Thu, Mar 28, 2019 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: China is playing the long game

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) visit to Europe has further highlighted the changing world order, especially the relations between China, the US and the EU. It speaks of an audacious, long-term plan by Beijing on the same scale as the US’ post-war hegemonic rise.

These shifts involve issues of national security, international trade and media manipulation, and will have an impact on Taiwan’s security.

US protectionism under the administration of US President Donald Trump is causing jitters among traditional US allies and competitors alike. This is pushing the EU and China closer, or at least accelerating a process that China’s rise has made all but inevitable.

Days after Xi signed a comprehensive memorandum of understanding with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that saw Italy embrace his Belt and Road Initiative, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the Chinese leader to Paris.

Macron conspicuously invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to his meeting with Xi to put a united face on the proceedings, compared with the country-to-country meeting between Xi and Conte.

Despite Macron’s reservations on issues of trade openness and human rights violations with China, and his caution about joining any Belt and Road Initiative projects, the scale of the trade agreements signed between France and China vastly outstripped those detailed in the Xi-Conte deal. France and China signed 15 contracts, including a 300-airplane order from Airbus, alone worth 30 billion euros (US$33.83 billion).

Within the context of the US-China trade dispute and the issues facing US plane maker Boeing, the huge Airbus contract speaks volumes. It is not mere economics; it is part of a realignment of international trade. The EU will benefit. For China, the implications are part of its strategy to become a world superpower.

Another part of this strategy is the control of perceptions of China in the media, the subject of a report released on Tuesday by Reporters Without Borders, China’s Pursuit of a New World Media Order. The report ties China’s attempts to dominate international media with the Belt and Road Initiative. Both programs are working toward the same end: hegemonic dominance of the international order to rival that of the US.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday criticized Beijing for trying to distort reporting on the Xi-Conte meeting, translating a part in the signed communique confirming Italy’s continued adherence to the “one China” policy to say that Italy now follows the “one China” principle.

The two are not the same thing. The mistranslation is another example of Beijing’s attempts to subtly shift the goal posts to affect international perceptions of cross-strait relations.

Taiwan can take a certain amount of reassurance from the Trump administration’s relatively vocal support. This is part and parcel of a harder stance against Beijing and other traditional allies, but this same stance is pushing Beijing and the EU together, which is concerning in itself.

In the Heartland Theory submitted to the Royal Geographical Society in 1904, Halford Mackinder argued that control over Eurasia — what he called the “World Island” — would eventually lead to world domination. US naval historian and strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan argued that control over the seas meant control over the world.

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