Remarks by Colonel, Rt Hon Bob Stewart, DSO MP for Beckenham, U.K., on the Chinese Threat to Taiwan at the Intelligence and Security Forum

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August 31, 2023

I am the Joint Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Taiwan in the Westminster Parliament.  So, of course, I have become concerned with the growing intimidation the country is suffering from China.

The recent decision of the Central American Parliament to remove Taiwan as an permanent observer is an example where Chinese pressure seems to be succeeding. So I am very pleased that the very next session of this conference will examine what is happening in East Asia and especially in Taiwan.

Taiwan faces increasing pressure from the Peoples Republic of China in every sphere of influence and that includes military coercion.  Maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait is a strategic priority for the World as just the economic impact of a conflict there would dwarf the inflationary blowback from the war in Ukraine. Sea and air trade routes would be upended, and supply chains disrupted.

I remind everyone that the supply of semiconductors, the brains of all modern electronic equipment, depends hugely on Taiwan.  The country manufactures about 90 percent of high-end micro-chips in the World. As we all probably know just about every electronic device these days needs microchips; from the internet, computers and smart phones to medical devices and cars.

Some 23.5 million people live in Taiwan.  It is also a fully functioning democracy and has a very good record of holding free and fair elections. And it is clear that the Taiwanese want to remain a sovereign independent state. most definitely separate from the PRC.

Yet diplomatically Taiwan is barred from United Nations’ membership, and it has also been expelled from even observer status in the World Health Organisation. This is wrong.  The PRC  consistently opposes anything that Taiwan does.  For instance, it refuses to accept Taiwanese passports and denies Taipei entry to absolutely any forum in which it has influence (which is a lot of them).

Yet economically the PRC is perfectly willing to accept Taiwanese money to invest in the country but it is determined in its refusal to accept or recognise any other commercial activity from the Island.

At the same time Taiwan is under constant and unmitigated cyber-attack from China and that reaches into every aspect of Taiwanese Society.  In September 2021 Taiwan submitted its application to join the  Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.  It is great that the UK is joining the arrangement and I truly hope Taiwan will succeed too.

Militarily China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is having its Defence expenditure increased by about 10 per cent year on year and it is reorganising for expeditionary warfare with, as we understand it, emphasis on assault landings from the sea. I am particularly worried about the way islands/atolls in the South China Sea are being occupied, expanded, and militarised.  In truth they are  well outside China’s traditional area of interest.

The Chinese intention is clear; to make the whole of the South China Sea national waters of China.

Looking in the air Peoples Liberation Army Air Force aircraft Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone was breached 1,727 times in 2022 according to Taiwan’s Defence Ministry.  That compares with about 960 incursions in 2021 and 380 in 2020.

It particularly worries me that the Number One openly expressed aim of Chinese policy is to take back Taiwan.  It is reckoned that 40 per cent of World Trade transits through the South China Sea.  So what happens in those crucial trade routes must be of concern to all of us here.

But Taiwan remains a beacon of democracy.   It also has great strategic importance.  I believe it is in the front line of the global struggle to resist authoritarian efforts to undermine human rights, the rule of law, and freedom of speech.

Taiwan has press freedom and in that respect is normally ranked as the second most free country in Asia.  There is no censorship whatsoever.

In summary we should all support Taiwan in much the same way as we defend our own systems and values. Taiwan’s security challenges and its survival as a thriving and successful democracy matter a great deal to the World.


Colonel, the Rt Hon Bob Stewart DSO, is an MP for Beckenham Constituency, which includes Bromley Common, Copers Cope, Coney Hall, Eden Park, Hayes, Kelsey Park, Keston, Shortlands, and West Wickham.


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