Ukraine Parliament Breaks From Volodymyr Zelensky's Careful China Diplomacy to Thank Taiwan

Ukraine's parliament has broken with Kyiv's calculated approach to China by thanking Taiwan for its support in the eight weeks since the start of Russia's war.

On Monday, the Verkhovna Rada used its verified Telegram channel to express gratitude to Taipei, after hundreds gathered to protest Moscow's actions in the Taiwanese capital over the weekend.

"From the first days of Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukraine has been supported by distant Taiwan," wrote the Rada. "The struggle for the future of Ukraine continues, and we are grateful for the support from around the world! The world is with us, because the truth is behind us!"

Like most countries in the world, Ukraine has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but the island nation, over which China asserts a historic claim, has shown overwhelming sympathy for the Ukrainian people in their struggle against Vladimir Putin's campaign of revisionism.

Last month, Taiwanese citizens and businesses donated $32 million toward Ukrainian refugees, and the funds were distributed to charities and Ukraine's EU neighbors. Chinese leaders in Beijing may have military designs on Taiwan; the public's outpouring of support for Ukraine, after it was suddenly invaded by a much larger neighbour, is perhaps reflective of the help Taiwan would hope to receive if it were to be attacked by China in the future.

Standing in Solidarity

"#Taiwan is proud to stand in solidarity with the people of #Ukraine & @ua_parliament. Through donations, demonstrations & our words, we want to show the Ukrainian people that you are not alone in your fight for freedom," Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted on Tuesday.

Taiwan, which dominates the world's high-end semiconductor market, joined Western sanctions early on in the war when Tsai ordered export restrictions to Russia. The Kremlin later placed Taiwan on its list of "unfriendly" countries and territories.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said: "In the spirit of solidarity and mutual aid between democratic countries, Taiwan reaffirms its firm support for safeguarding Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"We oppose unilateral changes to the status quo by force, and the violent and inhumane treatment of Ukrainian people in this invasion," it said.

Under normal circumstances, the Rada's simple thank-you note would be just that, but the move was in fact a departure from the careful diplomacy Volodymyr Zelensky's government is conducting with China.

Despite siding with Moscow in all meaningful ways, Beijing hasn't faced the same kind of forthright criticism Kyiv has reserved for the likes of Germany and Hungary—Zelensky has left that to his European and American partners.

Instead, Ukraine's approach to China has been tactful. The myriad reasons for frustration notwithstanding, Zelensky's government appears to understand the sensitivity of Sino-Russian ties, and in particular the personal relationship between Xi Jinping and Putin.

It's unclear whether Kyiv still believes Xi could use his political leverage to help stop Putin's war, but the country's lobbying for China's support has remained as diplomatic as ever.

When it comes to Taiwan, Zelensky may be grateful, but also minded not to openly engage with Taipei, as that could turn Beijing's rhetorical support for Moscow into something more material.

Ukraine Parliament Thanks Taiwan for Support
Demonstrators in Taiwan stage a “die-in” protest against the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine at Liberty Square in Taipei on April 17, 2022. Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, thanked “distant Taiwan” for its support throughout the war in a message posted to its Telegram channel on April 18. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images