Sun, Feb 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Taiwan confronts its darkest hour

By Tu Ho-ting 杜和庭

During a television interview, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that no one can rule out the possibility of China attacking Taiwan and whether this attack happens depends on how rational Chinese decisionmakers are.

This is the stern reality that this vibrant, democratic and free nation confronts on a daily basis. What complicates the situation is that the threat of the fifth column is underestimated, which could critically weaken Taiwan’s security.

Since 1949, when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) retreated to Taiwan after losing the Chinese Civil War to the Chinese Communist Party, the People’s Republic of China has never renounced the use of force to take over this “renegade province.”

During former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) presidency from 2008 to 2016, it was generally considered that cross-strait relations improved and tensions were reduced because of his conciliatory policy toward China, which was based on the “1992 consensus” — meaning that both sides of the Taiwan Strait agree on only “one China,” but each side has a different interpretation of what the term means.

China turned this rapprochement into a political and economic weapon to strangle Taiwan.

The number of Chinese tourists who visited Taiwan, for example, increased more than 1,200 percent, from 330,000 in 2008 to over 4 million in 2015, the latter figure accounting for 40 percent of all foreign visitors to Taiwan that year.

Last year, a year after Tsai’s inauguration, the number of Chinese tourists dropped by 22 percent compared with a year earlier.

There will be much more pressure when China decides to choke Taiwan’s economy and fulfill its political agenda, and Taiwanese businesspeople with deep economic interests in China once again become Beijing’s pawns.

The nation’s defense also suffered under this rapprochement.

The development of the Yun Feng (雲峰, “Cloud Peak”) missile, a medium-range cruise missile, was suspended by Ma as a goodwill gesture to China.

In response, China increased the number of missiles aimed at Taiwan from 1,000 to 1,500 during Ma’s presidency, official US and Taiwan reports show.

Beijing is a constant and increasing threat to its neighboring nations as well. Chinese fighter jets have flown over South Korea’s and Japan’s air defense identification zones twice in the past two months, prompting both nations to scramble fighter planes.

These provocative moves are Beijing’s way of showing its presence and domination.

China’s massive land reclamation, militarization and expansionist activities in the South China Sea have been a root cause of tensions in this region in recent years.

Likewise, the unease along its southwest border is worsening. In June last year, Chinese construction in the disputed Doklam region was met with a firm response from India, causing an almost three-month-long intense military standoff between the two nations. Although the incident ended peacefully after negotiation, both sides have since deployed more forces and advanced weapons to the area.

An increasingly wealthy and powerful China is becoming more assertive and ambitious.

Harvard political scientist Graham Allison has said that its behavior is far from becoming liberal, ruled-based and democratic at home and a “responsible stakeholder” abroad, which the US had expected.

The US’ National Security Strategy clearly says that the US’ China policy over the past two decades has failed: The premise that “policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners, for the most part, turned out to be false.”

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