civilisation.
Experience teaches us that the motives of authoritarian countries are aimed at reshaping the international order to fit their own models. And this is why we should all be concerned, Minister Wu continued. Taiwan strengthens its own defences, toughens its resilience, and is not bowing to pressure. It has joined allies and partners in the common effort to help Ukraine and is not asking for anything in return. Nevertheless, it is reassuring for Taiwan to see that the democratic community has awakened to the danger posed by authoritarian – particularly Chinese – expansionism. Taiwan is not only one of the EU’s top trading partners but also holds a critical position in global supply chains: over 50% of global maritime commercial transportation goes through the Taiwan Strait, and more than 60% of semiconductors are produced in Taiwan. Therefore, any conflict in the Taiwan Strait will lead to severe consequences for not just the immediate region, but the entire global economy. Hence, international attention to China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo has been very effective in keeping PRC aggression at bay.
Taking the stage, Urmas Reinsalu, a Member of Riigikogu and former Defence and Foreign Affairs Minister, noted that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had a profound impact on how the EU and Estonia see Taiwan. Neither Estonia nor Taiwan possesses a strategic depth, so a military action on our territory would be catastrophic, he added. Thus, for small states, deterrence is a priority, providing ample opportunities for Europe to cooperate with the US and the Indo-Pacific nations. Although democracy can sometimes be slow and less efficient in its responses to challenges, it is the most resilient form of government because it is freedom that gives the most effective tools for innovation, he concluded.
The panel discussion on “Europe and Taiwan at the times of increasing global tensions” between Dr Jaushieh Joseph Wu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan, Marko Mihkelson, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at Riigikogu, and Dr Elena Antanassova-Cornelis, Japan Chair at ICDS, was moderated by Leslie Leino from Tallinn University. The panellists agreed that we live in a rapidly changing world where authoritarian regimes try to upend the current rules-based international order. However, they also shared an aspiration that like-minded partners such as Estonia and Taiwan will stand together and safeguard our values and the democratic way of life.
Photo gallery: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjB2wHQ