Tsai credits Taiwan for virus wins, notes China’s threats

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday hailed the island’s progress in containing the coronavirus pandemic and growing the economy while facing military threats from China.

In her annual New Year’s Day address, Tsai said Taiwan had effectively conquered the virus through “believing in professionalism, trusting one another and unifying as a society,” without lockdowns or serious disruptions to business and education.

Taiwan has been applauded for its swift and sustained efforts to contain COVID-19, with just seven deaths and fewer than 800 confirmed cases, despite its close proximity to China, where the pandemic began.

Taiwan is investing in its people with pensions for farmers and the construction of public housing and new kindergartens, alongside new industrial projects to generate jobs, Tsai said.

Yet, while the economy is growing and the stock market booming, Taiwan and the region have been imperiled by “the frequent activities of military aircraft and warships on the other side of the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai said, a reference to China, which has been upping its threats to forcefully annex the island it considers part of its territory.

She said stability in cross-strait relations were a concern not only to both sides but to the wider world.

Taiwan, which receives defensive weapons and strong political support from the U.S., would stick to its current policies and hope for dialogue with Beijing on the basis of equality and mutual respect, Tsai said.

China cut links with Tsai’s government shortly after her 2016 inauguration to a first term and demands she recognize Taiwan as a part of China.

Beijing has steadily ratcheted up military, economic and diplomatic over her years in office, prompting Tsai to strengthen the island’s defenses and seek closer relations with Washington and other major countries with which Taiwan has close ties, despite a lack of formal diplomatic relations.

Beijing has strongly protested closer Taiwan-U.S. relations and is also expected to be angered by Taipei’s plans to issue a new passport prominently featuring “Taiwan” on its cover rather the Republic of China, the government’s formal name.