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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Significance of Truss’ support for Taiwan

Significance of Truss’ support for Taiwan

Seeing former British prime minister Liz Truss visit Taiwan, pro-China politicians unfamiliar with British politics have lashed out by calling her a “washed-up political figure” who is seeking to make political capital out of the visit. With British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak backtracking on a pledge to shut down 30 Chinese state-sponsored Confucius Institutes across the UK, these politicians capitalized on the opportunity to disparage the significance of her visit to Taiwan.

However, anyone familiar with British politics would know that Truss is anything but a “washed up second-rate” politician. Chinese officials should not be so quick to write her off, as there remains the possibility that she could return as foreign secretary or assume another prominent government office.

When former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher visited Taiwan in 1992, she was no longer a member of the House of Commons who exercised real power, but a peer in the House of Lords, which is essentially a retirement position. However, as Truss is still a sitting member of the House of Commons, she has every opportunity of re-entering the Cabinet, especially as one of the four Great Offices of State: prime minister, chancellor of the exchequer, home secretary and foreign secretary.

Therefore, Truss’ visit is significant because it marks the first time a former British prime minister who is still an MP has set foot in Taiwan. As long as she remains an MP and the UK needs her, the chances of her being appointed to a major office are still on the table, as in the case of former British prime minister Winston Churchill, who served twice as prime minister.

So far, Sunak ally British Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s pro-China policy are not winning favor with the British public. The hawkish wing of the governing Conservative Party has established the China Research Group, an influential political organization modeled after the European Research Group that pushed for a no-nonsense, hard Brexit. Following the Conservative Party’s heavy losses in the local elections early this month, Sunak could be pressured into stepping down or ousted by his backbenchers in due course.

While Truss is visiting Taiwan as the G7 summit goes on in Hiroshima, Japan, her predecessor, Boris Johnson, flew to South Korea. The two displayed the Conservative Party’s hardline policy on China, and called on G7 leaders to take a tougher stance toward Beijing as it seeks to challenge the US-led global order.

Consequently, Truss’ argument during her visit in Taiwan could one day turn into policy.

“They [China] have already formed alliances with other nations that want to see the free world in decline. They have already made a choice about their strategy. The only choice we have is whether we appease and accommodate — or we take action to prevent conflict,” Truss said.

On the other side of the world, a 10-strong bipartisan delegation led by US Representative Mike Gallagher, chairman of the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the US and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is to spend three days in the UK meeting British ministers, officials and backbenchers to discuss a common approach to hostile activities by the CCP.

In view of these other events, Truss’ visit to Taiwan is not only an open display of support for Taiwan, but also a wake-up call for businesspeople, China Hands and politicians who still harbor fantasies about China. Anyone who deemed Truss an “out-of-touch politician” is out of touch with British politics.


Martin Oei is a Hong Kong-born British political commentator based in Germany and a member of the British Conservative Party.

Translated by Rita Wang

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2023/05/20

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