The assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has drawn numerous praiseworthy responses from around the world. Nations have lauded his life, his goals and his contributions to Japan and world progress.
Yet even amid the outpouring of sympathy and condolences, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) once again found cause to posture and dictate like an entitled parent figure.
The first sign came when Vice President William Lai (賴清德) announced that he would visit Japan to pay his respects to Abe. Acting as if it was in charge of the guest list, Beijing let it be known that it did not approve of Lai’s visit.
Shortly after, the same controlling attitude surfaced when it was reported that US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi would visit Taiwan.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) immediately railed against Pelosi’s visit, saying how it would seriously “undermine China’s territorial sovereignty” and “gravely impact the foundation of China-US relations.”
Sovereignty over Taiwan? What dream fostered that?
Zhao’s remarks would seem laughable if made by children in a schoolyard confrontation, but he was speaking on the world stage and propagating Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spin. Alert listeners saw how this matched the CCP’s rewriting of Hong Kong’s history.
The 1997 Hong Kong Handover allegedly never really happened. Why? In CCP spin, the Manchu Qing never could or should have made such an agreement, because the Manchu Empire was never really a Manchu Empire — it was China. This interpretation proved to have a hard, unfathomable logic to digest.
The CCP was borrowing from then-CCP chairman Mao Zedong (毛澤東) — namely, that if political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, history can also be rewritten by such means. This is what Taiwan, Asia, the US and the world must be conscious of.
These hegemonic claims are just the beginning. They go far beyond Abe’s funeral and Hong Kong. The CCP’s end goal is control of the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. If Beijing can get the world to swallow the first steps, the rest will be easy.
Few might remember the then-Soviet Union’s hegemonic moves in 1948. Intent on extending its control far into Europe, it blocked entrances to Berlin, hoping to starve Germany’s capital into submission. The West, although weary of war, thought better and responded with the Berlin Airlift. The lines were drawn and the Cold War began in earnest.
When the airlift succeeded, the Soviet-backed East German government in 1961 built the Berlin Wall, which remained until 1989.
In Asia, the CCP’s hegemonic anti-democratic plan surfaced with the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and became more clear with Hong Kong’s post-1997 broken promises and the rewriting of its history.
Here are three quick, blunt steps to prevent Taiwan from becoming the next Berlin. Forget any worry of provoking the CCP — it will always find a reason to be provoked.
First, in addition to challenging PRC hegemonic aims by sailing through the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, the US and other nations must begin making port calls to Kaohsiung.
Second, with due respect to Pelosi, she should carry out her visit, even amid veiled threats of violent interference. Beijing’s attempted hegemony is not going away. This is not the time to be like former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, seeking “peace in our time.” The CCP and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) have their own issues to defend at the upcoming 20th Party Congress in the fall.
Third, Japan must be allowed to have a normalized military. Seventy-five years have passed since the end of World War II, and all other countries have moved on. It is time for Japan to do so amid new threats to democracy in this ever-changing world.
Japan must do away with Article 9 of its constitution and become a significant naval power in Asia. It is the only country still bound by that distant past. Its navy must regain its tradition — it must transit the Taiwan Strait and make port calls to Kaohsiung.
If other democratic nations cannot see the new enemy at the gates, it is time to open their eyes. The CCP manipulates and operates from a simple paradigmatic past: It must be the Middle Kingdom in Asia and the world. It ignores all other history.
This is why, after two years of doing little when action would have most been effective, the CCP has suddenly imposed severe COVID-19 lockdowns. The virus must be gone before its National Congress. Big changes are coming as Xi seeks an unprecedented third term, and the CCP must look its best.
Some might still cry: “What about the status quo?”
There is no “status quo.” As far back as 1996, the PRC shot missiles on each side of Taiwan in an attempt to influence its elections. It continually concocts laws by which it can condemn anyone supporting Taiwan’s de facto independence. How many times does the PRC air force enter Taiwan’s air space? Enough said.
As with Berlin, the coming cold war cannot be avoided. The West saw that the Soviet Union’s hegemonic encroachment swallowed Poland and much of East Europe. Berlin was the next step to gain control of Germany.
For purists who still do not understand this issue, and wonder how the US can technically remain “undecided” on Taiwan while maintaining a “one China policy,” these actions in no way contravene the US’ vague “one China policy.” That policy never accepted that Taiwan is part of China — it simply understood that Taiwan is a part of China in Beijing’s imagination, but never in reality.
Return then to Kaohsiung. If the US and other countries’ navies cannot dock in Kaohsiung, they will never control or maintain freedom of the seas in the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan has become the new Berlin. Abe saw this when he said: “Taiwan’s problem is Japan’s problem.” It is time for the rest of the world to acknowledge the same.
When former US president John F. Kennedy was in West Berlin in 1963, he uttered the famous line: “I am a Berliner.” It is time for the US and other democracies to similarly respond with this simple, direct statement: “I am Taiwanese. We all are Taiwanese.”
Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.
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