China issues stern warning to Taiwan’s new head over independence talk

The harsh rhetoric from Beijing came just two days after Lai formally took over as Taiwan’s premier and head of the cabinet. It marks the first major flash of tensions across the Taiwan Strait since Lai assumed the leadership post of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

China has fired a provocative warning shot at Taiwan’s new head of administration, accusing him of pushing the island toward dangerous independence overtures and vowing a harsh response to any such moves.

The harsh rhetoric from Beijing came just two days after Lai formally took over as Taiwan’s premier and head of the cabinet. It marks the first major flash of tensions across the Taiwan Strait since Lai assumed the leadership post of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

While Lai has not explicitly declared any plan to pursue a formal separation from mainland China, his long-held embrace of Taiwan’s sovereignty has repeatedly drawn Beijing’s ire. In his inauguration speech, he vowed Taiwan would not “act rashly,” but also would not be intimidated.

For the Chinese Communist Party, any affirmation of Taiwan as a de facto independent nation is considered an intolerable red line requiring a forceful response. Beijing has ramped up military manoeuvres near Taiwan in recent years, including launching drills just two days after Lai took office in an unmistakable signal.

The sabre-rattling capped a tense transition of power in Taipei. After his predecessor resigned to take responsibility for anemic local election results, Lai assumed power pledging to focus on boosting Taiwan’s economy and defence amid increasing bellicosity from Beijing.

So far, the United States has urged both sides to avoid escalating tensions unnecessarily. But Washington has also reaffirmed its longstanding commitment to Taiwan’s self-defence under the Taiwan Relations Act.

Taiwan finds itself once again trapped in an intensifying geopolitical vice between its vital trade interests tied to China and its democratic identity pulling it toward greater autonomy. With hardliners now leading both capitals, the prospects for avoiding a destabilizing military face-off appear to be dimming.