Thu, Nov 07, 2019 - Page 8 News List

PRC victory not forgone conclusion

By Robert Portada and Uttam Paudel

Still, Trump’s effort to spring the offer brought into full relief a global sense that the manager is not minding the store. Trump was rebuffed, but the message was clear: There is no international police officer, though there is always a risk that there might be one in the future. Therefore, the time for annexations is now.

These incidents have brought China’s intentions toward Taiwan back to the forefront of international security concerns. Taiwan is, of course, the most prized territorial acquisition on the map today, and with China’s ever-rising capabilities, a specter of military invasion looms large over Taiwan.

To be certain, China’s goal remains unification. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) made this clear in his speech commemorating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, stating that Taiwan’s unification with China was an “inevitable trend.” However, an invasion has not been in the offing.

Instead, China has spent the better part of the past half-century engaging every last country in the world to withdraw diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. Through these initiatives, combined with investment, trade deals and at times outright bribery, China has put the world on notice that Taiwan is the single most sensitive issue for the Chinese national interest.

One by one, whether succumbing to reasoned argument, seeking short-term economic advantages or quite often by lining their own pockets, world leaders have toed the Chinese line by systematically switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

Still, a little more than a dozen states and microstates scattered throughout the Caribbean, Central America and the Asia-Pacific region remain. These resisters represent the final frontier of China’s long diplomatic game to isolate Taiwan. It would seem China is poised to formally complete this process.

Once these holdouts switch diplomatic recognition, the incorporation of Taiwan into China will be, in the eyes of Beijing, a fait accompli.

Thus the conundrum for China: These countries know that they have this leverage.

As the final frontier begins to dwindle, the last holdouts will have even greater clout. They stand to receive more lucrative trade, aid, investment and loan packages.

It would appear China’s current strategy requires uncontested diplomatic recognition from these holdouts before any action, military or otherwise, can be taken to unify Taiwan with China — if not, then what were all the decades of investments and inducements actually for?

Ironically, Taiwan has also taken advantage of China’s long diplomatic game. For as long as China has been pursuing this strategy, Taiwan has been preparing and improving its military defenses. Indeed, as the US has refused to compete with China in the trade and investment game to deter states from switching recognition, it has poured military aid into Taiwan.

In July, the Trump administration moved ahead with a US$2.2 billion military package for Taipei, consisting mainly of 108 M1A2 Abrams tanks. The next month, Washington agreed to send 66 new F-16 Block 70 aircraft in a package totaling US$8 billion, the fourth and largest package of arms sales to Taiwan since Trump was elected president.

Former US president Barack Obama’s administration approved arms sales packages totaling US$14 billion, while former US president George W. Bush’s administration pushed sales totaling US$15 billion.

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