The decision to shift the potential meeting between President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy to California to avoid Beijing’s wrath is a geopolitical mistake that would further embolden China, and weaken Taiwan and the West’s resolve and principled deterrence. It makes Taiwan and the US look weak and all too willing to kowtow to Beijing’s threat of force, and sends the wrong message to the Asia-Pacific region.
The West and other regional and global players must deepen their collective stance, condemnation and deterrence against Beijing’s continuous bullying and coercion of Taiwan.
China cannot be allowed to use force or threats of force and intimidation as a means of blackmail. This will only strengthen its institutionalized approach in dealing with Taiwan and reinforcing its regional hegemonic claim by combining its integrated approach of further punishing and cornering Taiwan.
Its daily aggression and intimidation of Taiwan has become normalized and institutionalized. Its next step would be to further test responses by harping on about every Taiwanese move with Western powers as pretexts for further aggression.
Beijing will increase its hard power measures regardless of the visit. The Chinese Communist Party and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) want to take Taiwan regardless of the cost, even at Beijing’s long-term economic expense.
Pledges of peaceful unification are not enough, as the fundamental core question remains on the future of Taiwan’s democratic ideals and culture of freedom and human rights. These would need more than mere verbal intent or assurances alone, nor would the suggested Hong Kong model of autonomy and separate governance work.
Beijing’s “united front” tactics and soft power narratives, along with downright hard power intimidation, will backfire in the long term. Taiwanese, regardless of party affiliation, still prefer the “status quo” and peace, but will not surrender their system of freedom and democracy to Beijing.
Regardless of the extent of Beijing’s push to change that orientation, which can be expected to grow this year ahead of the presidential election next year, the sentiment on the ground remains unchanged, despite Beijing claiming otherwise after the recent momentum of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Even if the KMT delivers an upset in next year’s presidential election, fundamental principles would not alter and it would only serve to delay the inevitable. The question remains: Who has the bigger power advantage in the race against time for eventual unification?
Beijing is realizing the gravity of its own time trap, as internal decline and structural demise signals the beginning of the end of its resilience.
Xi wants Taiwan as his most important legacy, so time is definitely not on his side, and therefore not on Taiwan’s side. The rest of the democratic world and the alliance of free nations must stand in solidarity with Taiwan now more than ever.
Collins Chong Yew Keat provides analysis and opinion to international media on contemporary global and regional issues.
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