Over the years, Chinese authorities have relentlessly attempted to prevent Taiwan from joining international organizations lest this give Taipei the sovereign legitimacy that Beijing considers anathema to its “one China” principle.
Although such behavior has made it impossible for Taiwan to have its voice heard in international forums like the UN or the WHO, Beijing’s object was ostensibly the symbolism of Taiwanese participation rather than the practicalities and benefits that Taiwan would derive from membership.
Despite superficially warmer ties between Taipei and Beijing since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) launched his cross-strait lovefest two years ago, Chinese officials have often overlooked the “goodwill” they are alleged to have showered on their Taiwanese compatriots by continuing to deny Taiwan international breathing space. This has targeted symbols of Taiwanese nationhood, such as a delegation of moviemakers at the Tokyo International Film Festival in late October attending under the name “Taiwan.”
However, behind such headline-grabbing acts of insanity lurk several instances of Chinese officials impeding Taiwanese efforts in a different sphere altogether: the economic sector. This is often the result of Chinese officials at the local level pressuring governments by raising the specter of Chinese “anger.”
By virtue of their proximity to and growing dependence on China, developing countries in Southeast Asia — Cambodia, to name a recent example — have often yielded to such pressure, leading to delays in the establishment of Taiwanese trade missions there.
Meddling of this type touches on matters of economics, as if it were illegal for Taiwan to trade with regional economies. The object here is not the signing of free-trade agreements or other measures that could be construed by Beijing as conferring sovereignty upon Taiwan, but rather the fundamental right of human beings, regardless of their race or nation, to seek economic prosperity through trade.
We could, for the sake of generosity, show forbearance to officials in Phnom Penh and attribute their dishonorable behavior to their position of weakness vis-a-vis Beijing. Where magnanimity is less easily summoned, however, is when officials in rich countries — say, state governors in the US — engage in similar acts of prostration to appease Beijing. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon canceling a trip by a business delegation to Taiwan this month after the Chinese consul general for the Midwest hinted that the visit could be being misinterpreted in Beijing and “endanger” plans for China to start using Lambert St.-Louis International Airport for cargo shipments, was just the latest in a growing list of disgraceful weakness by politicians who, unlike their Cambodian counterparts, cannot reasonably be considered to be in a position of weakness.
Even more deplorable is that these officials are seemingly being cowed by Chinese officials who are, as far as we can tell, freelancing and not acting on directives from Beijing. That the stern officials in Zhongnanhai would spend their days plotting against every trade and business agreement between Taiwan and other countries is difficult to imagine; Beijing has far too much on its hands to waste time and energy ordering officials to counter every such endeavor.
We seem to have entered an era where state governors, mayors and officials in the world’s most powerful nations can be browbeaten by lowly Chinese officials who are slightly overzealous in their nationalistic entrepreneurialism. It’s one thing (though by no means more excusable) to think twice when threats of Beijing’s “anger” come out of Zhongnanhai itself, it is another entirely when the messenger is a local fraud with delusions of grandeur.
If we are to resist growing Chinese encroachment in every aspect of our lives, we’ll have to learn to say no. A good place to start would be with such miscreants.
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
Determined to keep a permanent grip on power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has abandoned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dogma of “hiding our capacities and biding our time” along with the “peaceful development” line that prevailed under former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Instead, he is treading a “wolf warrior” path of diplomacy that resorts to coercion, debt entrapment and hostage-taking. Externally, Xi’s China has claimed that it would never seek hegemony, yet it challenges the free, rules-based international order wherever it can. While insisting that it will not export its ideology, it has
As the US’ mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign continues at a record pace, one question under debate is what the administration of US President Joe Biden should do with its extra doses — and especially where to send them. One country that should be at the top of a donation list is Taiwan, in recognition of the help that it provided to the US at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. After weeks of pressure, the Biden administration announced that it is now “looking at options to share American-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses.” By summer, it is clear that anyone in the