Lai Ching-te was inaugurated as the fifth directly elected president of Taiwan on Monday.

In his first speech as president, Lai called on the Chinese government in Beijing to join him in talks to preserve the uneasy peace that reigns over the Taiwan Strait, a narrow stretch of water that separates the island from the mainland. Predictably, China rejected that overture, calling him a “troublemaker” and denouncing his remarks for “inciting antagonism and confrontation.”

Neither Lai, nor his supporters — and the supporters of Taiwan — should be intimidated by China. Taiwan is not an independent country, but neither is it a “renegade province” as the Chinese leadership insists. It is a thriving democracy of 23 million people who should not be subject to the coercion and threats that Beijing brandishes with increasing frequency and intensity. They deserve our support, both moral and material.