“Stop threatening Taiwan,” its new president William Lai tells China

Taiwan’s newly inaugurated president, William Lai, has called on China to stop threatening the island and accept the existence of its democracy.

Shortly after taking the oath of office on Monday, he urged Beijing to replace confrontation with dialogue.

He also said Taiwan will never back down from bullying by China, which has long claimed the island as its own.

China hates Lai, considering him a “secessionist.”

Pressure on Taiwan has also increased in recent years.

China’s military incursions into the island’s waters and airspace have become a routine affair in recent years, raising fears of conflict. In his speech, Lai called this the “biggest strategic challenge to global peace and stability.”

But the 64-year-old also stayed true to the formula used by his predecessor, President Tsai Ing-wen, whose legacy will be defined by her cautious but firm handling of Beijing.

Lai, a doctor-turned-politician, won a three-way presidential race in January, securing an unprecedented third term for his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). He had served as Tsai’s vice president since 2020, and before that as her prime minister. In his youth, he was known for being a more radical politician who openly called for Taiwanese independence, something that has not escaped Beijing. He was branded a “troublemaker” before the election, and Chinese state media even suggested he should be prosecuted for secession.

The Chinese government has not yet issued a statement regarding Lai’s inauguration. However, the Chinese embassy in the UK held a press conference over the weekend, calling on the UK government not to endorse it. And early last week, a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office warned that the island’s new leader “must seriously consider” the question of whether he wants peaceful development or confrontation.

And just as Lai was being sworn in, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced sanctions against several American companies “involved in arms sales to Taiwan.”

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