Mon, Sep 07, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Confronting the China challenge

By Eric Chiou 邱奕宏

In 2013, John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago made a speech in Taipei, persuasively arguing that time is not on Taiwan’s side. As China becomes stronger and more powerful, the fate of Taiwan to maintain its independence is getting gloomy and dire. He concluded that a strong China is doomed to be a nightmare to Taiwan’s survival.

Reflecting on his insights, China’s military parade to celebrate the victory in World War II last week was deliberately choreographed to display its national strength as a great world power with daunting military forces externally, and to invoke and inspire the spirit of nationalism and patriotism internally, which might help dilute its domestic discontent and recent economic slowdown. Meanwhile, it also intends to signify the solid commanding power of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the military.

While Taiwan’s media and politicians were bickering over the issues of whether the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or the CCP led the war against Japan, or the appropriateness of former vice president Lien Chan’s (連戰) participation in the military parade, what truly matters for Taiwan’s survival is not actually the dispute over a remote historical event, nor some prominent politicians’ self-interested deeds.

What is more crucial to Taiwan’s interests are the possible fallout of the Chinese armed forces demonstration and its political implications in the context of geopolitical dynamics in East Asia.

From various perspectives, China’s muscle-flexing parade, showing off its cutting-edge weapons and belligerent forces, might induce more harm than good.

First, if China would like to take this opportunity to establish itself as a world power by portraying itself as a righteous victor of World War II, this objective has barely been achieved. Apart from Russia, virtually no leaders from the Allied nations attended this parade, suggesting that the CCP’s appeal to the world audience in terms of proclaiming its contribution in defeating the fascist camp has failed miserably.

Second, provided that Beijing would like to take this event as a demonstration of power to its troubling neighbors with heavyweight military sticks, in an attempt to mute them on the issue of territorial disputes, the result might be counterproductive and is likely to backfire.

That no leader from any state engaged in territorial disputes with China attended the parade to some extent has revealed these states’ political attitude toward Beijing. This implies that China’s military display was neither intimidating enough to compel them to participate in the event for considering the consequences of being otherwise, nor appealing enough to attract them to take part in this exhilarating and flamboyant victory celebration.

Even worse, Beijing’s presentation of military strength is likely to be perceived as a malicious and hostile gesture by its weak and small neighboring states and as a revisionist provocation by other regional powers.

Hence, the consequences of this military show-off might largely be interpreted as China’s offensive military assertiveness, which is likely to trigger a new wave of arms races in East Asia; to intensify rather than ameliorate existing tensions and to deepen rather than lessen the anxiety over the China threat.

Third, some critics have even argued that China’s jingoistic military rally, while boasting its most advanced military weapons, was also intended to deter other regional powers, such as the US, Japan and India, not to intervene in its sphere of influence.

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