Humanitarian aid to Ukraine has become a new source of friction between China and Taiwan, the self-governed island that Beijing considers to be part of its territory and that it has not given up unifying by force. The Chinese government has accused Taipei of “taking advantage of the difficulties of others”, after the Executive of President Tsai Ing-wen announced a new shipment of donations for the refugees.
Both sides of the strait have reacted in opposite ways to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. China maintains a position of neutrality tilted towards Moscow, avoids condemning the war, attributes responsibility for the conflict to the United States and NATO and calls for the lifting of Western sanctions against Russia.
Taipei, for its part, has joined the international punitive measures and alleges that it has an obligation to align itself with other democracies. It has imposed restrictions on the export of some 20 million dollars in semiconductors to Russia, and has blocked the access of Russian banks to the Swift system of international payments.
The population of the island follows with attention —and sympathy towards Ukraine— a conflict in which they perceive some similarities to their own circumstances. Among them – and although Ukraine’s situation is very different from Taiwan’s, diplomatically and militarily – the fear of being invaded at some point by a much larger, more powerful neighbor with no interest in the Western model of liberal democracy. “Ukraine today, Taiwan tomorrow” is a slogan that ran through Taiwanese social networks in the first days after the invasion; Demonstrations of support for the country from the former Soviet orbit have become frequent in the main cities.
Both China and Taiwan have sent aid to Ukrainian refugees, albeit in different amounts. The second economy in the world, with 1.4 billion inhabitants, has sent food and basic necessities through its Red Cross worth five million yuan, or 717,000 euros, to assist those who arrive at the Romanian or Moldovan border. Taiwan, with a population of 24 million people, announced at the beginning of this month a donation of 3.5 million dollars, to which this week it has declared that it will add another 11.5 million dollars, which will be used on the border polish President Tsai has given up one month of her salary.
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At the regular press conference of the Taiwan Affairs Office, the government body in Beijing in charge of relations with the island, its spokesman Zhu Fenglian accused the Tsai government on Wednesday of taking advantage of the problems in Ukraine to target so many politicians . “The authorities of the Democratic Progressive Party (PDP, Tsai’s party) use the Ukrainian question to validate their existence and benefit from a burning issue, taking advantage of the difficulties of others,” Zhu pointed out. “Their attempts to incite confrontation and create hostility through political manipulation will not succeed.”
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, the Taiwanese government – which during Tsai’s tenure has made the modernization of its armed forces one of its priorities, in the face of increasing pressure from China in the form of military exercises and almost daily flights over the Taiwanese air defense zone – has given a new impetus to the training of its reservists and the national production of weapons, including missiles and drones. The United States, its great defense ally, sent a delegation of retired military commanders as a sign of support for Taipei.
“The recent situation in Ukraine proves once again that the protection of the country, in addition to international solidarity and aid, depends on the unity of all the people,” Tsai declared this weekend, during a visit to a reservist training center. .