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China Attempts to Bully UK on Agreement with Taiwan

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The United Kingdom and Taiwan have taken a significant step in strengthening their bilateral relationship through a new trade agreement. This move, however, has not been well received by China, which views Taiwan as a part of its territory and strongly opposes any international recognition of Taiwan’s sovereignty.

The agreement, officially termed the Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP), was signed by Kelly Hsieh, Taiwan’s representative to the UK, and John Dennis, his British counterpart in Taipei. This groundbreaking partnership is set to facilitate future discussions on various trade-related issues, including green energy, digital trade, and investment. The United Kingdom, a major trading partner of Taiwan in Europe and globally, views this agreement as a landmark in elevating trade relations to new levels. The ETP is seen as a pioneering framework that could inspire similar agreements between Taiwan and other European countries.

However, the agreement has stirred controversy with China, which claims Taiwan as its province and is adamantly against any actions that might imply Taiwan’s independence. Despite this, many countries maintain informal relations with Taiwan, especially in the realm of trade and economics.

Beijing’s response to the UK-Taiwan agreement was swift and clear. The Chinese embassy in London released a statement urging the UK to adhere to the one-China principle and to refrain from using trade cooperation as a pretext for official interactions or to bolster substantial relations with Taiwan. This stance highlights China’s sensitivity towards any form of official contact between countries with diplomatic relations with China and Taiwan, which it considers a part of its territory.

Amidst global economic challenges and geopolitical instabilities, numerous governments are exploring ways to reduce their reliance on Chinese trade. This strategy, termed as “derisking” by the United States, includes efforts to diversify economic partnerships. Taiwan’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a move crucial for its economic strategy and supported by the UK, is a part of this global trend. However, China, also vying for membership in the CPTPP, opposes Taiwan’s inclusion.

The situation is further complicated by the requirement of unanimous support from current CPTPP members for any new entrant. Several members, notably Japan, are resistant to China’s membership. In this context, the UK’s agreement with Taiwan gains additional significance as a strategic move in the broader landscape of international trade and diplomacy.

The UK-Taiwan agreement is more than a mere trade deal; it represents a diplomatic balancing act in a complex global scenario where economic interests, geopolitical strategies, and national sovereignties intertwine. While the UK does not officially recognize Taiwan’s government, the strengthening of economic and informal relations through this agreement is a clear indicator of the shifting dynamics in international relations, especially concerning China and Taiwan.

China’s attempt to bully the UK into canceling this agreement is disturbing but expected. China is not above threatening sanctions against the UK and using its strong trade position as blackmail. But with China’s threats against Taiwan, perhaps the West is slowly strengthening in its resolve against Chinese belligerence.

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