US President Barack Obama naming Taiwan as one of the US’ partners in the global battle against terrorism might have come across as a nod to the nation’s aid to Syrian refugees to some, but his remarks at the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur were not only hypocritical, but have put the nation in danger of being targeted by Muslim extremists.
What Taiwan has done to empower Syrian refugees is remotely, if at all, relevant to tensions between the US and Muslim nations or militia. The contributions Taiwan made were driven by its commitment to humanitarian relief — it has not made any official statements or entered into any agreements with the US or any other nation to take on Muslim extremists.
Taiwan is generally neutral and harmless to Muslims, which has left many at a loss as to why the nation has been targeted by the Islamic State (IS) group, and Obama failed to do Taiwan any justice by naming it as a partner in the US’ antiterrorism campaign.
The move is especially reprehensible when one considers the limited role the US has played in helping Taiwan join any international organizations that would help it break free from Beijing’s shackles.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Wednesday made a timely and emphatic point when he said that the US has adopted a nonchalant stance on Taiwan’s bids to join the UN or other organizations, and that Obama only mentions Taiwan when he wants to conduct business or assign work.
It is evident that Obama’s recent trip to Asia is part of Washington’s move to push its “pivot to Asia” policy, aimed at restoring the US’ economic and strategic influence, and weakening China’s growing dominance in the region. His deliberate omission of China as a partner against terrorism has further underlined that point, given that Beijing last week vowed to tackle terrorists after footage purportedly released by IS showed the beheading of a Chinese hostage.
While the US retains an important role in maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait, Obama should not have gotten Taiwan involved in the US’ war against militant Muslim groups, which has put Taiwan’s national security at risk. After all, the US has been aloof about Taiwan’s struggle to fight for international space for so long, and there is no justifying Obama’s dangerous name-throwing just to further the US’ own political aims.
An IS threat to target Taiwan led some to panic, but it also produced a rare example of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) acting in unison.
Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, unaware of the ensuing danger, expressed its gratitude over Obama’s recognition of Taiwan’s efforts to counter terrorism, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) clarified the nation’s role in the global fight against terrorism, saying that its efforts only included humanitarian relief assistance and that such actions are not directed at IS.
Ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (王珮玲) made it clear that the nation’s role in the fight against terrorism is confined to providing humanitarian and emergency response assistance — comments that were echoed by DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who called on China to step up its commitment to combat terrorists.
As with any talks at the international level, the two parties, intentionally or otherwise, have sent a clear message not only to IS, but also to Obama: “Keep Taiwan out of your fight.”
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday last week met with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at an APEC summit in Thailand. The meeting made front-page news in Japan the following day. Three years ago, when then-Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited Beijing to meet with Xi, no one questioned Abe’s attitude toward China, as the conservative parties in Japan had been spearheaded by Abe. However, Kishida could easily be labeled as pro-China, as he hails from Hiroshima — a place known for its anti-war, anti-nuclear movements — and was once the director of the Japan-China Friendship Association of Hiroshima.
It is quite the irony when former British prime minister Boris Johnson — a buffoon who for far too long was taken seriously — is branded a buffoon for saying something deadly serious. Following Johnson’s withering criticism of China at a business forum in Singapore on Wednesday last week, the event’s organizer, Michael Bloomberg, apologized to attendees, saying that Johnson was “trying to be amusing rather than informative and serious.” However, Johnson’s characterization of China as a “coercive autocracy” that had showed “a candid disregard for the rule of international law” was spot-on. His comments evoked the wisdom of the Austrian-British philosopher
Although internal Chinese politics are largely defined by meticulously concocted mysteries, it is an open secret that the battle for who will ascend to the highest echelons of Zhongnanhai is decided at the Beidaihe resort. It is where factions within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) engage in horse-trading over leadership selection and delegate appointments long before the party’s national congress. What unfolded at last month’s 20th National Congress was predetermined at the Beidaihe gathering in August. In this context, the CCP, and particularly Chinese President and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平), used the event to project power and party unity.
There has been a surge of global interest in Taiwan’s security in recent years. Amidst the noise, it can be easy to lose sight of broader trends that are shaping the environment within which Taiwan operates. Taking a broader view can bring into focus what tasks are most important for Taiwan to protect its democratic way of life. At the global level, several trends are unfolding in parallel. First, great power competition is intensifying. Russia is employing violence to seek to redraw boundaries. China is advancing its ambitions by operating below the threshold of conflict. China-Russia relations are unnaturally close by