CHINA WORKING TO UNDERMINE TAIWAN

National Interest on July 9, 2018 warned that Taiwan faces an authoritarian threat from China. Professor June Teufel Dreyer called for greater vigilance in the West. Excerpts below:

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the rise of authoritarian governments. These administrations have been voted into office by their own citizens, sometimes in free and fair elections. Less talked about, however, is a democracy that is endangered by external pressure: Taiwan.

Since the victory of a presidential candidate it didn’t favor—the American and British educated Tsai Ing-wen—Beijing has been relentless in its pressures on this country of 23 million to join the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

…Chinese pressure forced the World Health Organization to bar Taiwan from its deliberations. A specialized agency of the United Nations, the WHO plays a major role in efforts to curb the spread of infectious diseases from one country to another. In this era of ubiquitous air travel and major population movements, excluding any country for whatever reasons could have severe consequences not only for that country but for the world at large. Likewise, and with similar potential for disaster, China has made sure that Taiwan cannot join international aviation agreements or Interpol.

Four countries—Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, Panama and Burkina Faso—have broken diplomatic relations with Taiwan, lured by promises of lucrative business deals with China, and also reportedly by bribes to leaders. Beijing has hinted that more will follow. Negotiations with the Vatican, Taiwan’s last remaining European ally, are ongoing. Several countries have been told to remove Taiwan’s trade offices from their capital cities and even to change their names. The name changes are part of a larger effort to “disappear” Taiwan: under pressure from China, the huge Marriott hotel chain changed the name on its website from Taipei, Taiwan, to Taipei, China. Forty foreign airlines were ordered to do the same if they wished to continue flying to Chinese destinations.

The soft-spoken Tsai, Asia’s first female president, has several times indicated her desire for negotiations with China, but has been spurned, with her overture rejected as“an incomplete test paper.” The price of talks, Beijing made clear, is Tsai’s acknowledgement that Taiwan is part of China—in essence, requiring her to giving away her negotiating position as a precondition for negotiation.

Meanwhile, China has increased its attempts to subvert Taiwan from within. Through the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), which is responsible for operations that influence the politics of foreign countries to support party policies, Taiwan’s Communist Party and its New Party, which espouse unification with China, are lavishly funded even though they get very few votes. Both are perfectly legal under Taiwan law, although not all of their activities are.

At the tertiary level, students from Taiwan are offered scholarships at China’s most prestigious universities. Already, according to China’s official press agency, two Taiwanese studying at China’s highest rated institution, Beijing University, have applied to join the CCP, one of them vowing his fervent desire “to become a participant in the mainland’s joint rejuvenation.” The large number of PhDs from Taiwan universities who have not been able to find employment there have been offered jobs in China. In January, Taiwan-born Hsieh Kuo-chun was selected to the top advisory board of the CPPCC, the non-party institutional face of the united front.

Since the bulk of Taiwan’s trade is with China, special attention has been devoted to business people. Those who endorse policies favorable to China receive appointments to PRC organizations and favorable treatment for their investments; those who do not find opportunities cut off.

The United States, bound by congressional legislation to make sure that any resolution of Taiwan-China differences is peaceful and consonant with the wishes of the people involved, has expressed both concern and reassurance. In May, in a belated but nevertheless welcome acknowledgement of China’s actions, a State Department spokesperson accused China of unilaterally altering the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, thereby “undermining the framework that has enabled peace, stability, and development for decades.” A few months earlier, Congress passed, and President Donald Trump signed, the long-delayed Taiwan Travel Act, which facilitates the exchange of high level officials between Washington and Taipei. An agreement has also been reachedto share information that would allow representatives of Taiwan’s research institutions and its Ministry of Defense’s Armaments Bureau to visit their counterparts in the United States for collaborative projects.

…National Security Adviser John Bolton has said it may be time to rethink the basis of America’s China policy. In the Senate, bipartisan legislation seeks an investigation into Chinese political influence in the United States, which includes efforts to change its policy toward Taiwan. Similar investigations have been taking place in Australia and New Zealand.

June Teufel Dreyer is professor of political science at the University of Miami and a past commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Commission.

Comment: The time is now to rethink US China policy. Taiwan is an important link in the chain of countries that for a long time have aided the United States in checking Chinese strategic actions aiming at greater influence in the Pacific area. In this effort Japan and South Korea should be willing to support US counter efforts in support of Taiwan. It is indeed time to rethink the basis of US China policy.

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