It’s a little depressing keeping up with global and regional news, because a lot of it is negative. This is basically the world we live in. However, if one is Taiwanese or a supporter of Taiwan, as I am, the news is always bleak. This is because China has become increasingly aggressive and threatening towards Taiwan. From demanding dozens of international airlines to stop listing Taiwan as a nation on their websites to increasing military exercises around Taiwan to preventing Taiwan from hosting international sports events, China’s recent efforts to undermine Taiwan on the global stage have been ceaseless. However, rather than cower, Taiwan’s government, under President Tsai Ing-wen, have been defiant and continue to speak out against China. This is good, but it is only effective as long as the US stands by Taiwan and the international community grows some balls to do the same, which Canadian expert and staunch Taiwan defender J. Michael Cole urges here. But China’s bluster with Taiwan might be a bit hollow because China has a lot of major problems at home and abroad, including the trade war with the US and a growing awareness of China’s growing threat to the world order and regional stability.
Nevertheless, China has attempted to “erase” Taiwan from the global stage in several ways in just the past week:
China forced dozens of international airlines to change how they list Taiwan to putting “China” after Taiwan or dropping Taiwan and just keeping Taipei (Taiwan’s capital) on their website destination lists. The last holdouts, US airlines Delta, United and American Airlines, all made the change on July 25.
China forced the 2019 East Asia Youth Games to be stripped from the Taiwanese city of Taichung in a sudden move overturning a decision that had been made four years ago. The reason is that China was angered by a recent Taiwanese civil society groups’ attempt to lobby for Taiwan to participate as “Taiwan” in the 2020 Olympics. This is because Taiwan participates in the Olympics as “Chinese Taipei” and is banned from using its own name due to China’s refusal to acknowledge Taiwan’s independence.
In another international sports-related incident, China is trying to prevent Taiwan’s delegation to the Gay Games in August from flying Taiwan’s flag. As I mentioned above, Taiwan is prevented from participating as “Taiwan” as well as flying its own flag at most international sporting events like the Olympics and football and basketball competitions.
Unbelievably, China also tried to strip Taiwan from hosting another international sporting event. Thankfully, the Asian Rugby Council rejected this blatant move so Taiwan will still be able to host the Asia Rugby Under-19 Championship in December.
Some of this might look petty and absurd, and indeed it is. But the problem is that often, such as with the airlines and with the Olympics, Chinese pettiness towards Taiwan is accepted and treated as fact. At every Olympics, for instance, there is no “Taiwan” but just “Chinese Taipei.”
I’ve never been convinced with Chinese leader Xi Jinping because I think his power and repressive policies mask a very arrogant, menacing and conceited mind. He has been very convincing in making a lot of people think of him as a great leader with grand plans like the Belt and Road/One Belt, One Road initiative (something I am very skeptical as well). As the trade war with the US becomes reality and China shows signs of weakness and concern, some people are starting to have doubts about Xi. This Australian expert wonders whether Xi has reached his peak.
Meanwhile, a Chinese Communist Party official also wonders whether China has become too overconfident and if its hubris has become too harmful to itself. Actually, the official wrote about this last September but it is still “trending on Wechat” now. Here’s the translated version of the article, which contains a lot of surprisingly candid points, at least for a CCP official.
Here is one very amusing except:
I still recall when the G20 meeting was held in Hangzhou in 2016, and everyone, whether officials or scholars, was saying that China had the “medicine” to cure the world of its economic woes. I remember this feeling that everyone was drunk and we were alone, that all nations were in decline and we were rising.
At this Belt and Road Forum some went even further, starting off on this drunken dream about how China now has “world leader” status.
This part, part of a lengthy critique of Xi’s Belt and Road, is pretty good.
Many of the glories [of “Belt and Road”] are just not real. To give just a small example, over the past few years, in order to meet the needs of relevant government departments, many works of classical literature, or works on political governance by Chinese scholars, have flowed out of China’s gates on a massive scale. Behind this push is a vast expenditure of state resources, but no real demand from the international market. This sort of clamor and enthusiasm is not based on any market logic, and it cannot continue indefinitely.
Back to Taiwan, here’s a very good take on how Chinese propaganda efforts has spread three lies amongst Taiwanese to crush their morale. These include that Taiwan is safe from attack from China; that if China did attack, it would be the fault of pro-independence leaders; and that in such an attack, Taiwan would quickly lose. The point of these lies is to make Taiwanese feel that they should do nothing to strengthen their country because it is perfectly safe and that if war did happen, Taiwan would certainly lose; and that any attack from China is not because of Chinese aggression, but the fault of Taiwanese. As the author Ian Easton says, this ignores the reality that the cause for tensions and the provocations are from China and that Taiwan’s military will make invasion a very difficult task for China.
It is important to understand this because only then will Taiwanese know that complacency and idleness will be fatal for Taiwan. As Easton says, Taiwan, with the help of the US, must prepare to defend itself.
Wise words indeed. These are dark times and much of the darkness for Taiwan is coming from the neighbor across the strait.