Taiwan needs to prepare for threat
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times  2015.6.14

Following the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) crushing defeat in last year’s nine-in-one elections, the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have been pressing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to accept the so-called “1992 consensus.”

In March last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) threatened Tsai, saying that if Taiwan does not accept the “1992 consensus,” “the Earth will move and mountains will shake.”

Tsai’s visit to the US showed that Taiwan-US relations are on the up, especially given that Washington has made it clear that the “1992 consensus” is a matter for Taiwan and China, and does not concern the US. This shows that the US is not forcing Tsai to accept the “1992 consensus.”

As a result, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai (崔天凱) issued threatening statements to Tsai on June 3. Their intimidating remarks were rather childish, but Xi’s threat should be taken seriously by Tsai and the nation.

Firstly, military coercion is the tactic most frequently employed by the CCP; a good example would be the 1996 Taiwan Strait missile crisis. Today, China’s military strength is much greater than it was then.

Nevertheless, the US is building up its military alliance with Japan in addition to seeking to increase military cooperation with Taiwan, while Beijing sees the “buying up” of Taiwan a far more appealing option than using military strength to “liberate” it. For these reasons, the military threat, although real, is not particularly effective, since China would not actually dare to attack Taiwan.

Secondly, there is the diplomatic threat. It has been said that if a large number of countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan were to sever ties, Taiwanese diplomacy would implode. In reality, Taiwanese diplomacy imploded when the US broke off relations with Taiwan in 1978. Are the remaining countries with which Taiwan maintains ties really able to assist Taiwan in obtaining any breakthroughs on the international stage?

Their combined diplomatic weight is nothing compared with that of the US, and even though Washington no longer has a formal relationship with Taiwan, there are representative offices, which are akin to having Taiwanese consulates and embassies in foreign countries.

The UK recently changed the name of its representative organization in Taiwan from the “British Trade and Cultural Office” to the “British Office Taipei.” The UK was the first Western country to establish diplomatic relations with communist China in 1950; now it appears to be following the US’ lead.

Finally, Taiwan faces an economic threat from China. This is the one threat that Taiwan must get a grip on, since Ma has already thrown open the door to China. Not only is Taiwan’s economy now extremely reliant on China, but Chinese investment has permeated Taiwanese businesses, making it easy for Chinese investors to buy up Taiwanese companies.

Beijing might decide to limit the number of Chinese tourists allowed to visit Taiwan, restrict Chinese commodities bound for Taiwan or even take retaliatory measures, such as auditing the accounts of Taiwanese businesses in China and raising taxes.

Some of these measures have already been implemented by Beijing. Taiwanese businesses should already be well accustomed to these kinds of dirty tricks which form part of China’s strategy to take command of Taiwan’s economy and force Taiwanese businesses to put pressure on the DPP and local government.

 facing these threats, Taiwan must decide how much it is prepared to endure.

However, if Taiwan’s standpoint is clear, surely Japan, the US and other Western countries would come to Taiwan’s aid.

The US, concerned over the independence of Taiwan’s economic autonomy, has for a long time been keeping a close eye on this matter.

That said, external support has its limits. It is of crucial importance that Taiwan relies on itself for economic renewal and transformation. Taiwan must throw off the shackles of China’s oppressive enslavement and prepare itself for the necessary sacrifices that will inevitably follow.

Taiwanese must start preparations now, in particular by throwing their support behind local businesses.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Edward Jones


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