Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 7:51 AM

China Tightening Noose Around Taiwan’s ‘Independence’

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

China has been leveraging its economic superpower on the world stage for years. And it is beginning to do the same with its growing military power, which its aggressive and uncontested moves in the South China Sea attest. More to the point, China’s disregard for international criticisms in this context has been growing commensurate with its economic and military power.

As it happens, I’ve been warning about China’s “Yuan diplomacy” for years. This sample list of titles to commentaries should speak volumes:

  • “China Buying Political Dominion Over the Caribbean (Latin America and Africa)!” February 22, 2005
  • “Punishing China for Its Brutal Crackdown in Tibet? Hardly,” July 28, 2008
  • “South Africa Bans Dalai Lama from Peace Conference to Appease China…?” March 24, 2009
  •  “China Putting Squeeze on The Bahamas. Your Country Could Be Next,” October 22, 2010
  • “Countries Queuing Up to Become as Indebted to China as US,” September 15, 2011
  • “China Invading US ‘Sphere of Influence’ in the Caribbean,” April 11, 2012
  • “China and Japan in Falklands-Like Dispute,” August 23, 2012
  • “Wait Till China Begins Doing to Its Neighbors What Russia Is Doing to Its,” April 26, 2014
  • “South Africa Joins Ranks of Countries ‘Selling Its Sovereignty to China’,” October 3, 2014
  • “China Buying the Global Influence Russia and US Fighting For…,” October 16, 2016
  • “China: Where Hong Kong Is Concerned, Britain Is Adrift at Sea,” July 1, 2017

The common thread throughout these and other commentaries is China’s strategy of either bribing or extorting other countries to have its way. And it has been so brazen in executing it that I felt compelled to sound the alarm in one of my very first commentaries. Here is an excerpt – from “World Beware, China Calling In (Loan-Sharking) Debts,” February 3, 2010.

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This episode should serve as a warning to all countries around the world that are not just lapping up China’s largesse but heralding it as a more worthy superpower than the United States. After all, China is spitting imperious and vindictive fire at the rich and mighty United States over a relatively insignificant matter like meeting with the Dalai Lama. So just imagine what it would do to a poor and weak country in a conflict over a truly significant matter.

I anticipated that the Chinese would be every bit as arrogant in the use of their power as the Americans.  But I never thought they would use it for such a petty cause.

In point of fact here, in part, is how I admonished countries in the Caribbean and Latin America in this respect almost five years ago in “China Buying Political Dominion Over the Caribbean (Latin America and Africa)!” February 22, 2005:

What happens if China decides that converting the container ports, factories, and chemical plants it has funded throughout the Caribbean into dual military and commercial use is in its strategic national interest? Would these governments comply? Would they have any real choice? And when they do comply, would the United States then blockade that island – the way it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis?

‘Now consider China making similar strategic moves in Latin America and Africa, where its purportedly benign Yuan diplomacy dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed.

It clearly does not bode well that China has no compunctions about drawing moral and political equivalence between its beef with the Unite States over the Dalai Lama and America’s beef with it over internet espionage, unfair trade practices, and support for indicted war criminals like President Bashir of Sudan. Because irrational resentment in a regional menace like North Korea is one thing; in a global power like China it’s quite another.

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Given the above, China’s latest exercise of its menacing superpower was as predictable as it is foreboding.

According to Taiwan sports officials, members of the East Asian Olympic Committee (EAOC) voted in a meeting in Beijing Tuesday to revoke Taichung city’s right to host the first-ever East Asian Youth Games in 2019. …

Taiwan’s presidential office said the EAOC had made the ‘wrong decision’ and accused China of bullying.

(Agence France-Presse, July 24, 2018)

Frankly, it’s only a matter of time before China and the United States square off the way the United States and former Soviet Union once did.

Indeed, the former could ape the latter by calling on countries to take sides in a boycott of future Olympic Games. And, given that the global influence China is gaining seems in direct proportion to that which the United States is losing these days, there seems little doubt that more countries would side with China.

In the meantime, one can hardly blame China for thinking it could reclaim Taiwan with even greater ease than it reclaimed Hong Kong. After all, unlike it did with Hong Kong, China never lost sovereignty over Taiwan to another world power. This is why it has always regarded Taiwan as just a prodigal province.

In any event, China has used its economic superpower in myriad ways to keep a stranglehold on Taiwan’s independence. Most notably, this has included bribing or extorting over 100 countries to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The West African nation of Burkina Faso announced on Thursday that it was ending official diplomatic relations with Taiwan’s government, a new challenge to the self-governing democracy as Beijing increasingly tries to isolate it on the global stage.

The break leaves Taiwan with only one diplomatic ally in Africa — the small kingdom of Swaziland — and formal relations worldwide with 17 other countries, most of them poorer nations in Central America and the Pacific.

(The New York Times, May 24, 2018)

But China has also resorted to plainly petty measures. Most notably, this has included prevailing upon companies doing business with it to replace all mentions of Taiwan with Chinese Taipei in their business documents, correspondence and promotional materials.

Except that there’s an existential hurdle in China’s path towards reclaiming sovereignty over Taiwan. Here in part is how I commented on it over a decade ago in “China v. Taiwan (and the United States): Nuclear Friction in the Taiwan Strait,” July 19, 2005.

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No country (including the United States) has ever denied China’s territorial claims over this self-governing island. However, successive Taiwanese governments have declared their preference for official independence from China. And, they have been emboldened in this pyrrhic quest by America’s Taiwan Relations Act 1979 – under which the United States has been arming Taiwan to help:

…maintain the capacity of the United States [pursuant to its 1954 pledge] to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion [by China] that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.

But, significantly, the United States has stopped far short of supporting Taiwan’s drive for independence. In fact, it has endorsed China’s claims by cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan in order to recognize only ‘one China and that Taiwan is part of China.’ Therefore, for all these years, peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait have been predicated on China’s commitment to:

…firmly abide by the principles of peaceful re-unification of one country two systems.

In recent years, however, China’s meteoric rise as a global economic power has allowed it to finance a military build-up that threatens to destabilize the uneasy détente in this trilateral relationship. And last March, in a foreboding gesture, its legislature passed an Anti-Secession law that grants China’s leaders legal cover to order its military to use any means necessary (including preemptive strikes) to prevent Taiwan from becoming an independent nation. …

If China invades, American security guarantees would probably prove as helpful to Taiwan as British and French guarantees proved to Poland when Germany seized it in a blitzkrieg invasion in 1939. Indeed, in that event, the United States would probably only issue a diplomatic reprimand and, perhaps, call for economic sanctions against China. What is certain, however, is that the United States will not engage China in a war over Taiwan; and, China knows it!

Therefore, Taiwan seems fated to fall under China’s direct control. The only question is whether China will remain patient enough to accomplish its objective by political proxy (using Taiwan’s Opposition Party – the Kuomintang); or whether China will finally exercise its military might and take the island by force.

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Ominously, in Donald Trump, we have a president who, for the first time, is sowing doubts about America’s (far more significant) NATO obligations to defend European countries, especially against Russian aggression.

In an interview that aired Tuesday evening with the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Mr. Trump appeared to suggest that the NATO mutual defense compact is confusing, particularly the question of why an American would have to defend a small country like Montenegro, which is more than 5,000 miles away.

Mr. Trump has long raised questions about the future of the United States’ commitment to NATO.

(The New York Times, July 18, 2018)

One can see how this might embolden China as much as it must terrify Taiwan.

Stay tuned …

Related commentaries:
South China Sea
China Buying dominion
Punishing China…hardly
SA bans Dalai Lama
China Squeeze on Bahamas
Countries queuing up
China invading US
China and Japan
Wait till China
Countries selling sovereignty
China buying global influence
World beware
China v. Taiwan
Hong Kong

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