Former French Defence Minister Alain Richard will lead a delegation despite an attempt by the Chinese embassy in Paris to block the trip. Meanwhile, China’s “intimidation” against European governments continues as evince by the Lithuania case. The EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific also stems from an interest in Taiwanese microchips.
Taipei (AsiaNews) – A group of French senators are challenging mainland China by visiting Taiwan from 4 to 11 October, the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry reported without providing further details.
Alain Richard, Defence Minister under President Jacques Chirac, will lead the French delegation; currently, he chairs the Franco-Taiwanese friendship group in the French Senate.
Richard has visited Taiwan several times. In February, when his visit to the island became public knowledge, the Chinese ambassador to France Lu Shaye wrote him a letter urging him not to go.
According to the Chinese diplomat, Richard's trip violates the "one China principle" and sends a “wrong” signal of support for Taiwanese independence.
For Beijing, Taiwan is a “rebel” province, and Chinese President Xi Jinping has not ruled out taking it by force.
The French Foreign Ministry firmly responded to Lu's letter saying that French senators are free to meet anyone they want when they go on missions.
Increasingly, European countries are showing that they are unwilling to put up with China’s “intimidation”.
On 13 September, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, current head of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, asked member states to support Lithuania, which has been targeted by the Chinese government.
On 10 August, China recalled its ambassador to Vilnius in protest against the Lithuanian government's decision to allow the Taiwanese government to open a representative office under the name Taiwan.
According to some media, Beijing imposed trade sanctions against the Baltic country, including the suspension of freight train service to Lithuania.
This is not the first time that Chinese leaders and diplomats have tried to intervene in relations between European states and Taiwan.
In August 2020, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi went so far as to threaten Czech Senate Speaker Miloš Vystrčil, who was visiting Taipei at that time, saying that Vystrčil would “pay a heavy price” for it.
Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib was given the same treatment for the twinning his city with Taipei.
The EU has always had a cautious approach towards Taiwan, trying to support Taipei without damaging relations with China, the Union's largest trading partner.
However, the new EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific contains an element of novelty in this regard. Approved by the European Parliament on 16 September, the document suggests a more proactive approach towards Taiwan.
In fact, the EU wants to further trade and investments talks with Taiwan with European interest mainly focused on microchip production and supply, one of the island’s main exports.
The strategy also highlights how the show of force and growing tensions in the Taiwan Strait (and in the South China Sea) can have a direct impact on EU security and prosperity, a reference to Chinese military development in the region and the US response.