“Clever people may be duped by their own cleverness (聰明反被聰明誤)” is a Chinese proverb about a person’s shrewdness backfiring — an apt description of China in the eyes of Taiwanese in the wake of Beijing’s most recent string of actions targeting Taiwan.
Taiwan on Tuesday last week cut diplomatic ties with Panama after the Central American nation switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Panama is the second ally Taiwan lost to China in about six months, after Sao Tome and Principe in December last year cut diplomatic ties after 19 years.
While China might pat itself on the back for “scoring” another point, the truth is its ploy will backfire.
Hurt national dignity and frustration over the nation’s rejection at international conferences, such as the World Health Assembly and the International Labour Organization, because of Chinese obstruction will not draw Taiwanese closer to Beijing. Rather, they will incite further resentment while rousing a stronger sense of Taiwanese consciousness.
According to a poll conducted in late March by the Cross-Strait Policy Association, 77.2 percent of Taiwanese regard Beijing as hostile to Taiwan — of whom 43.8 percent believe it is “extremely inimical” — since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) assumed the presidency in May last year.
The poll also suggests that such sentiment transcends political boundaries, as a cross-analysis shows that 89.2 percent, 71.8 percent and 63.7 percent of respondents who found Beijing to be hostile identify themselves as pan-green supporters, pan-blue sympathizers and nonpartisan respectively.
And as Beijing continues its oppressive tactics, it can count on those numbers to go up.
Sources have said that over the past three years, China has invested US$25 billion into various public infrastructure projects in Panama, and in the past three months alone offered loans worth more than US$8 billion.
In other words, Panama got the money from China, and China garnered resentment from Taiwanese — so how smart is Beijing in claiming it is trying to win Taiwanese “hearts and minds”?
Without a doubt, Chinese attempts to diplomatically isolate Taiwan are a nasty means to force the Tsai administration to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus.”
This begs the question: Would Beijing leave Taiwan alone and stop suppressing its international space if the government accepts the “consensus”?
The government of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) embraced the “1992 consensus,” but Beijing still did not leave the nation alone and instead made a fuss about Taiwanese waving the national flag.
The so-called “diplomatic truce” Ma said had helped relieve cross-strait hostilities was nothing more than a diplomatic surrender that undermined Taiwanese sovereignty.
Not to mention that whether to accept the “1992 consensus” is a matter that Tsai cannot — and should not — decide alone, as she needs to respect the opinions of those who voted for her.
What is the general public’s stance on this fictional “consensus”?
A poll conducted last month by the Cross-Strait Policy Association showed that 71.9 percent of respondents believe the nation should not accept the “1992 consensus,” despite its diplomatic isolation, while 58.4 percent said Beijing has acted provocatively in its interactions with Taipei over the past year.
A poll by the Mainland Affairs Council last month showed that more than 70 percent of respondents support maintaining the cross-strait “status quo.”
This growing revulsion is justified by Beijing’s actions as the one sabotaging the “status quo.”
So again, how smart is China in its claim that it is trying to win Taiwanese hearts and minds?
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