“Taiwan showcases an alternative to China’s autocratic model”
A Swedish parliamentary delegation arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for a four-day visit. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Charlie Weimers, a member of the European Parliament, talked about how Taiwan offers an alternative to China’s autocratic model to European countries.
DW: What are some of the goals that the delegation hopes to achieve through this visit to Taiwan?
Charlie Weimers: The trip is about finding out more about the people and a country that I have much respect for and have been advocating for in Europe with regard to the financial sector and with regard to trade, geopolitics and much more.
When it comes to the delegation as a whole, we want to find out more about Swedish-Taiwan trade relations and we want to learn what lessons the Taiwanese have learned from the changing geopolitical reality in Europe and the world.
Also, we are hoping to learn about Taiwanese efforts to fight disinformation. This is very crucial for us. Having to fight Russian disinformation on a regular basis over the year.
I think one of the most interesting things that I look forward to is learning about Taiwanese efforts to decouple from China. I know that’s a big challenge for Taiwan and that is also the case for Europe, mainly for Sweden, as it has invested a lot in the Chinese market.
It is an important issue for us to learn from Taiwan’s experience and to exchange ideas about how to strengthen the resilience of our supply chains.
DW: After several incidents over the last few years, the EU is now reviewing how it handles its relationship with China. From your perspective, can Taiwan become an alternative as European countries look for other partners to work with in Asia?
Charlie Weimers: I think Taiwan should be one of the main options to China when we try to decouple from China, as I hope we will. I think Taiwan is to be seen in a bigger context of Asian democracy. We need to find ways to develop ties with the Indo-Pacific without depending on China.
When it comes to the Swedish relations with China, I think it’s quite ironic that the PRC was so unable to read the mentality of the Swedes that it sent a wolf-warrior to try to subdue us and make us kowtow.
That only strengthened the Swedes’ awareness that we need to re-orient and we need to set our priorities straight. That was a big mistake by the CCP and they have drawn some conclusions from that. When we see Sweden and Brussels as well is that the re-orientation started with the conservatives and some progressives.
The alignment between the right and the left, basically bypassing the center in European politics, is the key to stopping the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment.
Reinhard Bütikofer was one of my main allies when I draft the Taiwan resolution, which was the first resolution on Taiwan in the European parliament. Through that alliance, it became possible to push the center in the right direction.
I think it has to do with people like me, the conservatives, we see a big geopolitical factor here that Taiwan is showcasing an alternative to the autocratic Chinese model.
Bütikoferr is very involved with the persecution of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and I’m involved in those issues too. There is an alliance between geopolitical hawks and human rights defending politicians in Europe, which is something that speaks in favor of Taiwan and it’s pushing the European Union in a new direction on China.
The EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) is more or less dead and it won’t be rising up anytime soon. I’m quite sure. While the bilateral investment agreement (BIA) with Taiwan is far from dead.
It’s put on hold by the commission but I expect not least when Europeans realize the geopolitical implication of the Chinese working with Russia, I think that will make the resistance against the BIA hard to maintain.
DW: Over the last year, some European countries try to elevate bilateral ties with Taiwan. However, China responded by increasing pressure on those countries in different ways. Do you think Lithuania’s experience has pushed other European countries to re-evaluate their relationship with China or Taiwan?
Charlie Weimers: I think the governments of Europe sense imperialism when they see it. What they see in China’s action is the old-style imperialism that is also shown by Russia.
The reactions to the Chinese efforts to put a stranglehold on smaller countries like Lithuania are very encouraging. I do think that we need to sit down and think about how to strengthen our resilience against these kinds of hostile actions because I don’t expect Beijing to stop its game here soon.
Australia’s case shows that it’s not limited to the issue of Taiwan either. It’s a wholesome, imperialist mentality that governs Beijing. I think what we need to think about is the strategy that makes it possible for small countries to pursue an independent, sovereign foreign policy.
Also, safeguard freedom of speech in free countries. A country is not fully free if basketball players can’t express solidarity with Hong Kongers. It’s a big problem that we need to look at it in its full context.
I think that’s what the EU should do and I think that’s one of the most important things we could do in order to strengthen our support for the Taiwanese people in their efforts to remain free.
This interview was first published in Mandarin on DW’s website.