Lai's provocative US transit for selfish gains
Published: Aug 09, 2023 09:28 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

On August 12, Lai Ching-te, deputy regional leader of the Taiwan island, will attend the inauguration ceremony of Paraguay's newly elected president, Mario Abdo Benítez, as a special envoy of the regional leader Tsai Ing-wen. The official itinerary includes attending the inauguration ceremony of the new president of Paraguay, but the most important aspect is transiting through the US and meeting with US officials.

In August 2018, Tsai Ing-wen attended the inauguration ceremony of the president of Paraguay. This time, instead of Tsai, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sent Lai to attend Benítez's inauguration ceremony. 

The most important reason for this is that Lai will represent the DPP in the next election for the regional leader of Taiwan. Tsai hopes to give Lai more experience in handling external affairs and demonstrate his ability to handle "foreign affairs" to the Taiwan residents in order to win their votes. 

However, it is clear that the DPP, Tsai and Lai have faced heavy criticism from the Taiwan residents for their handling of the island's external relations. During Tsai's more than seven years in power, the number of Taiwan region's "diplomatic allies" has dropped from 22 in 2016 to 13 in 2023. In contrast, during Ma Ying-jeou's eight years in power, the number of Taiwan region's "diplomatic allies" fell by only one. 

In addition, since 2016, Taiwan's representatives have been repeatedly excluded from international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The Tsai authorities claim that its relationship with the world's No.1 superpower, the US, has "never been closer," citing the larger amount and greater quantity of weapons and equipment sold by the US to the Taiwan island. However, the purpose of the US selling weapons and equipment to Taiwan region is to further turn the island into a pawn in its containment of China, to pit the Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits against each other, and to turn Taiwan region into a real powder keg.

There is no doubt that the most important part of Lai's trip is not attending President Benítez's inauguration ceremony but transiting through the US. In addition, Lai also wants to take this opportunity to meet with US officials. 

Currently, it seems that candidates participating in the election for the regional leader of Taiwan must seek support from the US. In April of this year, the candidate from the Taiwan People's Party, Ko Wen-je, had already completed his visit to the US. In April and August, Terry Gou, the founder of Foxconn and a potential candidate, visited the US twice. It is said that the candidate from the Kuomintang, Hou Yu-ih, will also visit the US in September. Lai, can only achieve the purpose of visiting the US and meeting with US officials to seek support in transit. 

According to the current arrangement, Lai will transit through New York on the outbound journey and transit through San Francisco on the return journey. The most important task during his stay will be to connect with various sectors in the US, demonstrate his pro-American stance and hope to gain the approval of the US for his candidacy as the next regional leader of Taiwan island.

The main reason why various candidates are rushing to visit the US is the US intervention in Taiwan region's politics, especially during elections. A strong pro-American atmosphere has formed in Taiwan region. Although suspicions about the US have risen among the Taiwan residents after the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, many still have unrealistic expectations of the US. 

However, the elites and residents in Taiwan should consider that the 2024 election is for the regional leader of Taiwan island, which should be decided by the Taiwan residents themselves, not designated by the US. They should also consider what is beneficial for Taiwan region's future development, rather than just meeting the expectations of the US. From this perspective, it is absurd for candidates for the regional leader of Taiwan to rush to visit the US, and it can even be deemed as "selling out" Taiwan island.

The author is research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn