Not all of the Chinas are benign

By Lubomyr Luciuk  / 

Sat, Sep 08, 2018 - Page 8

Recently, I visited the Republic of China, Taiwan, and what is officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The former is still free, the latter less and less so. Lately, Beijing, or “mainland China,” has been bullying both. I went to see why.

In Taiwan I found a society that, painfully and gradually, undid the domination of Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) Nationalist forces, who retreated to Formosa in 1949 and whose Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), also known as the Kuomintang, imposed martial law until 1987.

Today it is a flourishing democracy of 24 million people.

Without exception, everyone I spoke to, from waitresses to tour guides and diplomats to young sailors, expressed understandable pride in their ethnic Chinese heritage, yet insisted they want nothing to do with the Communist-dominated political system of the “mainland.” They are free and want to stay free.

They also know their country’s history, including less salutary episodes, particularly the 228 Incident, a massacre that began on Feb. 28, 1947, metastasizing into a White Terror with tens of thousands killed or imprisoned, many the most highly educated people of their day and most innocent of disloyalty.

Once a taboo subject, this injustice is recalled at Taipei’s 228 Peace Memorial Park. I watched citizens posting notices there remembering specific victims, while reminding passersby of the importance of remaining vigilant in defense of liberty.

In contrast, over on the “mainland,” and only after Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) death in 1976, his successor, Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), proclaimed Mao’s legacy was 70 percent positive and only 30 percent negative, a formula still prescribed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Appallingly, the image of a man responsible for the death of tens of millions of Chinese — dwarfing the genocidal furies of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin combined — remains on that country’s banknotes.

This monstrous Maoist past remains ignored largely because the CCP insists seven themes “shall not be discussed” — universal values, civil society, a free media, civil rights, capitalism, judicial independence and, revealingly, the party’s “historical errors.”

Coupled with those no-nos are five additional things that “shall not be done” — pluralizing the existing “guiding ideology,” privatization, creating a multi-party state or federal system, and providing for a separation of powers within the state.

Given what the Forbidden City forbids, it is obvious why millions of Chinese who identify as Taiwanese or Hong Kongers — not to mention Tibetans, Uyghurs and others — want nothing to do with the authors of these 12 communist Chinese commandments.

Will the “other Chinas” survive? With the Taiwan Strait as a defensive moat, an increasingly professional military and the promise of US intervention if attacked, Taipei’s sovereignty is probably secure.

However, in Hong Kong I sensed a quiet desperation, a premonition of the imminent end of freedom.

Culturally, of course, there is only “one China.” Not a single person I spoke with in Taiwan or Hong Kong doubts it, nor do I. Yet there are at least two Chinese states.

In 1992, cross-strait discussions were held, supposedly reaching a “consensus” on this very point, both sides agreeing there is “one China,” while recognizing “two systems.” Comforting, perhaps, but no accord really exists. Beijing has repeatedly proclaimed it plans to reclaim the “renegade province” of Taiwan, through military force if need be.

While Taiwanese hope the ambiguity of today’s “status quo” will prevail, they all know Beijing is striving to undermine their independence.

Why? Because Taiwan represents what a China freed from one-party rule can be: an open, commercially successful, technologically sophisticated country with much to offer, enriching humankind as Chinese civilization has done for many centuries.

However, for “mainland China” to follow the Taiwanese path would require ending the CCP’s dictatorship and its more than 83 million members are not likely to oblige. Democratization would scupper their privileges, expose their corruption and require an accounting for the vile crimes, historical and contemporary, perpetrated by and in the name of the party.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at the 13th National People’s Congress on March 11 amended the country’s constitution, enthroning himself for life, copycatting Russian President Vladimir Putin, the KGB man in the Kremlin.

Unaccountably, Karl Marx never predicted the current dictatorships of “Communist” emperors as a stage in history.

What should Canada do? Beijing is certainly not the only odious regime the country deals with, but do commercial engagements require the abandonment of democratic Taiwan?

An answer exists in the Oct. 13, 1970, joint communique establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

In part it reads: “The Chinese Government reaffirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China. The Canadian Government takes note of this position of the Chinese Government.”

Read that again. All Canada’s diplomats did was “take note” of Beijing’s contention that Taiwan is a part of its territory. They did not agree it was, not then, nor since. Canada is quite free to engage with Taiwan however it wishes.

Be they liberals, conservatives, or new democrats, Canadian politicians often speak of promoting “Canadian values” — supporting democracy, the rule of law, civil liberties and human rights.

Yet they face powers and principalities deploying considerable geopolitical and geoeconomic leverage, all orchestrated to gutter the liberal-democratic principles so fundamental to the survival of Western civilization.

What is to be done? Rather than kowtow to Mammon’s present-day minions, I would say Canada must stand with those who share its values. Taiwan does.

Lubomyr Luciuk is a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada. Although he traveled as a guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the opinions expressed here are his own.