Sat, Feb 24, 2018 - Page 8 News List

China following West’s example

By Strobe Driver

Having been in Taiwan for approximately one month, I have watched the constant commentary regarding the Taiwan-China crisis. To state that it is an everyday event is not an exaggeration and to state that it gets little mention in my home country (Australia), beyond how the US and Japan are coping with the situation, is also worth mentioning to highlight that distance separates concern.

The commentaries have drawn my attention to the immense pressure Taiwan, its people and its government are under and the future that it faces. To further state that the pressure will certainly not let up and that the friction will worsen is also not an exaggeration.

While recent articles in the Taipei Times — in particular, the op-ed “Taiwan confronts its darkest hour” (Feb. 11, page 8) — reflect current concerns, the problem at hand goes much deeper than current times, as frightening as they are.

What appears to be missing in the understanding of why China is constantly pressing for the return of Taiwan and of it being a “renegade state” — a term that was coined during the administration of former US president Bill Clinton — is why the People’s Republic of China government persists with its mantra.

What historical basis does China have for this beyond the Qing Dynasty ownership? The answer, and one that does not get much press, is gaining territory through threat-of-force and, when this has not worked, direct force. This is what China has learned from the West.

The forthrightness alluded to began in 1648 when the West essentially became united. The Treaty of Westphalia is essentially where it all begins for the West. It was in 1648 that a final agreement was reached by the elites of Western Europe (modern day northwest Germany), that a treaty would be agreed upon and what is known as sovereign statehood would be born.

It is a germane yet necessary point to make that the notion of sovereignty was a construct of the West and essentially one that would benefit the West.

Nevertheless, sovereign statehood was supposed to be a geographic delineation of territory for each state to understand where its boundaries were located, and therefore, ease tensions. This would work for those that were “educated” and had definite understandings of distance and ownership.

This said, the mandates within the treaty were summarily over time thrust upon tribal peoples, feudal societies, clans and other groups that would have borderlines cut through their territory, sovereign statehood would be brutally enforced — especially in Africa — and, as a result, it is the method of operation and understanding that all countries rely on today.

Being able to distinguish a “space and place” extramural to one’s own territory immediately allowed for geographical locales to be gained and claimed by powerful nation-states beyond their own perimeters.

England would run rampant over the “known world” and through its “successes” occupy, or at the very least, control an enormous amount of territory — about 70 percent of the known world. England’s “territory” would stretch from Northern Ireland to terra nullius (Australia); France would occupy vast swathes of territory from North America through Oceania; Italy, Portugal and Britain would claim Africa; and the Dutch would control Indonesia.

This is only some of the actions of powerful nation-states as they colonized, brutalized and used threat-of-force to gain what they thought of as “theirs.” Powerful Western and Western-orientated nation-states would sweep all before them. To be sure, Asian countries would also seek their own regional dominance as the idea of sovereignty took hold.

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