The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “status quo” as “the existing state of affairs.”
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis knows what it means.
The former general on June 2 said at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that “we oppose all unilateral efforts to alter the ‘status quo’ [in the Taiwan Strait] and will continue to insist any resolution of differences accord with the wishes of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”
Three weeks later, US Department of State Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Alex Wong (黃之瀚) said at a conference hosted by a Washington think tank that “stability in the region is dependent on the ‘status quo’ across the Strait. So, the US government is very concerned about any attempts to disturb that ‘status quo.’”
China has been changing the ‘status quo’ in the Taiwan Strait over the past decades — to a large extent — and Taiwan has not.
First and foremost, China’s 2005 “Anti-Secession” Law comes to mind. It enshrined into law China’s determination to use “non-peaceful means” as a last resort to prevent Taiwan from establishing formal independence.
The law resurfaced in the news when Chinese diplomat Li Kexin (李克新) warned Washington in December last year that Beijing could activate the law if the US sent navy vessels to Taiwan, in response to the passage by the US Congress of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act in September. The act authorizes Taiwanese and US naval vessels visiting each other’s ports.
Furthermore, when Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) came to power seven years after the law’s implementation, he promulgated the “Chinese Dream,” calling for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” with the specific target of “two centennial goals,” at the 19th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress.
During his speech, Xi identified the annexation of Taiwan as a major component, saying that any attempts at “separatism” would face “the punishment of history.”
He also hinted that China must take control of Taiwan by 2050.
More recently, China has conducted numerous long-range military live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait; sent bombers flying over major waterways around Taiwan; dispatched warships that trespassed into Taiwan’s territorial waters; and in January unilaterally launched a new aviation corridor over the Taiwan Strait.
On the diplomatic front, China this year poached two of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies — the Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso — within a month and is spreading its tentacles toward the Vatican — Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in Europe.
Additionally, China is involving the rest of the world in its attempts to change the “status quo.”
It has bullied dozens of major international airlines into referring to Taiwan as “Taiwan, China.” Many international corporations, such as Marriot International, Gap and Zara followed suit.
The CCP utilizes its United Front Work Department in its international campaign to bully Taiwan. Department members, who are Chinese agents pretending to be Taiwanese netizens, infiltrate Taiwanese online forums and influence public opinion.
Mobs and gangsters in Taiwan also serve as proxies of the CCP, creating chaos and undertaking violent acts against people who stand for Taiwan’s right to self-determination.
Threats and intimidation to peace in the region are becoming more frequent and rampant. Isolation, intimidation and sowing internal division are the three major weapons China uses to challenge the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
In these volatile times, US values of freedom, human rights, democracy and liberty must be preserved. The US cannot stand aside as China expands its authoritative power in the Asia-Pacific region. It must apply an even more assertive approach toward the continuing rise of China.
On May 30, at a seminar hosted by the Brookings Institution, former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Richard Bush said that he would like to see “a very senior official in the United States, whether it’s the president or the secretary of state or the secretary of defense, say to their counterpart in China: ‘We are not trying to change the status quo. Taiwan is not trying to change the status quo. You are trying to change the status quo.’”
Bush is of course right. The time is now for US President Donald Trump, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mattis and other US officials to read the Chinese the riot act when it comes to the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait.
The time is now for the US to speak out without inhibitions.
Mike Kuo is president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.
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