Beijing’s crushing of pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong has deepened Taiwanese fear and resentment of China’s Communist Party, injecting new energy into the island democracy’s efforts to build up its military defenses.
In recent weeks, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has unveiled her self-ruled island’s largest-ever military budget and pledged closer security cooperation with the U.S. and other democracies, as Beijing enforced a new national security law in Hong Kong and conducted saber-rattling military maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait.
“After Hong Kong, Taiwan stands increasingly on the front lines of freedom and democracy,” Ms. Tsai said in remarks to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute broadcast online Thursday. Taiwan is strengthening its defenses, she said, because “we know that in terms of our current situation, strength can be correlated with deterrence.”
Military tensions have climbed in the region, with China’s People’s Liberation Army recently conducting patrols and combat exercises that the Chinese military suggested were intended as a warning to the U.S. and Taiwan. This past week, Beijing denounced the U.S. for sending a spy plane over one of these drills while the Pentagon voiced concern over the PLA’s recent firing of ballistic missiles into the contested South China Sea.
Beijing has sought to squeeze Ms. Tsai’s government with economic and military pressure under Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has reinforced Communist Party control around the country’s periphery and declared that the party’s goal of assimilating Taiwan can’t be put off indefinitely.