Liberal democracy and communist autocracy are at the initial stages of a historic battle.
Taipei has chosen its side in this fight and has sought to frame “cross-strait relations” as an international issue, while Beijing says that Taiwan is an “internal issue” and a hangover from the Chinese Civil War.
Taiwan’s status as a nation has new clarity and the international community is beginning to defend Taiwan’s democracy.
The Washington Post has praised Taiwan’s diplomatic achievements and Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has said that it would be inconceivable for Australia not to join Taiwan and the US in a conflict with China.
NBA player Enes Kanter has recorded a video in which he urged people to “stand with Taiwan” and “support democracy,” and has worn sneakers embossed with the message: “Taiwan belongs to the Taiwanese people.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is returning China to the evils of communism: suppressing domestic dissent and riding roughshod over international norms, expanding Chinese hegemony, and issuing propaganda and rattling sabers as he seeks to annex Taiwan. This has allowed the international community to appreciate that Taiwan does not belong to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and has elicited more support for Taiwan.
While Taiwan’s diplomatic successes are setbacks for China, they are much more so for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and its muddleheaded nationalism. Former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) viewed the Taiwan Strait crises as international affairs, and instructed those within his party to oppose the PRC and defend the “democracy camp.”
Since then, the KMT has adopted an anti-Japanese and anti-US stance, and fallen headfirst into the “one China” trap, which views Taiwan as an unclaimed prize from the Chinese Civil War.
Retired army major general Yu Pei-chen (于北辰), a loyal Chiang disciple and the last gunslinger against the PRC within the KMT, has been accused of being a “Chinese independence” advocate, of wanting to save China from the Chinese Communist Party, and has received death threats from Chinese nationalists in Taiwan and China.
At the other end of the spectrum is retired air force general Hsia Ying-chou (夏瀛洲), who traveled to Beijing to attend a speech by Xi. Laying bare a corollary of the so-called “1992 consensus,” Hsia said Chinese warplanes “had the authority” to patrol Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
Chiang’s White Terror era left Taiwan with scars, but he did not want the nation to be swallowed up by the PRC. Chiang urged the Taiwan-China dispute to be considered an international issue. It is ironic that the spiritual successors to Chiang’s anti-PRC stance can today be found in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the KMT’s archnemesis.
In her Double Ten National Day address this year, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) noted that the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan is 72 years old, the same age as the PRC, and said that the two should not be subordinate to one another.
Tsai’s words recall Chiang’s declarations of the ROC’s independence and his defense of the nation’s sovereignty. She has placed Taiwan in the “democratic camp” and made the Taiwan-China dispute an international issue.
Tsai’s clarity regarding Taiwan’s international status has persuaded other nations to back Taiwan. In contrast with the KMT’s civil-war mindset, the DPP’s position conforms to international law, as well as the reality of the situation. Continued internationalization will bring Taiwan prizes, while a Chinese Civil War mindset will bring disaster.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Edward Jones
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