While calling on the international community to respect China’s “right” to peaceful development, Beijing has yet to abandon its tendency to make requests that are diametrically opposed to that goal.
Again this week, Beijing called on Washington to facilitate mutual understanding and respect its core interests, which include its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan. The problem with such assertions is that Beijing’s definition of mutual understanding is often irreconcilable with reality, or at least morality.
It is very difficult, for one, to increase mutual understanding when one side’s position is underscored by the deployment of 1,600 ballistic missiles. Surely, mutual understanding cannot include the other party’s acknowledgement that the Chinese military has a right to threaten Taiwan’s 23 million peace-loving people, let alone ignore their own preferences regarding their identity and the destiny of their nation.
Bowing to such calls for mutual understanding, with the threat of force as one of the main elements of that understanding, would be tantamount to moral capitulation on Washington’s part, whether as a country that perceives itself as a beacon of democracy or as Taiwan’s sole security guarantor.
The other, equally fatal, flaw in Beijing’s plea for mutual understanding is that on core issues, the understanding in fact is not mutual: It expects its counterparts to absorb, and if possible abide by, its own idiosyncratic view of the world, while categorically refusing to compromise. Taiwan again serves as a perfect example.
It is therefore anxiety-provoking when supposedly seasoned diplomats and strategists, such as former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, argue that at some point, the US will have to address the Taiwan “question” and “be sensitive to the meaning of this issue to China,” which in effect represents abdicating to calls by Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) to increase mutual trust.
Never mind that Brzezinski was once again exhibiting his utter inability to understand Taiwan or that mutual trust should also include input from the 23 million people in Taiwan who would be most affected by a decision — which he only vaguely hints at — to abandon Taiwan.
The same applies to the argument, repeated by Brzezinski, that the desired “one China” could, through a peaceful process, exist in the form of several political systems. Here — and we have Hong Kong’s and Tibet’s experience as models — what we have is not mutual understanding, but wishful thinking, if not downright naivety. Beijing does not brook the existence of different political systems under “one China.” Since 1950, when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded Tibet, Tibetan customs and religion have become shadows of their former glory. The same applies to the tottering democratic system in Hong Kong, which little by little is being chopped away at the edges by Beijing and its minions inside the territory.
Beijing is not exactly receptive to the need for reciprocity that underscores mutual trust and understanding. Tibetans, Uighurs and Hong Kongers know full well from their own, for the most part painful, experience that, by Chinese definition, mutual understanding is a one-way street, and one that leads straight to Zhongnanhai.
So now Brzezinski and other China apologists would have Taiwanese show understanding for the PLA forcing them to live under the shadow of war? No sane person would understand, let alone accept, such a threat. That Beijing continues to aim those missiles at its “own blood” and “compatriots” only proves the point that the Chinese leadership could not care less about the opinions of others.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
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.
Last month, the Philippine National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea reported that more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels were anchored at the disputed Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea, known as Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines. The task force released astonishing photographs, which showed clusters of enormous fishing trawlers at anchor and tied together in neat rows. Needless to say, the ships were not engaging in commercial fishing activity; they belong to China’s “maritime militia.” Beijing’s flimsy official explanation is that the vessels are temporarily seeking shelter from inclement weather. This is patently ridiculous, given the time that