The country named new heads of defense and China policy in what is being interpreted as an attempt to cool cross-strait tensions and work with the United States. Taiwan named a new defense minister and Chinese policy this week, replacing ministers who are likely to be designed to align their geopolitical strategy with goal of US President Joe Biden.
Chiu Tai-san was sworn in on Feb. 23 as chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which oversees policy on China, Hong Kong and Macau. He replaces Chen Ming-tong, who was appointed head of the National Security Bureau (NSB). Chiu, 64, served as Minister of Justice from 2016 to 2018. He served in the MAC from 2004 to 2005 under former President Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration.
Chiu said at his inauguration on Tuesday that he would try to improve relations with China, which has been strained since Beijing severed ties with Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen took power in 2016. Analysts said Chiu is more moderate on China than his predecessors, and his appointment could be a peace process extending from Taipei to Beijing.
But under Xi Jinping, Taipei does not expect any real progress in re-establishing ties with the Chinese government, which has stood firm on its ultimate desire to assert sovereignty over Taiwan. Instead, the move could be an attempt by Taipei to adapt to the Biden administration, which is expected to strongly support Taiwan’s sovereignty but is unlikely to confront China like the administration of former President Donald Trump. Tsai’s spokesman said the reshuffle was in response to regional and international political changes as evidence of a possible Biden administration.
In December, Biden’s Indo-Pacific Policy Coordinator Kurt Campbell said “productive and quiet talks” between Beijing and Taipei were “the best strategic interests”. On Tuesday, Chiu hoped that Taiwan and China could move towards a change based on reality. This does not mean that Tsai changed the policy behind her government policy. Ms. Tsai officially denied independence, saying that Taiwan was “already independent” and made Taiwan’s sovereignty a precondition for any talks between Taipei and Beijing.
Tsai continues to reject the so-called “1992 consensus” that Beijing and Taipei adhere to as the basis for talks. Initial consensus claimed that both sides agreed to have “one China” but disagreed on “one China” means. However, Beijing refused to allow Taiwan to be free to interpret the country “one China”.
Chiu said on Tuesday that Beijing’s insistence on the “one China” aspect was unacceptable to the people of Taiwan. The reshuffle this week also saw NSB head Chiu Kuo-cheng replace Defense Minister Yen Te-fa, who is now Tsai’s national security adviser. The Presidential Office spokesman, Chang Tun Han, said in a press brief that as Defense Minister Chiu would be expected to monitor Taiwan’s military reforms, including the emphasis on unreasonable warfare.