On Sept. 3, China commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, choosing not to do so with an appeal to peace, but instead holding a large military parade, flexing the state’s power for the world to see.
When the People’s Liberation Army brazenly displayed its missiles, with ranges that can reach Taiwan, the US, Japan and the Philippines, it did demonstrate one fact: The rising China is certainly no peaceful lion.
The parade served several purposes. It sent a message to Asia that China is already sufficiently strong militarily and would not countenance challenges from any nation.
There was also the transparent intimidation communicated in the weeks before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) state visit to the US aimed at making Washington rethink its Asia-Pacific strategy and exert its influence in Taiwan to ensure that the next president accepts the “one China” policy of the so-called “1992 consensus.”
The question is whether US President Barack Obama is likely to allow himself to be intimidated by Beijing’s posturing.
Based on the following developments, the answer is likely no.
First, on the day of the military parade, a Chinese fleet entered US waters in the Bering Sea off Alaska without prior agreement from Washington.
Regardless of whether this was a mistake or intentional, it can at least be understood in terms of Beijing’s displeasure about and a provocative response to Obama boycotting the Sept. 3 parade.
Naturally, his failure to attend is unlikely to be forgotten during the upcoming meeting between the two leaders.
Second, Beijing’s transparent intimidation — such as having the code numbers for missiles, like DF5B and DF26, written on them so observers know what their intended use is — was clearly aimed at US-Japan policy on Taiwan.
From the APEC finance ministers’ meeting a few days later came the good news that Washington and Tokyo have both given assurances that they would assist Taiwan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is at odds with Beijing’s plan to merge the nation into the “one China market.”
Taiwan’s entry into the proposed trade bloc would be a serious blow to Xi’s plans for the nation.
With Japan’s changes to security legislation coming under heavy fire from anti-war protesters there, China’s military parade is likely to have been welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as it could give people food for thought.
Last week, the Japanese government passed law changes to allow the nation to act militarily outside its territory in defense of others. This development should strengthen regional peace and stability, which is to Taiwan’s benefit.
In March, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration absconded to the enemy camp over the issue of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), an institution that the US is at odds with. The repercussions of the bank’s establishment are still being felt.
I said that this would be of huge benefit to Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) during her visit to the US in June, which proved to be the case.
With Beijing orchestrating intimidatory tactics through holding its military parade, and with a number of US presidential candidates berating the Chinese, it is clear which way public opinion is headed.
Obama is unlikely to be foolish enough to give Xi too many concessions, for that would damage his presidential legacy in his final year in office.
With the AIIB, China is putting its economic clout on show just as the parade did for its military might.
For Taiwan, these are both forms of intimidation. However, they also represent an opportunity.
The US and Japan have already extended a helping hand, and if Taiwan can seize the opportunity and free itself from the shackles of the Chinese market, it would be able to conduct normal cross-strait relations without having to put in any more groundwork.
From then on, things could only get better.
Huang Tien-lin is former president and chairman of First Commercial Bank and a former presidential office adviser.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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