Determined to keep a permanent grip on power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has abandoned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dogma of “hiding our capacities and biding our time” along with the “peaceful development” line that prevailed under former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Instead, he is treading a “wolf warrior” path of diplomacy that resorts to coercion, debt entrapment and hostage-taking.
Externally, Xi’s China has claimed that it would never seek hegemony, yet it challenges the free, rules-based international order wherever it can. While insisting that it will not export its ideology, it has repeatedly said that “China’s model of governance can become another option for other countries.”
Beijing says it is not expansionist and does not seek to establish spheres of influence, but it has never stopped using its warships and warplanes to harass neighboring countries. It illegally claims sovereignty over the South China Sea, Taiwan and the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), and has frequently issued “warnings” to the US to show that it is prepared for a war with Washington if needs be.
US political scientist John Mearsheimer, the leading proponent of “offensive realism” in international relations, predicted long ago that Beijing’s rise would not be peaceful and that great-power politics would eventually lead to tragedy.
Another US political scientist, Graham Allison, has also warned that the two powers — China and the US — are very likely to fall into the “Thucydides trap,” which would make them destined for war. The policy of engagement with China against the Soviet Union, which then-US president Richard Nixon initiated in 1972, officially ended following then-vice president Mike Pence’s remarks, in a speech at the Hudson Institute in Washington on Oct. 4, 2018, on the then-US administration’s policy toward China.
Meanwhile, a survey published by the Washington-based Pew Research Center in October last year showed that 83 percent of Americans regarded China as either a competitor or an enemy. These trends suggest that China and the US will continue to move from cooperation and compromise in the past to fierce competition and conflict in the future.
Democratic Taiwan is at the forefront of the US’ resistance to China, and is the greatest challenge to the legality and legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) centralized rule. It is also the greatest threat to the “long-term stability” of the CCP’s autocratic regime, and this is of course the main reason that authoritarian China is so keen to annex democratic Taiwan.
US-China rivalry and the expansion of the China’s military hegemonism toward other countries have drawn the world’s attention to Taiwan’s importance in international geopolitics, economics and trade. This trend should enable Taiwan to escape from its previous fate of being suppressed and marginalized by China.
Taiwan has in the past few years gained international recognition for its capabilities in global public health. It has come to play an indispensable role in the world community’s control of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it will in the post-pandemic recovery, and this should allow Taiwan to gradually return to the international community as an important partner. Great-power politics and global efforts to control the pandemic are leading to the rise of Taiwan as a “force for good.”
Despite the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan achieved the world’s highest GDP growth last year at 3.11 percent. The nation’s semiconductor technology and comprehensive industrial clusters have made Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co the world leader in its field. Its abundant innovative capability ranks among the world’s four most competitive and innovative countries.
Taiwan also has the world’s best health insurance system, and France’s Foundation for Strategic Research classified it as a medium-powerful country. Taiwan’s performance in economics, trade and healthcare makes it hard for the international community to ignore its existence.
In its annual Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, the administration of former US president Donald Trump called Taiwan a “country” and listed it among the US’ “reliable, capable and natural partners.” Former US national security adviser John Bolton said that the US should consider granting full diplomatic recognition to Taiwan. In November last year, then-US secretary of state Mike Pompeo broke a taboo that the US had imposed on itself for 40 years by declaring that “Taiwan has not been a part of China.”
This year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took it further when, while attending a US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on March 10, he openly called Taiwan a “country.” In recent weeks, Canadian mainstream media and academics have stated one after another that “it is time to embrace democratic Taiwan.”
Confucius (孔子) said that the virtuous never stand alone. Indeed, Taiwan’s position in the international community has gained unprecedented attention thanks to communist China’s vulgar, rude, brutal and violent diplomacy, and this has been accompanied by increasing calls for Taiwan’s national status to be “normalized.”
It has also inspired bipartisan members of the US Congress to propose a Taiwan international solidarity act, which seeks to clarify the content of resolution 2758 of the 1971 26th UN General Assembly, to prevent China from resolving Taiwan’s status without the consent of Taiwanese by distorting the decisions or policies of international organizations.
Taiwan shares common values with the democratic alliance. US General Douglas MacArthur called Taiwan an “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” and it is capable of working with like-minded countries to jointly maintain security in the seas that surround it. A US-led democratic alliance is converging amid global calls for containment of China.
Taiwan is becoming an important part of this alliance, based on its intrinsic geographical advantage, successful model of epidemic prevention and advanced technology, along with its citizens’ determination to protect Taiwan, and its indispensable geostrategic position. Under a framework in which the “democratic” US is counterbalancing “authoritarian” China, Taiwan is set on a path to rising importance.
Masao Sun is a former diplomat who was stationed in the US.
Translated by Julian Clegg
Over the past year, scores of gargantuan Chinese sand dredgers have deployed themselves in territorial waters off the Taiwanese-administered Matsu Islands, where their activities erode beaches and ruin fishing shoals. These Chinese ships are mercenary; a small 5,000 ton ship could sell a load of sand for the equivalent of US$55,000 to Fujian construction firms — or to the People’s Liberation Army for use in building its artificial reefs in the South China Sea. They also frustrate Taiwan’s government, which tries unsuccessfully to cooperate with Beijing on environmental stewardship of their contiguous waters. Each day, Taiwanese Coast Guard vessels can
On Monday last week, a formation of 16 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warplanes flew over the South China Sea near Malaysian Borneo and intruded into the airspace of Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone. Although it was not the first incursion into Malaysian airspace by Chinese military aircraft, it was the first time such a large formation had been dispatched by China. It was yet another worrying indication that Beijing senses an opportunity to aggressively shape the post-COVID-19 world in its own image and has stepped up its plans to expand the frontiers of its empire well beyond the limits of its
With Taiwan’s COVID-19 “ring of steel” breached, the public is demanding vaccines, and politicians are calling for vaccine imports to be expedited. However, the manner in which the debate is being conducted leaves much to be desired. Some people believe that companies and nonprofit groups should be allowed to import vaccines. This is not as simple as it sounds. The mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and BioNTech need to be stored at extremely low temperatures during their transportation from overseas manufacturing plants to the clinics that administer them. Regarding the BioNTech vaccine, its export from the EU requires complex paperwork and procedures.
With more controversies upsetting the nation’s fight against COVID-19, government agencies need to regain the public’s confidence. Being more transparent would be a good start. Over the past week, several politicians have apologized for failing to prevent more COVID-19 deaths, including President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中). They must be frustrated to see their globally acclaimed victory from last year being denounced. However, their apologies must ring hollow to the grieving families and those who have no access to rapid testing kits or COVID-19 vaccines. To make matters worse, a Taipei-based clinic