On Monday, some people on a street in Beijing blocked the path of a car in which Japanese Ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa was riding, and pulled off the Japanese flag that was mounted on the car. The Japanese embassy has lodged a strong protest about the incident with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There have been demonstrations and protests against Japan in big cities all over China recently, with protesters damaging Japanese cars and shops on some occasions. Now, it has risen to the level of the Japanese ambassador’s car being stopped and the Japanese flag insulted. Evidently, anti-Japanese sentiment in China is not dissipitating, and is instead getting stronger. In addition, China’s leaders, who are always pontificating about how people should act in a civilized manner, are not interested in talking about international law.
A few years ago, people around the world started talking about the “China threat,” predicting that China, which was quickly rising as an economic and political power, would start to threaten the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Judging by China’s overbearing attitude toward the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) issue, the ongoing disputes over sovereignty in the South China Sea and, especially, the increasing seriousness of these once-latent crises, the “China threat” theory is more than just a shot in the dark.
In an attempt to conceal its hegemonic ambitions in the region, China responded to worries about it being a threat by trying to charm the international community with talk of a peaceful rise. However, China continues to cause headaches for Western democratic countries over issues such as nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. China wants to keep Western countries occupied so they will stay out of the Asia-Pacific region. Then China can be top dog.
China’s standpoint is very clear: It wants other countries in the region to accept all of its demands, otherwise there will be no talk of peace. If they do not comply, China is ready to wage a war of words, or, failing that, a real war. In its recent dispute with Japan, China has not gone beyond verbal attacks, but has made threats of military action.
Is the same not true of its approach to Taiwan? Pro-independence parties and groups in Taiwan have never accepted the so-called “1992 consensus” or the idea that Taiwan and China both belong to “one China.” Taiwanese have long since grown accustomed to China’s verbal bullying and military threats.
Only since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his government started acquiescing to China’s ambitions regarding Taiwan by promoting the “1992 consensus,” and then proposing the idea that China and Taiwan are two areas of a single country, has an illusion of peace appeared over the Taiwan Strait. China, for its part, takes a mile for every inch that it is given.
If Taiwan’s government ever decides not to accept China’s every demand, China will go back to its usual methods and put the disobedient Ma government firmly in its place.
During his term as Japan’s ambassador to Beijing, Niwa has been friendly to China. He criticized Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s plan to buy the Diaoyutai Islands, saying that such a deal would create a very serious crisis in relations between China and Japan. Some people in Japan have even accused Niwa of betraying Japan’s national interests by going along with China’s standpoints, but that has not stopped China from using Niwa as a whipping boy when it wants to insult Japan.
The more one bows and panders to China, the less respect China will have for them, and the more likely it is that they will be cut down to size at some point. Those people in Taiwan who do their utmost to curry favor with China should not make the mistake of thinking that they have been somehow elevated to a level where China thinks of them as being one of its own. When China decides it wants to make an example of somebody, these are the people that will be first in line for a dressing-down.
In a recent interview, Ma derided the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) initiative in sending people to China to visit and take part in meetings. Ma said that he was glad the DPP was willing to send people to China, but that the people it sent were too low-ranking. He said that sometimes the DPP was too timid and did too little. The implication is that Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government is brave because it sends high-ranking people to China. Yet those “high-ranking” sellouts do not actually have much to boast about.
For example, Ma appointed former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in Beijing and say to his face that China and Taiwan both belonged to one country. However, when Wu’s formula got bad reception from the public in Taiwan, he was told to swallow his words. Who was the timid one on that occasion?
When Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, came to visit Taiwan, the government mobilized police to maintain order, and members of the public where prohibited from carrying Republic of China flags.
In addition, Ma did not object when Chen addressed him using the formal “you” instead of “ Mister President.” Ma was too timid on that occasion as well — it looks as though the only thing Ma is brave about is insisting that Taiwan belongs to China.
China’s political culture has always been one of bullying the meek and fearing the fierce. The kinder one is to China, the more likely that person will be bullied by it. On the other hand, the less courteous one is to China, the more likely that person is to win its respect. Sycophants who are always afraid of offending China’s leaders will definitely earn their disdain.
When people like Ma and representatives of the Mainland Affairs Council and the Straits Exchange Foundation do everything they can to ingratiate themselves with Chinese officials of every rank, putting themselves at the service of China’s ambition to annex Taiwan, they may imagine that they are China’s friends, but in China’s eyes they are useless and weak.
Do they really expect China to respect them if they would rather be second-grade Chinese than first-grade Taiwanese? China’s history books are full of stories about officials who shifted their loyalties from one dynasty to the next, and such people are regarded as nothing but turncoats. Perhaps this is the kind of historical legacy that Ma wants.
Translated by Julian Clegg