It is often said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays the long game. It has that luxury, not being constrained by democratic transitions of power.
The prevailing wisdom is that, as far as the “Taiwan issue” is concerned, due to China’s increasing military strength and regional dominance, time is on the CCP’s side. This is true only if all other things remain unchanged. Both Taiwan and the US have committed themselves to maintaining the “status quo” for now, but change could come from other quarters, and not necessarily from the top down.
On Monday, a German Ministry of Foreign Affairs official rejected a petition initiated by a German national, Michael Kreuzberg, asking Berlin to formally recognize Taiwan. The reason, said Petra Sigmund, director-general for Asia and the Pacific at the ministry, was that such a move would run counter to Germany’s “one China” policy, which the ministry has no intention of changing.
This surprised nobody, least of all Kreuzberg, but there are still reasons to take heart from the process.
It was by no means certain the petition would be published at all. The Bundestag’s petitions committee had initially said it would not publish it on its Web site, as it risked causing “damage to international relations or intercultural dialogue” with China.
Kreuzberg responded to that rejection with an appeal, in which he wrote: “The Republic of China is without doubt a sovereign state” in which Taiwanese “freely practice democracy, in contrast to the PRC [People’s Republic of China], which is a one-party dictatorship.”
In an interview, he said: “I grew up in a dictatorship in communist East Germany. I know from personal experience what it means to live under one. The Stasi Secret Police persecuted me. So of course I have sympathy with Taiwan... I think the West should respond.”
Kreuzberg said he initiated the petition because he did not want his country to be responsible for democratic Taiwan being annexed by China’s authoritarian regime.
That, in a nutshell, is Taiwan’s predicament, its international reality. What seems to be a simple matter to the individual — Taiwan is demonstrably sovereign and independent, and Western democracies should support it over totalitarian regimes — is a diplomatic quagmire for states to negotiate.
Nation-states are required to sign up to Beijing’s deluded version of history, suspend their belief, and disregard international law and their own pretensions to protecting justice among nations.
It essentially comes down to a cold choice between profits and morals. If governments cleave to one or the other, they should account for their choice.
This is why the ministry did not want to discuss the issue in a public forum and why Kreuzberg was adamant that it does.
The rejection of the petition could be deemed a lost battle. Perhaps, but that does not mean the war is a lost cause. Something has been achieved.
Kreuzberg fought to have the petition published, and it quickly surpassed the signature threshold to require an official response, initiating debate in the German media about Taiwan’s plight in the face of China’s suppression and aggression.
Through the petition, Kreuzberg also compelled the German government to discuss the issue in a public forum.
Kreuzberg also said that the issue reportedly has support among politicians from several parties, despite the rejection, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
He said his next move is to take the petition to the EU, because if individual EU members, or the bloc itself, establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Germany might follow suit.
If they do, one could no longer argue that time is on Beijing’s side.
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