It appears that the Year of the Pig has begun with a pushback against some of Beijing’s more egregious policies. Moves and announcements by the US, the UK, Turkey and others can be seen as a clear signal that this lunar year — and hopefully the years to come — will not see diplomatic business as usual for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Two US guided missile destroyers yesterday sailed close to Mischief Reef (Meiji Reef, 美濟礁) in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in a freedom of navigation exercise, less than two-and-a-half weeks after Washington sent the USS McCampbell and the USNS Walter S. Diehl through the Taiwan Strait on Jan. 24 in a follow-up to three such trips last year.
Also yesterday, an early release of British Minister of State for Defense Affairs Gavin Williamson’s speech to the Royal United Services Institute showed that London plans to send its newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, to the South China Sea to demonstrate the UK’s “hard power.”
Williamson was to set out a defense policy aimed at confronting aggression by Russia and China that includes sending the Queen Elizabeth to the Pacific as part of its maiden voyage around 2021 — following in the wake of the HMS Albion, an amphibious assault ship that sailed past the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) in early September last year.
On Saturday, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on China to close its “concentration camps” in Xinjiang, saying that the detention of 1 million Uighur Turks with “torture and political brainwashing” was “a great cause of shame for humanity.”
Turkey is the first major Muslim nation to condemn the confinement of more than 1 million Uighurs and others to what Beijing calls vocational training facilities where participation is voluntary, and the statement was an about-face for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and his party.
While all three actions have a domestic imperative — the government of Erdogan, who has portrayed himself as a defender of Turkic peoples and a leader of the Muslim world, is facing nationwide elections at the end of next month, the UK is eager to buff up its global leadership credentials amid the Brexit fiasco, and the US has been taking a series of aggressive steps in its trade dispute with China — they indicate a growing willingness to confront Beijing despite the CCP’s increasing willingness to use China’s economic and trade clout to punish its critics.
Although Taiwan might appear to be on the sidelines in these developments, all three of them benefit it, and the government should be more vocal in support of such efforts.
Taiwan will benefit from any efforts by other nations to push back against Beijing’s attempts to turn the South China Sea — and Taiwan Strait — into domestic bodies of water through land reclamation and the militarization of the Spratlys and Paracels.
Freedom of navigation exercises in the Strait and the South China Sea by the US, the UK, Australia and Japan will make it harder for China’s military to threaten Taiwan with naval or air blockades.
International condemnation of actions against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China help counter Beijing’s efforts to cloak its religious repression, ethnic cleansing and crackdown on attempts to build a civil society, be it in Xinjiang, Hong Kong or elsewhere, as nothing more than counterterror and social unity policies — which Beijing is also attempting to use against Taiwan.
The government should publicly welcome each initiative to help counter Beijing’s repressive tactics against its critics at home and abroad, because for too long, the CCP has been able to advance its programs through a divide-and-rule approach, pushing for bilateral rather than multinational negotiations and pacts, and targeting some nations with harsh economic sanctions in the hopes of cowing others.
Taiwan will benefit from a more united approach.
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