While calling on the international community to respect China’s “right” to peaceful development, Beijing has yet to abandon its tendency to make requests that are diametrically opposed to that goal.
Again this week, Beijing called on Washington to facilitate mutual understanding and respect its core interests, which include its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan. The problem with such assertions is that Beijing’s definition of mutual understanding is often irreconcilable with reality, or at least morality.
It is very difficult, for one, to increase mutual understanding when one side’s position is underscored by the deployment of 1,600 ballistic missiles. Surely, mutual understanding cannot include the other party’s acknowledgement that the Chinese military has a right to threaten Taiwan’s 23 million peace-loving people, let alone ignore their own preferences regarding their identity and the destiny of their nation.
Bowing to such calls for mutual understanding, with the threat of force as one of the main elements of that understanding, would be tantamount to moral capitulation on Washington’s part, whether as a country that perceives itself as a beacon of democracy or as Taiwan’s sole security guarantor.
The other, equally fatal, flaw in Beijing’s plea for mutual understanding is that on core issues, the understanding in fact is not mutual: It expects its counterparts to absorb, and if possible abide by, its own idiosyncratic view of the world, while categorically refusing to compromise. Taiwan again serves as a perfect example.
It is therefore anxiety-provoking when supposedly seasoned diplomats and strategists, such as former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, argue that at some point, the US will have to address the Taiwan “question” and “be sensitive to the meaning of this issue to China,” which in effect represents abdicating to calls by Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) to increase mutual trust.
Never mind that Brzezinski was once again exhibiting his utter inability to understand Taiwan or that mutual trust should also include input from the 23 million people in Taiwan who would be most affected by a decision — which he only vaguely hints at — to abandon Taiwan.
The same applies to the argument, repeated by Brzezinski, that the desired “one China” could, through a peaceful process, exist in the form of several political systems. Here — and we have Hong Kong’s and Tibet’s experience as models — what we have is not mutual understanding, but wishful thinking, if not downright naivety. Beijing does not brook the existence of different political systems under “one China.” Since 1950, when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded Tibet, Tibetan customs and religion have become shadows of their former glory. The same applies to the tottering democratic system in Hong Kong, which little by little is being chopped away at the edges by Beijing and its minions inside the territory.
Beijing is not exactly receptive to the need for reciprocity that underscores mutual trust and understanding. Tibetans, Uighurs and Hong Kongers know full well from their own, for the most part painful, experience that, by Chinese definition, mutual understanding is a one-way street, and one that leads straight to Zhongnanhai.
So now Brzezinski and other China apologists would have Taiwanese show understanding for the PLA forcing them to live under the shadow of war? No sane person would understand, let alone accept, such a threat. That Beijing continues to aim those missiles at its “own blood” and “compatriots” only proves the point that the Chinese leadership could not care less about the opinions of others.
“Testy,” “divisive,” “frigid,” “an exchange of insults” were some of the media descriptions of last month’s meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and their Chinese counterparts. Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass said that, rather than the “deft handling” needed in US-China relations, this encounter was “mishandled, a terrible start [with] way too much public signaling.” Yet, contrary to conventional wisdom, the acrimonious encounter with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) and Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) was a great success for US diplomacy
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