During the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, held as a virtual meeting, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday last week once again criticized China for the spread of COVID-19 and called on the UN to “hold China accountable for their actions.”
French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed concerns over the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang and asked for “an international mission under the auspices of the UN to be able to visit Xinjiang in order to address the concerns that we share.”
Under the authoritarian rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), China’s image has severely deteriorated, and its great cause of reinvigorating ethnic Chinese (zhonghua minzu, 中華民族) has evolved into a global threat.
At a global forum such as the UN General Assembly, Xi’s continuous efforts to infiltrate other nations with vast sums of money and financial subsidies only spark suspicions.
Time magazine on Tuesday last week unveiled this year’s list of the 100 most influential people, with Xi being included for the 10th consecutive year.
The magazine’s introduction on Xi, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, reads: “His authoritarian moves rival the world’s most extreme: corralling ethnic Uighurs into camps, suppressing violent anti-China protests in Hong Kong and ushering in powerful social-monitoring technology. Completing the look is the Mao Zedong-like cult of personality Xi allows or encourages — including his own Little Red Book. The result: a foreign policy and economic juggernaut expanding around the world.”
The introduction continues: “Still, just as the sudden fall of the Soviet Union exposed previously unseen cracks,” Xi is facing “[China’s] shrinking and aging workforce, the cost of the global Belt and Road Initiative (built on debt, not cash) and internal griping — or worse — from victims of a slowing economy exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.”
Bennent concludes the introduction, saying that “Xi’s success may not be his final act.”
Time views the influence of Xi from a perspective that associates present-day China to the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, as Beijing has been posing serious hazards to the free world. The magazine’s introduction also implies China’s possible disintegration after reaching the pinnacle of power and maxing out its strength.
In face of the escalating confrontation between the US and China, Xi at the General Assembly — without mentioning the US by name — criticized Washington, saying “unilateralism is a dead end” and claiming that China adopts multilateralism.
With democratic nations taking the stance to counter Beijing one after another as if reaching a consensus, China’s “multilateralism” has proven to be nothing but an illusion.
As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his bombshell speech at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library on July 23 said: If the free world does not change communist China, it “will surely change us.”
Now that the US further differentiates the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from the Chinese public, as evidenced by Pompeo’s urge to “empower the Chinese people — a dynamic, freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party,” Xi looks increasingly like a ruler isolated and out of touch, with few real allies or friends to speak of.
The nation on the other side of the Taiwan Strait shows a stark contrast.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who is also on the magazine’s list, has an introduction penned by US Senator Ted Cruz, who writes that “freedom is [Taiwan’s] North Star, which has been clear in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Cruz adds: “Taiwan has proved that the virus can be controlled — without emulating China’s drastic policies.”
Facing “the world’s largest communist regime … President Tsai stood tall” against China’s regional ambitions and was undeterred when “China lured Taiwan’s allies into cutting off ties with the island nation,” he wrote.
Cruz, who has lashed out at China’s violation of human rights many times, was among those on whom Beijing authorities imposed “sanctions” on Aug. 10 for having “behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues.”
As an attentive observer of the cross-strait situation, Cruz’s introduction on Tsai succinctly points out two major issues.
First, even though COVID-19 has spread from China across the globe, Taiwan — a neighboring nation — has achieved outstanding disease prevention, which is probably the best in the world, thanks to pre-emptive measures and advance preparations. Compared with the US, European nations and other democratic countries, Taiwan has proven that the democratic system can still be effective in epidemic prevention, with the “Taiwan model” of administration constantly receiving international plaudits.
Second, since the beginning of this year, Beijing has been intensifying its military threats toward Taiwan. Not only has China sent military aircraft and vessels to encircle the nation with increasing frequency, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force aircraft have also crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait and intruded Taiwanese airspace in a highly provocative manner.
The Tsai administration has not given in to Beijing’s belittling “one China” principle. Apart from expanding collaboration with the US and other nations that share similar values and ideals, the government has sped up the enhancement of national defense and boosted the domestic economy, holding the idea that “without actual strength, there is no power of resistance.”
On the front-line of defending democracy, Taiwan has shown itself capable of dealing with both the pandemic and China’s saber rattling. While the whole world is combating COVID-19, Taiwan has been providing assistance by sending medical supplies, and proving the tenacity and resilience of democracy.
This year, the international situation has been changing rapidly, with Taiwan right at the heart of these changes. It has been embattled by the pandemic, just as it has had to stand firm in the face of the expansion of Chinese military intimidation.
Taiwan has had to act as the unsinkable aircraft carrier of democracy, forging a national image of goodwill and resilience, and in the process, showing the world not just the difference between Taiwan and China, but also the ridiculousness of Beijing’s proposition that Taiwan is “an inalienable part of Chinese territory.”
Compared with the image that Taiwan has been projecting, China’s increasing level of perceived menace has emphasized the strategic value of Taiwan remaining an independent nation.
Democratic Taiwan and totalitarian China could not be more different. Rather than striving to “look for similarities” and holding up the so-called “1992 consensus” in an exercise of mass delusion, Taiwan must continue to hold firm against the damage done by China’s policies of penetrating Taiwanese society and politics, and to instead point out the differences. It must work harder to consolidate its democracy and further highlight the different path it is taking compared with that of China.
Taiwan’s role is no longer that of a pawn in Beijing’s hands: Instead, it is to encourage other democratic nations, such as the US, to reflect on why they are standing to the side, watching Taiwan being buffeted by strong winds from across the Strait and trying to protect its democratic values.
This is perhaps why Time placed both Tsai and Xi on its list, but giving them a very different appraisal.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming and Paul Cooper
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