In his book The Hundred-Year Marathon, Michael Pillsbury writes: “We believed that American aid to a fragile China whose leaders thought like us would help China become a democratic and peaceful power without ambitions of regional or even global dominance.”
“Looking back, it is painful that I was so gullible,” Pillsbury concludes.
This coming from a man who has had the ear of every US president since Ronald Reagan should be a clarion call to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that Taiwan-US-China relations are in flux and the paradigm that ruled over the Taiwan Strait is now evolving to accommodate a maturing democratic Taiwan.
The CCP often uses both intimidation, as in the South China Sea, or deception with the intent that the international community will do its bidding, as Pillsbury expounded in a recent Hudson Institute Webcast.
Currently a consultant to the US Department of Defense, Pillsbury equated Beijing’s deceptive approach to Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer and one of his “immortal tricks, which is very close to Chinese strategy,” where he fools his friends into completing his unpleasant task, having them paint a fence for him.
Pillsbury explains this, in impeccable Chinese, quoting the phrase wuwei er zhi (無為而治), which translates as: “No action and under control.”
With CCP threats of hostility toward Taiwan, the international community, against better judgement — like Tom Sawyer’s friends — does Beijing’s bidding and isolates a favored, peaceful and democratic nation.
The West has seemingly been “duped” by China’s oft-proclaimed “peaceful rise,” as expansion of territory, real and attempted, from the South China Sea to Taiwan and the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) demonstrate.
However, the West is awakening to Beijing’s sophistry.
Taiwanese have taken China’s paintbrush out of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) hands and elected Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as president. Tsai won largely due to her pledge to “maintain the status quo” in relations with China. For Taipei and Washington, the “status quo” means “steady as she sails,” whereas in Beijing, it means “furthering the steady subversion of Taiwanese identity and economy, maintaining international isolation and persona non grata status at the UN,” as evidenced during the previous KMT administration’s eight years.
Taiwanese are united against the continuance of this approach and have overwhelmingly demonstrated so in municipal, legislative and presidential elections, where voters have handed Tsai’s DPP landslide victories.
While Taiwanese grudgingly accept the “status quo” pledge, to come in from the cold and receive their democratic right to self-determination and international recognition is their aspiration.
Leading up to Tsai’s inaugural address in May, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) warned of the “Earth moving and mountains shaking” should Taipei not accept his “one China” proclamation. This not-so-veiled threat was the CCP’s usual bluster to “encourage” Taiwan to accept Beijing’s “one China” policy and forgo its deserved path.
A day after Tsai’s inaugural address and her disregard for Xi’s terms and supposed consequences, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) reversed Xi’s bluster and said: “Only by confirming the one China principle could cross-strait authorities continue regular communications.”