Letters & Opinion

China and US on Taiwan: No Turning Back? Part 6

Economic Dependence on China Weighs Heavily Taiwan’s Independence Scale

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

October is usually celebrated in China on Taiwan island, but on different dates and for opposite reasons: Beijing observes October 1 annually as Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 and Taipei observing October 10 as its own ‘National Day’, even though not an independent nation.

But not this year, as Beijing shifted focus to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October and Taipei took a pause for crucial mid-term local government elections for the pro-independence Democratic People’s Party (DPP) in November.

Not that the hot tensions over Taiwan have ended, but elections in China, the US and Taiwan in October and November have seen all three pause for the same cause, as China got ready for re-election of President Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the ruling Community Party of China (CPC) a third time, while the US and Taiwan faced the polls for mid-term election in November.

US President Joe Biden is under tremendous pressure on the electoral hustings on several fronts: blowback from the sabotage explosions that bore large holes into Russia’s two Nordstream pipelines to Germany, growing disquiet over US intelligence reports that blame Ukraine for the murder of the daughter of a strong ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin in August and the emerging signs of and concerns about the consequences of possible US and UK involvement in the bombing of the strategic bridge linking Russia to Crimea.

Biden’s advisors are also concerned by Ukraine’s recent loud claims of military successes in Russian-occupied territory and having killed ‘over six thousand (6,000) Russians’ thanks to weapons provided by the US and Europe, as well as by Ukraine’s benefit from and possible association with adventurous events like the audacious underwater pipeline attack and use of a suicide bomber in the explosion of the Russia-Crimea bridge.

The US president is also distracted by his zeal to punish Saudi Arabia’s for its recent decision to join the global oil producers’ cartel OPEC in doing what it normally does: adjust prices according to the market to ensure highest profits and mark-up, as well as the multiplicity of political implications for inflation (currently on steroids at a 40-year high) and recession on the near horizon.

And Biden is also extra careful about pursuing added political capital by promising levels of US military support to Taiwan that the US military strongly advises against (like promising to send US troops to help the island fight China), risking again being accused (by the Pentagon and State Department) of wildly fanning the Taiwan flame and respective spokespersons (including the White House) scurrying to explain to the press what he meant to say.

Taipei has also significantly toned-down its high-decibel war-talk and other usually defiant October independence rhetoric.

Indeed, on October 10, DPP Leader and elected local president Tsai Ing-wen sought to assure China that ‘a military option’ is not part of her government and party’s ‘demands for democracy and freedom’.

Beijing responded, however, that the problem was not how the DPP cared to pursue independence, but it’s very pursuit of that goal, which the US and other major Taiwan allies have repeatedly publicly claimed they do not support (never mind their actions suggesting otherwise).

China has defied the US from delivering the latest shipment of US $1.9 billion worth of arms sold to Taiwan; and with elections high in the air, domestic politics has replaced Taiwan at the top of Washington’s agenda, while the US flexes its military muscles in the Korean Peninsula, alongside Japan and South Korea.

US mid-term elections are due November 4 and Taiwanese go to the polls in local government elections November 26, so President Biden is busy concentrating on boosting his party’s chances, while Madam Tsai reluctantly waved the peace flag on October 10.

And the rest of the world exhaled…

But never mind the signs of a temporary truce in a war that never really started, there’s no breath-of-fresh-air for Taiwan, which continues to face the political quagmire of the DPP’s unrelenting pursuit of independence from China, vis-a-vis the sheer economic costs of the politics of separation.

Ironically, Taiwan’s economic dependence on China is probably its biggest impediment to independence from the mainland, with over 40% of its total exports going to the mainland while less than 20% goes to its Western trading allies, including the US.

But Taiwan’s farmers depend almost solely on China, so-much-so that Beijing recently imposed official import bans on over two thousand (2,000) Taiwanese fruit and food products.

The world looks on with bated breath at what President Xi Jinping’s third term will bring, but few expect it to be anything near a less-determined thrust by Beijing to ensure the Status Quo remains in Taiwan, where an elected local government administers the island’s internal affairs, with no interference or dictation from the mainland – except when any administration raises the independence red flag.

Beijing prefers granting Taiwan Special Economic and Development Zone status and targeted favourable treatment (as with Hong Kong, Macao and Tibet), which the DPP absolutely rejects in favour of the so-far-fruitless approach of promoting what the PRC describes as ‘separatism’.

Forever (since 1949) treating the island politically like a runaway child running wild who’ll either return home or be brought back by force, the PRC’s position following CPC’s 2022 Congress is more likely to be a further affirmation of Beijing’s determination to keep Taiwan as an estranged member of the national family.

And with Xi Jinping to serve longer and lead the final transformation of the PRC to ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’ by the PRC’s centenary in 2049, it’s even more highly unlikely that the DPP will ever realize its ever-elusive quest to fight and win any battle to turn Taiwan into an independent nation.

And that’s just the way it is…

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