In a wide-ranging speech in the Taiwanese capital, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a provocative argument for a “modernized One China framework.”
- Scott Morrison said Taiwan and any potential conflict over it were above even Ukraine.
- Mr Morrison said it was time to modernize the One China policy.
- China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, criticized Mr Morrison for visiting Taiwan.
Mr Morrison is in Taipei to speak at the Yushan Forum – alongside Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Nauru President Russ Kun and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft.
He also attended Taiwan’s National Day celebrations on Tuesday and had an hour-long meeting with President and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu in the afternoon.
In a speech at a dinner hosted by Mr Wu on Wednesday evening, Mr Morrison argued that Taiwan and any potential conflict over it was above even Ukraine.
“No place could be more central to the cause of freedom and democracy right now than Taiwan, including even Ukraine, where war continues to rage,” he said. .
“When my government made the decision for Australia to quickly provide lethal support to Ukraine, following Russia’s illegal invasion, it was as much a decision to support Ukraine as it was to demonstrate our alignment with global Western determination to resist Ukraine’s authoritarian aggression, especially given Beijing’s tacit approval of the invasion, which continues to this day.
“I was as concerned about Beijing as I was about Moscow.”
Taiwan is a self-governing democracy that has never been ruled by the current Chinese communist government.
Despite this, China still claims Taiwan as part of its territory, calling the ruling Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) separatist, and does not rule out the use of force to achieve reunification.
Morrison calls for modernization of One China policy
Mr Morrison argued it was time to modernize the One China policy – under which Australia recognizes but does not acknowledge China’s claims to Taiwan.
“This assessment should call into question the justice of denying the people of Taiwan, who have expressed a clear preference for freedom through the success of their representative democracy, greater certainty of their autonomy and the opportunity to participate more fully to global and regional affairs,” he said. said.
“This means positively expanding the scope and nature of our unofficial relations with Taiwan, both bilateral and multilateral in non-political, humanitarian, scientific and commercial areas, within the modernized One-China framework.”
He added that this would include Taiwan’s membership in the CPTPP, Interpol, ICAO, WHO and other UN forums, as well as engaging non-members in the QUAD.
Dr Benjamin Herscovitch, from the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, agreed that the Albanian government could pursue a much more ambitious agenda with Taiwan.
He said this would involve resuming free trade negotiations, supporting Taiwan’s CPTPP candidacy and facilitating ministerial visits to the island.
“However, Mr Morrison’s suggestions clearly contrast with the Coalition’s recent record on Australia-Taiwan relations,” Dr Herscovitch said.
“Despite using stronger diplomatic language towards Taiwan and advocating for Taiwanese participation in the World Health Assembly, coalition governments after 2013 were reluctant to pursue certain forms of engagement with Taipei.
“The Turnbull government abandoned a bilateral FTA with Taiwan, apparently under pressure from Beijing. The Morrison government subsequently took a cautious approach to Taipei’s attempt to join the CPTPP.”
China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, criticized Mr Morrison on Wednesday for visiting Taiwan.
“We appreciate that every government in this country has publicly declared its commitment to the one-China policy,” he said.
“And we hope that this policy will be put into practice not only in words but also in deeds.”
Morrison warns against ‘appeasement’ of China
Mr Morrison also warned against any “appeasement” of China, in what could be seen as advice to the Albanian government, which has pledged to “stabilize” relations with Beijing.
During the Morrison government’s tenure, relations with China reached an all-time low, with unofficial tariffs and bans imposed on several Australian products, including coal, wine, barley and lobster, and official communications virtually ceased.
“I welcome the fact that Australia and the PRC (People’s Republic of China) are talking again,” he said.
“However, I note that Beijing has not retracted any of its expressed grievances with Australia, which included our commitment to freedom of expression, our freedom of the press and the sovereign right to develop and enforce foreign investment and national security laws.
“And while the removal of some illegal trade sanctions is welcome, it is something that should be expected, not praised, and certainly not bargained for – in doing so it demeans the sacrifice Australians have made in defending our own freedom and our sovereignty.”
Mr Morrison has argued for active deterrence against China – suggesting his government has suffered from its willingness to stand up to Beijing.
“Some will also argue that updating our understanding of the status quo regarding Taiwan and our one-China policy risks provoking the PRC and harming the fragile stability achieved over the past 50 years,” he said. .
“Perhaps – but such criticism confesses that the PRC is an aggressor that must be appeased through the One-China policy, rather than actively deterred.
“For those who believe that deterrence is provocation, this view gives free rein to the fantasy that China plays by the same rules and shares a similar perspective. This is not the case…the PRC will continue to push the boundaries until someone is willing to say no.”
Dr Herscovitch said while it was unsurprising that Beijing would take a “dour view” of Mr Morrison’s comments, it was unlikely the Chinese government would be particularly concerned, coming from a backbencher. opposition – even if it is a former Prime Minister.
Finally, Mr Morrison called on Taiwan to work more urgently to strengthen its deterrence against China, as well as build its resilience to survive a blockade.
Taiwan’s military is vastly outnumbered by China’s People’s Liberation Army, and it is widely believed that the self-ruled island would need the United States, and potentially its allies, to help defend itself. in the event of a Chinese invasion.
Recently, Taiwan launched its first indigenously built submarine, which President Tsai highlighted in her National Day speech on Tuesday, and starting next year, mandatory military service will increase from four to 12 months for young men.
“Israel is an even smaller nation than Taiwan and also lives under constant threat, but spends proportionately much more on its defense,” Mr Morrison said.
The ABC has contacted Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment.