Chinese plans to take over Taiwan may have been postponed indefinitely, Harvard professor Richard Rosecrance says.
“If Taiwan is ever to join the mainland, Beijing will have to become a much more federalist polity, where regional differences are accommodated,” he wrote in a paper published in the latest edition of The American Interest quarterly review.
Director of the US-China Relations Program and adjunct professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Rosecrance said that Taipei is closely watching Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong and “doesn’t like what it sees.”
He said that an independent-minded Hong Kong would be a beacon to democrats all over China and Southeast Asia.
The “real audience” for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong is Taipei, Rosecrance wrote.
According to his analysis, the protests have underlined two major points: Beijing’s policy has not changed, and China’s “attempt to reintegrate Taiwan with the mainland has been postponed indefinitely — perhaps forever.”
Chinese repression in Hong Kong would be gradual — “if it occurs at all” — and a long-term waiting strategy is more likely, he wrote.
“For its part, the US is seeking gently to surround China with Gulliver-like strings of influence that will inhibit its actions without directly controlling them,” Rosecrance wrote.
The US can “at least briefly rejoice” in the notion that China is its own worst enemy, he wrote.
“Its conflicts with the Philippines, [South] Korea, Vietnam, Japan and even innocent Indonesia have thrown one after another of these countries into the ample and welcoming arms of the US,” he wrote.
The US’ longer-term strategy should not be to “balance” China, but rather to enlist it in supporting the rise of other nations in Africa and Asia and even Eastern Europe, he wrote.
China is investing in Italy, Eastern Europe and Africa, and is buying investment properties in the US, he wrote, adding: “All this means is that China is acting as a de facto provider of goods, even if it is not the official hegemonic leader of the system.”
These actions fit well into a “waiting strategy,” but they do not solve the problems of either Taiwan or Hong Kong, “which are now inseparably tied,” Rosecrance wrote.
“Hong Kong should be given its freedom. In the long run this is more likely to attract Taiwan than the current centralist policy,” he wrote.
“In fact, it can be flatly stated that Taiwan will never come back, if Beijing persists with its current obtuse policy in Hong Kong,” he said.