If the UK is serious about its post Brexit status as ‘Global Britain’, it must show its support for Taiwan by ending its informal ban on Cabinet officials meeting with their Taiwanese counterparts, according to a think tank report.
Supporting Taiwan: A Calling for Global Britain, published today by the Henry Jackson Society, criticises what it brands the “self-imposed restrictions” that the UK imposes on its relations with Taiwan.
Since relations with Taiwan were stepped up in 1993, no cabinet minister has visited Taiwan or met with its government as part of an unofficial policy to restrict meetings with Taiwan to the ministerial level. The Foreign Office also does not permit its ministers to travel to Taiwan.
Despite the 20-plus-year-absence of Cabinet-level contact, the British Government has – as yet – declined to set out its policy or provide an explanation for the distinction. The report identifies the absence of severe retribution from China in response to American visits to Taiwan at a Cabinet level as all the encouragement that the UK should require for a policy shift.
One early new bilateral Cabinet visit, according to the report, should be a visit from the recently appointed Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, to learn from Taiwan’s successes in controlling COVID. Over the course of the pandemic, the UK has suffered almost 2,000 deaths per million residents. Taiwan, meanwhile, has suffered just 32.5 deaths per million.
In addition to its ministerial policy shift, the report also recommends:
- Actively supporting Taiwan’s efforts to accede to global international institutions.
- Immediately establish exploratory talks to negotiate a future free trade agreement.
- Establish multi-national mechanisms to buy up Taiwanese products subject to arbitrary sanctions by China.
- Cease and desist the usage of any language that suggests equivalency in responsibility for recent escalations in tension between China and Taiwan.
In the words of the Author
“China has been unrelenting in its efforts to isolate and intimidate Taiwan in recent years. Despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties there are plenty of ways in which Britain, and the rest of the liberal democratic world, can support Taiwan.
From Cabinet-level visits to supporting Taipei’s efforts to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Such steps will increase Taiwan’s role on the world stage and strengthen the country’s resilience in the face of increasing pressure from Beijing.”
Gray Sergeant, Research Fellow