China is putting growing pressure on the self-governing island
Milos Vystrcil, president of the Czech Senate, is not commonly compared with John F Kennedy. On Tuesday, however, making a rare visit by a senior European official to the Taiwanese legislature in Taipei, he echoed the US president’s 1963 boast in Berlin by declaring to lawmakers in Mandarin: “I am Taiwanese.” Mr Vystrcil’s remark reflects a growing pushback by western democracies against Chinese pressure on the de facto independent island that Beijing insists is part of China. It came hours after a senior US official pledged a new economic dialogue with Taipei. The US also declassified documents providing more detail on its security assurances to Taiwan.
The moves met predictable fury from China. Foreign minister Wang Yi, himself on a visit to Berlin, said the Czech senator’s arrival in Taiwan “crossed a red line” for which there would be a “heavy price”. But the US and European allies are right to signal carefully calibrated support to Taipei.
China has for months been stepping up aggression in its neighbourhood. Chinese soldiers have clashed with Indian troops on the border. Beijing has escalated efforts to assert control over the South China Sea, and imposed a draconian security law in Hong Kong — torpedoing the “one country, two systems” arrangement it once proposed as a model for Taiwan. Chinese military aircraft and ships have repeatedly menaced the island’s airspace and waters.