Self-sufficiency can buck the CCP

By Chang Yan-ting 張延廷  / 

Tue, May 15, 2018 - Page 8

The Dominican Republic’s severing of diplomatic ties with Taiwan earlier this month is another reminder of the way in which a rising China leverages its economic might and international influence to constrict Taiwan’s space in the international arena.

Beijing spends enormous sums of money on development assistance to lure away Taiwan’s diplomatic allies. It coerces Taiwanese public opinion through scare tactics and forces other nations to accept its so-called “one China” principle to obstruct a “one China, one Taiwan” solution and strip Taiwan of its sovereignty.

This means that all international channels are blocked off unless Taiwan is able to obtain China’s permission. Beijing is using a combination of economic and political means in a bid to snuff out the Republic of China and the idea of an independent nation called Taiwan.

As Taiwan faces the prospect of China’s transformation into a major power and its increasing international influence, it must also prepare itself for long-term autocratic rule by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), after he increased his power in March by forcing through the abolishment of constitutional presidential term limits.

From a long-term perspective, to deal with Beijing’s offensive tactics — poaching Taiwanese companies and talent, freezing Taiwan out of the international diplomatic community and intimidating the nation militarily — Taiwan must be on guard against China’s nimble use of the “carrot-and-stick” approach.

The government must study and understand internal changes within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the effect that they could have on the Taiwan Strait. It also needs to constrict China’s ability to poach Taiwanese companies and talent, and must prioritize innovation with a greater sense of urgency.

In terms of the economy and defense, President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration must continue the drive to become more self-sufficient.

Taiwanese sovereignty is an extremely sensitive issue for Beijing, which naturally plans to use its economic advantage to achieve its diplomatic needs.

For decades, China’s Taiwan policy has focused on achieving unification. To that end, Beijing has started using economic incentives to target groups in Taiwan as part of its “united front” tactics in a kind of economic war designed to buy up Taiwan, hollow out its economy and isolate the nation.

The inevitable consequence of this for Taiwan would be a weakened economy, but also increased dependence on China.

In short, Beijing plans to use its economic might to place Taiwan in a straitjacket.

The CCP is adept at applying its unification strategy and divide-and-rule politics. It has used military intimidation to wage psychological warfare on Taiwan and to consolidate the party’s authority within China. It also uses external events to divert the public’s focus from political problems at home — a tactic on which the CCP has always relied.

The party uses a triumvirate of warfare on public opinion, psychological warfare and legal warfare to achieve its political goals, capitalizing on society’s increasing use of the Internet, big data and instantaneous communication to increase its effectiveness.

As such, propaganda involving military exercises is likely to become even more pointed and effective, as the war on public opinion becomes even more multifaceted.

The CCP is also good at using the carrot-and-stick approach.

During a regular air and sea long-range exercise, it can arbitrarily announce exercises aimed at Taiwan, pick a land-based troop exercise in a coastal area and combine the two into a set of joint exercises.

The intent is to show that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army is militarily superior to Taiwan, and to stress that its aircraft can circle and harass Taiwan at will.

With today’s global interconnectivity and the comprehensive power of national armies, the cost to China of taking military action against Taiwan would be too high — it could not initiate military action lightly.

China is engaging in psychological warfare to intimidate Taiwan through the use of military displays and to show that war is an extension of politics.

The law of the jungle is not the way to resolve the cross-strait issue. It should be settled through free competition provided by democratic systems — for anyone on the right side of history, it is not difficult to see what drives the situation.

Taiwan should speed up its global deployment and integration with the international community, no matter the outcome in the Strait. The nation needs a flexible China policy, sustainable and prosperous economic development, stable alliances and active exchanges with other nations — all important components of continued cross-strait peace.

The nation’s defenses are well prepared for a long war, making military action against Taiwan a risky proposition for China. This is the basic status of the geopolitical situation in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan must continue to strengthen its self-defense capabilities and remain aware of China’s military activities in the Taiwan Strait, which have lately comprised psychological warfare.

It must also help maintain a regional balance militarily and use its deterrent capabilities to maintain a secure Taiwan Strait.

Chang Yan-ting is an adjunct professor at National Defense University.

Translated by Edward Jones and Perry Svensson