Mon, May 28, 2018 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik, Jr. On Taiwan: Thoughts on ‘Orwellian nonsense’

In my 40 years of China watching, I can’t recall the White House ever issuing such a pointed slam directly at the “Chinese Communist Party,” much less the Chinese government; not during Tiananmen when President George H.W. Bush’s sanctions were levied more in sorrow than in anger; not during the March 1996 ballistic missile launches on Taiwan; not during the 2001 Hainan aerial collision; nor during Beijing’s militarization of the artificial islets in the South China Sea of the past five years. All these were more momentous crises than airline web sites. Nonetheless, it, and North Korea’s nuclear threat, and China’s protracted mercantilist war on America’s economy, conflate into a big enough crisis for anyone.

Arguably, these bygone crises might have been resolved more to Washington’s satisfaction had stronger words been forthcoming from the White House before they receded from memory or before Washington became inured to the egregious pace of Beijing’s Orwellian “peaceful rise.”

“Orwellian nonsense” is certainly an apt description of a ukase from a minor Chinese government agency that both demands Taiwan not be listed separately from China on airline web sites and then arrogates to itself the role of educating American companies in the diplomatic policy of the American government.

The worst part is, the CAAC is factually wrong on both counts. This latter characteristic of “counter-fact” qualifies it as “Orwellian” in its connotation of propaganda, disinformation, reversal-of-fact (which the British essayist George Orwell dubbed “doublethink”), as well as the status of “unperson,” or in Taiwan’s case, “un-state,” the existence of which threatens the legitimacy of the Orwellian dictatorship and accordingly must be wiped from history and purged from the international community.

Taiwan approaches an inflection point in its international legal status with the slow, inexorable defection of diplomatic partners to Beijing and with increased Chinese enlistment of international businesses in its campaign to make Taiwan “Chinese.” The time has come for Taiwan’s people to take stock of their constitutional role as the “Republic of China” and lay groundwork for a future when that role is no longer tenable. Taiwan’s security partners in the Asia-Pacific, too, will be obliged to abet strategies for a sustainable Taiwan identity in world affairs or else see a global technology powerhouse swallowed by a ravenous, rising superpower. “Orwellian nonsense” is perhaps an admission that, yes, America, you have a real problem.

I am optimistic that the Trump administration is rebuilding America’s security relationships with its allies and partners in East Asia and that it has a new, fact-based, appreciation for Taiwan’s current role and potential contribution to Asia’s free and democratic future. Standing up for Taiwan against China’s “Orwellian nonsense” is a convincing gesture that Washington has abandoned its illusions of a peaceful management of China’s “rise” and has resigned itself to the reality of China’s Orwellian essence.

There is no one in the national security side of the Trump Administration who argues that acquiescing to China’s ambitions of hegemony in Asia will induce Beijing toward restrained military power, fair trade, peaceful coexistence with North and Southeast Asian neighbors, freedoms of navigation in air and on the sea. Few have any conviction that China will help effect the complete, verifiable, irreversible and permanent denuclearization of North Korea. Quite the opposite: After President Trump voiced suspicions on May 16 that “President Xi could be influencing Kim Jong-un” against denuclearization because, the President noted, “There has been a big difference since they [Xi and Kim] had the second meeting [in Dalian on May 7]” and “perhaps they don’t want to do it. Perhaps they spoke with China.” On May 22, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, visiting Trump in the Oval Office, heard more. Asked about China’s role, President Trump answered: “I will say I’m a little disappointed because when Kim Jong-un had the meeting with President Xi in China, the second meeting ... I think there was a little change in attitude from Kim Jong-un. So I don’t like that.” And then, as if to stress the point, he added, “I think things changed after that meeting, so I can’t say that I’m happy about it.” Finally, when President Trump announced Thursday, May 24, that he had cancelled plans to meet the North Korean Leader in Singapore, he told reporters “the dialogue was good until recently, and I think I understand why that happened.”

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