a burning context for an innocuous visit

a burning context for an innocuous visit

DECRYPTION – The visit of five French senators to Taipei comes shortly after Nancy Pelosi’s trip to the island in early August, which was seen as an American provocation by China.

Taiwan is a partner for stability in the Indo-Pacific region“, said Thursday, September 8 in Taipei a French elected, at the head of the largest European delegation to visit the island since the Chinese military maneuvers in August. Senator Cyril Pellevat underlined during a press briefing that France had “issues in this territory and we consider Taiwan as a partner for stability in this region“.

Cyril Pellevat was accompanied by four other French senators from this delegation in Taipei on Wednesday 7. He declared that he had not been the subject of any intimidation on the part of China. Eight representatives of the US Congress have also been on the island since Tuesday and are due to leave on Thursday. This is the first visit of European parliamentarians to Taiwan since the arrival, at the beginning of August, of the president of the American House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosiwhich China had perceived as a provocation.

Delegations thathave always existed»

According to the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry, the delegation will stay on the island until September 12. She will be received by Vice President William Lai, not President Tsai Ing-wen. However, France is not in the process of making a major shift in its foreign policy, having made the choice in 1964 not to recognize the independence of Taiwan.

These parliamentary delegations, whether from the Senate or the National Assembly, “have always existed“says Antoine Bondaz, research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) where he notably directs the Taiwan Program on security and diplomacy.

The “Senate-Taiwan exchange and study groupwas thus founded in 1982 and theinternational study group on issues related to the expansion of the Taiwanese economyof the National Assembly in 1989. Among the latest trips to date, Senator Joël Guerriau led a delegation to Taiwan in June 2022 and former Minister François de Rugy in December 2021.

SEE ALSO – Taiwan conducts nightly military drills ahead of Chinese invasion

Regular visits

In recent years, the French delegations have therefore succeeded one another in Taiwan, and vice versa. “According to parliamentary rules, we send a delegation every two years and we receive one the year we do not leave“, explains to Figaro Senator Alain Richard, former Minister of Defense in the Jospin government and now chairman of the group “Senate-Taiwan», who himself left at the head of a small group in October 2021.

Last July, the President of the Legislative Yuan (the Taiwanese Assembly), Yu Shyi-kun, was welcomed in France by Gérard Larcher and Yaël Braun-Pivet, Presidents of the Senate and of the National Assembly.

With Taiwan, there are no official exchanges and meetingsrecalls Antoine Bondaz. Parliamentarians therefore make it possible to facilitate things on certain cooperation, by passing on or bringing back messages, without committing the government.“. This parliamentary diplomacy exists with many other countries but playsa limited role when the relationship at government level is good“, emphasizes the researcher.

In the absence of official relations with Taiwan, on the other hand, “it is normal that we have parliamentary relations, so as to discuss with the executive authorities of Taiwan on the geopolitical situation of their region and the development of scientific, cultural, academic exchanges…“, continues the senator Alain Richard.

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Concrete cooperation in different areas

The profile of the parliamentarians present in Taiwan perfectly demonstrates the desire to give visibility to concrete cooperation. One of the participants, Olivier Cadic, is a French senator based outside France, and Cyril Pellevat, who leads the delegation, is a senator from Haute-Savoie. Gold, “Taiwan is primarily a mountainous countryrecalls Antoine Bondaz. A senator from a mountainous region does not go there out of a passion for the island, but because there is cooperation in this area“.

One of the objectives of this visit is also educational: to promote the Lycée international français de Taïpei, which allows young people living in Taiwan to follow an education in French.

“When RN deputies go to Syria to meet Bashar el Assad, it is clearly not the government that is represented. »

Antoine Bondaz, researcher at the FRS.

Separation of powers

During each visit, however, senators do not go to Taiwan to convey a governmental message or engage the government in any way: the separation of legislative and executive powers implies real independence. “When RN deputies travel to Syria to meet Bashar el Assad (in August 2019, editor’s note), it is clearly not the government that is represented», Takes for example Antoine Bondaz.

In the case of the current visit of the five senators, it is necessaryuse the term ‘representative delegation’ with caution“says Alain Richard, who is”assured that according to the representative authorities of the Senate, this group of colleagues cannot be qualified as a senatorial delegation“. When the former minister visited Taiwan in 2021, he indeed went there as the chairman of the group “Senate-Taiwanand therefore representative of the French Senate, while the five senators currently in Taipei are there on their own initiative.

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