July 14: Challenges and Opportunities for a Transatlantic Approach to Cross-Strait Relations

July 14: Challenges and Opportunities for a Transatlantic Approach to Cross-Strait Relations

Tuesday, July 14 from 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM (EST)
Webcast Only

Event Description

Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the world order is experiencing unprecedented disruption. The Transatlantic relationship between the United States and Europe has emerged as a vital foundation of an international system increasingly under strain by the rise of authoritarian revisionist powers. Despite a broad and deeply shared commitment to human rights and democratic values, the United States and Europe have been unable to translate overlapping policy goals to collaborate effectively on foreign policy initiatives. This has come against a backdrop of increasingly aggressive behavior by the People’s Republic of China—both regionally and globally—as clearly exhibited by Beijing’s heavy-handed approach to the Hong Kong protests. For Taiwan, such aggression is an existential matter as China ramps up its multifaceted pressure campaign on Taipei. If the United States and Europe are to effectively safeguard Taiwan’s de facto independence, overcoming their differences and moving toward a truly Transatlantic approach to cross-Strait relations may be necessary. This virtual seminar will examine opportunities and challenges for such an approach, incorporating voices from the US, Europe, and Taiwan.

Panelists will include: Theresa Fallon, founder and director of the Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies (CREAS); I-Chung Lai, president of the Prospect Foundation; Michael Reilly, former director of the British Trade and Cultural office in Taipei; and Robert Wang, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and adjunct professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. The panel will be moderated by Russell Hsiao, executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute. 

The event webcast will be broadcasted live on our website and YouTube on Tuesday, July 14 at 10 AM (EST). Questions for the panel may either be sent by e-mail to contact@globaltaiwan.org or through the chat function on the YouTube page. 


Theresa Fallon is the founder and director of the Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies (CREAS) in Brussels. She is concurrently a member of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, a nonresident senior fellow of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, adjunct professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and a member of the CEPS Task Force on AI and Cybersecurity. She has testified on numerous occasions to the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs and Subcommittee on Security and Defense, and has been featured in international media including Agence France Presse, Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, Channel News Asia, Deutsche Welle, Financial Times, Science Magazine, Japan Times, Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The Washington Post and The New York Times.

I-Chung Lai is the president of the Prospect Foundation, a Taiwan-based think tank. Prior to joining the Prospect Foundation, he held several prominent positions within the Democratic Progressive Party, serving as executive director of the DPP Mission to the United States and as the Director General of the Department of International Affairs. He has also worked as a special assistant with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Tokyo.

Michael Reilly is a former career diplomat with over 30 years’ experience, principally handling UK policy towards East and South East Asia, Ambassador Reilly’s final Foreign and Commonwealth Office appointment was as Director of the British Trade and Cultural office in Taipei from 2005-2009, the de facto British ambassador to Taiwan. Upon leaving Taiwan, he joined BAE Systems, initially as Director, Far East, responsible for strategic advice on the company’s business development in North East Asia, before going on to serve as the company’s Chief Representative in China, based in Beijing, from 2011 to 2014. Ambassador Reilly retired from BAE Systems in 2015, since then he has pursued academic research, principally on the EU’s relations with Taiwan, but also on Taiwan’s railway history. In 2016, he was a Visiting Fellow at Academia Sinica in Taipei under the auspices of the Taiwan Fellowship program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan). His latest book, The Implications of Brexit for East Asia, co-edited with David W. F. Huang, was published in summer 2018.

Robert Wang is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Robert was a career Foreign Service officer in the U.S. Department of State from 1984 to 2016. He served as the senior US official for APEC from 2013 to 2015. From 2011 to 2013, Robert was the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Beijing and from 2006 to 2009 the deputy director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). He was an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service from 2015 to 2016, and a visiting fellow with the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS from 2009 to 2010.


Russell Hsiao is the executive director of GTI and adjunct fellow at the Pacific Forum. He previously served as a senior research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, National Security fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Penn Kemble fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. Prior to those positions he was the editor of China Brief at The Jamestown Foundation from October 2007­ to July 2011 and a special associate in the International Cooperation Department at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. While in law school, he clerked within the Office of the Chairman at the Federal Communications Commission and the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Mr. Hsiao received his J.D. and certificate from the Law and Technology Institute at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law where he served as the editor-in-chief of the Catholic University Journal of Law and Technology. He received a B.A. in International Studies from the American University’s School of International Service and the University Honors Program.

Event Summary:

On July 14, 2020, the Global Taiwan Institute hosted a virtual panel on the prospects of US-European cooperation on issues relating to China and Taiwan. The panelists included Theresa Fallon, founder and director of the Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies (CREAS) in Brussels; I-Chung Lai, president of the Taiwan-based Prospect Foundation and former Democratic Progressive Party official; Michael Reilly, a retired British diplomat whose postings included director of the British Trade and Cultural office in Taipei, the UK’s de facto embassy to Taiwan; and Robert Wang, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), adjunct professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and retired American diplomat. Moderating was Russell Hsiao, executive director of GTI.

Hsiao opened by stating that the transatlantic relationship between Europe and the United States is a foundation of the post-World War II international order, an order that is under increasing pressure from revisionist powers, including China. Although the US and Europe share democratic values and international interests, they have been unable to translate them into collaborative policy initiatives. As preserving Taiwan’s freedom is “part and parcel” of maintaining the international order, the US and Europe need to move toward a truly transatlantic approach to cross-Strait relations.

Chinese diplomatic successes will make this difficult. As Fallon noted, China has had great success implementing a “divide-and-rule” strategy that encourages European nations to compete for Chinese investment, reducing the likelihood of them presenting a unified front to China. Reilly also observed that Chinese bullying has succeeded in getting many European officials to self-censor and avoid actions simply because they will displease China. Similarly, Lai pointed out that European countries hound Taiwan on issues such as capital punishment and same-sex marriage while remaining silent on appalling human rights abuses within China.

Despite these problems, recent events are improving the prospects for cooperation. Reilly stated that he believes that Beijing’s actions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the implementation of the Hong Kong national security law have left European sentiment toward China at its lowest point since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. He argued that Europe can no longer take a “middle of the road” approach between the US and China, and that the US is clearly more important to Europe. Lai then argued that Taiwan can be held up as a democratic alternative to China’s authoritarian model of society.

Presenting a united front to China will remain difficult. As Robert Wang pointed out, diversity and diverging interests within Europe make it easy for China to derail cooperative action. This is especially true considering the need for unanimity within European multilateral organizations. Ultimately, the panelists agreed that any initiative to improve transatlantic coordination on cross-Strait issues will have to be American-led. However, Wang, Reilly, and Fallon all argued that European nations can independently initiate diplomatic visits to Taiwan, cooperate on public health, negotiate free trade agreements, and collaborate on technology development. Such bilateral initiatives can circumvent the difficulties associated with multilateral European action while making meaningful contributions to the transatlantic stance on cross-Strait relations.

This summary was written by GTI Summer 2020 Intern Charlemagne McHaffie.

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