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Defying China, Ukraine and Taiwan build ties

William Yang Taipei
September 30, 2022

The Ukrainian leader of a pro-Taiwan caucus of lawmakers in Kyiv has said China is "proving to be a friend of our enemy." He added Taiwan could play a role in rebuilding Ukraine.

A blue and yellow flagged pro-Taiwan protest truck in Taipei
Many Taiwanese see parallels with Ukraine in facing a larger neighborImage: Jose Lopes Amaral/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Recently, members of the Ukrainian parliament created a cross-parliamentary caucus to promote economic and cultural exchanges with Taiwan.

Oleksandr Merezhko, the head of the Ukrainian Parliament's foreign policy committee, praised Taiwan's "quick" response to Russia's invasion.

"Taiwan's parliament adopted a resolution in support of Ukraine very quickly and they also imposed strict sanctions on Russia, which was really helpful to us," Merezhko, who initiated the caucus, told DW.

"Taiwan also offered humanitarian aid worth millions of US dollars to support Ukraine," he added.

Russia,China build ties in tense times 

Before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met and declared a "no limits" friendship between their countries.

As the war drags on, China has walked a fine line, avoiding condemning the invasion without explicitly supporting it.

In a statement released after a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Ukraine's top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Beijing is "committed to dialogue" for peace in Ukraine and that "countries deserve respect for their sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"We always stand on the side of peace, and will continue to play a constructive role," it said.

Foreign Minister Kuleba said that Ukraine "attaches importance to the international status and important influence of China," and "expects the Chinese side to play an important role in alleviating the current crisis," according to the press statement from Beijing.

However, parliamentarian Merezhko said that Beijing has always supported Moscow behind the scenes.

"China was waiting and seeing whether Russia would manage to take Kyiv in three days or not. To me, it's a signal that they are hoping Russia would decapitate the government in Ukraine and install a puppet regime," he said, calling the no limits partnership "totally unacceptable."

Merezhko also accused Beijing of spreading Russian narratives through Chinese state media outlets, for example by blaming the United States for the war. China also continues to purchase Russian energy, which Merezhko said was financing the Russian war machine.

"China proved to be a friend of our enemy," he added.

A combination of pictures showing Vladimir Putin (left) und Xi Jinping
Taiwan and Ukraine's common enemies?Image: Alexandr Demyanchuk/Sputnik/AFP

Ukraine war forces 'reflection' in Taiwan

Claire Wang, a Taiwanese legislator who participated in a virtual meeting on August 25 with Ukraine's pro-Taiwan caucus, told DW that the war in Ukraine has pushed Taiwan to reflect on its own strategic situation.

"Taiwan is a very small country and like Ukraine, we face a very unfriendly neighbor. I think it's good to establish such a group with Ukraine," she said.

Beijing puts pressure on countries that seek to build stronger, informal ties with Taiwan, which it considers to be Chinese territory that will one day be reunited with the mainland.

Under the "one China" policy, the People's Republic of China (PRC) is recognized as the "sole legal government of China." However, the policy does not explicitly mean countries recognize Beijing's sovereignty over Taiwan, leading to a diplomatic grey area.

Ukraine recognizes the one China policy, as does the United States and other Western countries.

Merezhko said that Beijing is trying to stop pro-Taiwan Ukrainian lawmakers from establishing closer ties with Taipei. He said the Chinese Foreign Ministry even submitted a formal complaint to the Ukrainian charge d'affaires in Beijing.

"It's our right to create our own groups devoted to a pending subject and the leadership of the parliament should just declare this openly during the parliamentary meeting," Merezhko said.

"Unfortunately, the declaration hasn't happened, and it's been more than a month. I suspect this is because of the Chinese influence," he added.

Taiwanese line up to learn self-defense

Taiwan reaches out to Europe

Despite China's aggressive response to Taiwan's growing engagement with other countries, parliamentary delegations from Germany, the United Kingdom, and Denmark are expected to visit Taiwan in the coming months.

"Taiwan received an unprecedented level of European support in the past two years and in this process, parliamentary diplomacy was one of the most valuable tools," former European Parliament political adviser Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy, told DW.

"Creating the group indicates increasing awareness of Taiwan as a fellow democracy that also faces threat from a hostile neighbor, a threat both the people of Taiwan and Ukraine regard as existential," she added.

Merezhko said it would be a "normal" thing for Ukrainian parliamentarians to visit Taiwan.

"We are both democracies fighting for our survival and when we support each other, it makes both of us stronger," he said. "It makes democracies around the world stronger."

The lawmaker also called for the establishment of a "representative office of Taipei," a de facto embassy, in Kyiv and vice versa.

"I am in favor of securing international agreements with Taiwan, which are the same kind that's concluded between Poland and Taiwan. I'm in favor of developing all kinds of relationships, including cultural, humanitarian, and economic relations. I would like to see Taiwan taking up roles in rebuilding Ukraine," he added.

Edited by: Wesley Rahn