Thu, Nov 01, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Taiwan cannot let its guard down

The US is “considering a new operation to send warships through the Taiwan Strait,” a Reuters exclusive report, quoting US officials, said on Oct. 20. Two days later, two US warships transited through the Taiwan Strait with a northerly bearing, while the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan sailed north in the Pacific off Taiwan’s east coast.

The reaction from China — from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson and state-owned media outlets — was relatively muted.

Since the beginning of the year, US President Donald Trump’s deployment of a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy has gradually deepened and expanded Washington’s competition with Beijing. In July, two US destroyers also transited the Strait and joined a strike group led by the same aircraft carrier off Taiwan’s east coast.

On Oct. 18, a report by the Australian newspaper disclosed that the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Melbourne Adelaide-class frigate had conducted a “passage exercise” through the Strait on its way to South Korea after finishing an exercise with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy ship Xianning during a port visit to Zhanjiang in China’s Guangdong Province in September.

The US’ and its allies’ freedom of navigation in the Strait has almost become a new normal.

Meanwhile, UBS Group last month asked its staff not to travel to China after one of its wealth management employees was detained and her passport temporarily confiscated in Beijing. Several other global financial institutions, including Citigroup, Standard Chartered, JPMorgan Chase and BNP Paribas, followed suit, telling their staff to reconsider or postpone travel to China. The incident exposed the rising risks that foreign enterprises face in China.

Chinese businesses have not fared any better, with reports of Chinese business leaders’ forced disappearances, committing suicide or involuntary leadership transitions. Even former Interpol president Meng Hongwei (孟宏偉), a former Chinese deputy minister of public security, was not able to escape the fate of forced disappearance when he visited his homeland. Beijing has just moved a new wave of political witch hunt into full gear.

Neither should the Taiwanese public forget non-governmental organization worker Lee Ming-che (李明哲), who was detained and forced to make a confession in China last year, or Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay Bookstore incident. Even more frightening and horrendous is the persecution that is taking place at the re-education camps for Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

All these horrors only point to China in the era of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) taking a big stride into Orwellian totalitarianism.

Given ever-rising tensions across the Strait, Taiwanese businesspeople, tourists and students all face tremendous risks which, if allowed to go unchallenged, could grow into a national security issue. While Western democracies, led by the US, are aware of the intensifying conflict with China over trade and strategy issues, the Taiwanese public seems to be unaware of the risks involved.

Intoxicated with China’s 31 incentives and new residency permit cards for Taiwanese, certain politicians and media outlets have not only failed to stop the nation’s risk exposure from rising, but even blamed the cross-strait impasse on the government, thereby contributing to this lack of crisis awareness. Should Beijing decide to take the risk and turn Taiwanese based in China into bargaining chips, one wonders what plan, if there is any, the nation’s population of 23.5 million could rely on.

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