The attached keynote speech was delivered at the annual symposium of the World Taiwanese Congress in Taipei on March 14. Placed here with permission of Gordon Chang.
Gordon G. Chang
In an ideal world, the 23 million people of Taiwan would determine their own fate.
In an ideal world, everyone would be free.
In an ideal world, no one would listen to Communist dictators.
But we do not live in an ideal world. In the world in which we do live, the dominant narrative is that this is “China’s century.” The Chinese believe it, and so does most everyone else.
And because just about everybody thinks we are living in a Chinese universe, they
follow Beijing’s line and shun Taiwan.
But this is going to change soon, for two reasons. China is falling, and Taiwan is rising...
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First, that horrific communist experiment, the mighty People’s Republic of China, is almost at an end.
In the middle of the second decade of China’s century, as we pass from one year to the next, it’s apparent the Chinese are losing control of the era they are supposed to own.
There are many problems besetting Beijing at the moment, but we start with the motor of the country’s rise, the economy.
Everyone these days talks about China “slowing,” but it’s worse than that. China is tumbling.
Not long ago, China was growing at double-digit rates. Now, that’s not the case.
The National Bureau of Statistics reported 7.4% growth for last year, but underlying data,
private surveys, and corporate results all suggest the economy has stagnated.
Growth at best was in the low single digits, and it’s even possible there was no growth at all.
First, let’s look at what is considered to be the most reliable indicator of economic activity, the consumption of electricity. Last year, electricity consumption increased just 3.8%, the slowest growth in 16 years.
Because the growth of gross domestic product is usually about 85% of the growth of electricity, we are looking at a growth rate of 3.2%.
And here’s one more fun fact: the electricity number is almost certainly fictitious, artificially inflated upward, especially by a record-breaking December.
Second, consumption is stagnant. Forget about the official retail sales number—up 12.0%. This number does not correlate with anything else and includes unsold inventory and government purchases.
Retailers, in reality, are experiencing falling same-store sales and closing locations.
Another good hint is the plight of the manufacturers of consumer products. Their gross receipts were consistently down throughout last year. In the third calendar quarter of 2014, Unilever, the consumer products giant, saw a 20% fall in China sales.
The situation would have been even more pronounced but both manufacturers and retailers were carrying excess goods in their warehouses. Retailers whose shares are listed in Shanghai, for instance, were holding about 600 days of inventory last year.
Just about every industry in China is hitting a wall of inventories, meaning they will have to slow or stop producing because they will no longer be able to carry their excess production.
Third, the property market is in trouble. Construction starts were down, off 10.7% for the year. Construction is a major prop for the economy these days. If it’s down or even just stagnant, the economy as a whole cannot be vibrant.
And we can guess why developers are not starting new projects. Unsold floor space was up by more than 26% by the end of December.
At current absorption rates, China’s developers do not need to build another urban apartment for six years. And this problem will get worse because as the economy slows, fewer people will buy homes. Beginning last May, we saw a pronounced slowdown in sales.
Everyone has by now heard of “ghost cities.” I know about them from personal experience. Even my dad’s hometown, Rugao in Jiangsu province, a dusty agricultural city for centuries, has been turned into one of them. In Rugao, there are lots more buildings, lots more public projects, but no more people than before.
Last year was discouraging, as the economy evidently slowed in the second half of the year. And the first indicators for this year—especially the trade, price change, and loan demand figures for January—were dismal. The Chinese economy is sinking fast.
Yet in a sense it does not matter whether China is growing at 0% or 7%. Even if China were growing as fast as it reports—and it cannot be—that growth would be insufficient.
Why insufficient? Because the country is accumulating debt faster than it is growing. China is now accumulating debt at least at a 15% clip, maybe 20%, maybe faster. There is a growing recognition that debt is being created in channels not measured by central government statistics. Local governments, for instance, are now issuing IOUs off-the-books.
And it is not only the rapid accumulation of debt that is a concern. It’s the stock of debt. Today, total country debt is more than 300% of gross domestic product when GDP is properly stated. That’s dangerous territory, especially for a developing country like China.
So will there be a crash soon?
The inevitable correction—the debt crisis—could take place this year or next, but it has to take place.
We do not know how far debt is outrunning GDP, but we can see the country is in an impossible situation with defaults now occurring.
If China is to avoid more defaults, it will have to grow. And analysts say—correctly—that further growth is dependent on meaningful reform.
Meaningful reform, however, is not likely. Further reform would threaten the Communist Party’s hold on power, so it will not sponsor change of that sort. A market economy, for instance, requires the rule of law, which in turn requires “institutional curbs” on government. Because these two limitations on power are incompatible with the Party’s ambitions to continue to dominate society, China cannot make much progress toward them within the current system.
Today, there is a growing recognition that fundamental economic restructuring in China cannot occur unless there is far-reaching political reform, reform certainly more ambitious than the “inner Party democracy” that leaders like to talk about. Yet political reform is completely off the table, as even the optimists now know.
Why is reform unlikely? Because entrenched interests dominate politics in the Chinese capital. Those benefitting from the current system are blocking change.
China is now trapped in a self-reinforcing—and self-defeating—feedback loop. A slumping economy is creating a crisis of legitimacy. The legitimacy crisis, in turn, is causing a wide-ranging political crackdown. The crackdown makes reform unlikely.
The lack of reform prevents long-term economic growth.
Just when China needs fundamental reform the most, its political system is least able to deliver it.
Yes, the Communist Party talks about economic reform all the time—as it did at its Third Plenum in November 2013 and at the National People’s Congress meeting in March—
but Xi Jinping has been in charge of China since November 2012 and he has implemented almost no reforms.
In fact, on balance, he has marched China backward with, among other things, his intensified attack on foreign companies, his increase of subsidies to state enterprises,
his consolidation of state enterprises back into monopolies, and his resort to even more state stimulus to keep the economy growing.
Observers make the argument that we don’t have to worry because Beijing technocrats dictate outcomes and they would never permit a crash. This is the majority view. This is what passes for analysis these days.
Chinese technocrats do dictate outcomes, but that is precisely why China is now heading to catastrophic failure. Because Chinese political leaders have the power to prevent corrections, they do so. Because they do so, the underlying imbalances are becoming larger. Because the underlying imbalances are becoming larger, the inevitable correction will be severe.
Downturns, which the Communist Party hates because it is politically insecure, are essential. They allow adjustments to be made while they are still relatively minor. The last year-on-year contraction in China’s gross domestic product, according to the official National Bureau of Statistics, occurred in 1976, the year Mao Zedong died.
So China’s next downturn will surely be severe. Chinese leaders will prevent adjustments until they no longer have the ability to do so. When they no longer have that ability, their system will go into free fall. When it goes into free fall, the economy will collapse.
China is almost at that critical point.
We are now seeing the first signs of failure. Capital outflow, for instance, is substantial. It amounted, according to many sources, to $188 billion in the second half of the year. In that time, the country’s foreign exchange reserves fell $150 billion.
Citibank says that capital outflow in last nine months of the year was more like $450 billion.
Whatever the amount, capital is fleeing. And what’s worse, people are leaving. Or planning to leave. A Barclays study released in the middle of September shows a stunning 47% of China’s rich plan to leave the country within five years.
We’re not just talking about an almost-certain crash ahead, we’re talking about something even worse.
Why? Because for more than three decades the Communist Party has primarily based its legitimacy on the continual delivery of prosperity. And without prosperity, there are two possible outcomes.
The first outcome is the political system collapsing. The problem for the Communist Party is that most people in China do not believe a one-party state is appropriate for the country’s modernizing society. They do not like authoritarianism, and they certainly do not endorse the 1950s outlook of leader Xi Jinping.
The Chinese political system, thanks to General Secretary Xi, is now going on a bender, with his Maoist and Marxist “mass line” campaigns, one right after the other; his prolonged attack on civil society; and his signature movement promoting “ideological purification.”
How much damage can Xi cause? In 2012, then Premier Wen Jiabao publicly warned that China could descend into another Cultural Revolution. Observers at the time thought he was being melodramatic. From the perspective of today, perhaps he wasn’t. China is on the edge of a political cliff.
The Chinese people do not actively oppose the Communist Party now—the Party, after all, is increasingly coercive and intimidates many—but they won’t support it either when it comes under additional stress. Even when economic growth was robust, there was so many acts of violence, disturbances, and demonstrations.
Imagine what will happen in the streets when there is a crash.
China’s political framework, unfortunately for the Communist Party, is preventing the remedial action that could save it. We can see this most vividly with the ongoing political purges that Xi Jinping is conducted in the guise of his anti-corruption campaign.
The campaign is paralyzing the bureaucracy with officials now “effectively on strike.”
Officials, because of fear, are refusing to make decisions, opting for early retirement,
Yes, Chinese technocrats, because of Xi’s relentless campaign, are not making decisions for fear of investigation, thinking that whatever they do will expose them to prosecution. In today’s climate of fear, almost no one wants to give approvals. As a result, the economy is suffering as is China itself
Because it cannot save itself, the Communist Party is in the early stages of political disintegration.
The second likely outcome from economic failure is an increasingly belligerent China. We have to remember that, apart from delivering prosperity, the Communist Party’s other basis of legitimacy is nationalism.
China’s militant nationalism is now creating friction in an arc of nations from India in the south to South Korea in the north.
There has been a noticeable increase in the tempo of China’s belligerence during the last two years. This uptick has generally coincided with the elevation of Xi Jinping as China’s new ruler.
Of course, we all want to understand what is going on inside Beijing’s political circles and what is causing this new aggressiveness.
Almost everyone thinks Xi Jinping has quickly consolidated control. They point to Xi’s
continuing purges of civilian officials and military officers and the series of loyalty oaths to Xi by generals and admirals as proof of his consolidation of authority in Beijing.
If one accepts this view, then Xi Jinping, because he has been in control, is really an ardent nationalist, that he has been the one pushing the military to act aggressively.
There is some support for this conclusion because it has been repeatedly reported that he has personally directed Beijing’s hostile campaigns.
Analysts who think Xi is strong believe that China is reverting to one-man rule, especially in the foreign policy domain.
One Beijing academic, a foreign policy insider, has become so worried that he recently issued a public warning that Xi could take China over the cliff. Shi Yinhong of Renmin University has essentially said China cannot be deterred from its path of aggression. If Shi’s analysis is correct, China will soon become a rogue state.
Others, including me, have a different view. I believe the leadership transition has not been completed.
I believe that the continuing purges and the series of loyalty oaths to Xi are evidence that the situation in Beijing is unsettled. If it were settled, then why would the purges and the oaths be necessary?
And if the political system were stable and Xi Jinping were in firm control, how could the military be acting so independently?
We should not be surprised by the defiance of generals and admirals. Beginning as early as 2003, flag officers were drawn into civilian power struggles, and, once in, they have remained political players.
As a result of their new-found power, senior officers are acting independently of civilian officials, openly criticizing them, and making pronouncements on areas once considered the exclusive province of diplomats.
Therefore, we have to be concerned that flag officers are either making their own policies independently of China’s civilian leaders or essentially telling civilian leaders what policies they will adopt.
In short, we should be looking at the factional messiness inside the Communist Party and
realizing that the People’s Liberation Army is now the Party’s most powerful faction because it has retained its cohesiveness better than other factions in the Party.
Let’s remember that Xi Jinping has no clearly identifiable faction of his own. People say he heads the “Princelings,” but that term merely describes sons and daughters of either
former leaders or high officials.
These offspring have views that span the political spectrum and do not form a cohesive group.
Xi became China’s supreme leader because he appealed to all factions, in large part because he had no faction. He was, in short, the least unacceptable choice. And because he still has no identifiable faction, he cannot afford to offend the generals and admirals.
Some political analysts, like veteran China watcher Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, even suggest the military is now becoming Xi Jinping’s faction or at least the core of his support. If this is true, he cannot say “no” to senior officers because they are the closest thing he has to a political base.
In any event—whether Xi Jinping controls the flag officers or whether the flags control Xi—China’s external policies are of deep concern. It is not just that Beijing is hostile; its foreign policy now makes little sense. In the past, Beijing threw tantrums and even started wars when it wanted to punish a neighbor. Chinese leaders were always smart enough to direct their anger at just one or two targets to make sure they got what they wanted. And many times they were in fact successful.
Today, however, Beijing is taking on many others all at the same time.
The Party, despite its recent charm campaign, is lashing out, and that is not a good sign. If nothing else, it betrays a lack of strategic thinking. So we need to be concerned that Chinese leaders are now acting according to a logic that the rest of the world is not familiar with.
And we have to be prepared to face the fact that China is no longer a status quo power. It is not promoting worldwide revolution, as it did in the early years of the People’s Republic, but it is trying to upend the existing international order, something that Mao also attempted.
To sum up, China is now at risk, its economy failing and its political system disintegrating.
China is going off the rails.
Chinese regimes have almost always failed from the outside in, and the People’s Republic at the moment is losing control of its periphery. As Communist Party leaders look out from their magnificent capital, they see on that periphery an arc of disobedience and discontent.
In the outer areas, the Chinese are losing their grip on the two “autonomous regions” making up China’s western frontier, namely, Xinjiang, the home of the Muslim Uighurs, and Tibet.
In both areas, Beijing is trying to rule peoples who do not consider themselves “Chinese,” peoples who have a different history, different culture, different religion, and different race than the Han, the so-called dominant ethnic group in China.
Despite everything, the Uighurs and Tibetans might have been persuaded to live inside the People’s Republic, but ugly repression, what the Dalai Lama calls “cultural genocide,” has created resistance to rule from Beijing. Now, both peoples demand to be free.
So in both places, Beijing’s policies, engineered to suppress local history, local culture, and local region, have in fact fueled separate identity. Today, there are increasingly frequent outbursts of violence in the northwest, what the Uighurs now term the East Turkestan Republic, and in Tibet, where there is a tragic loss of life as the desperate douse themselves in gasoline and set themselves alight.
Chinese leaders appear unconcerned by all this death.
In the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, also inside the People’s Republic, we have seen another spectacular failure of Beijing’s policies, this time in the last half decade. In 1997, when Britain handed back the colony to China, people there were bursting with pride for being “Chinese.”
At the beginning of this decade, the change in views was becoming evident. People there were starting to self-identify as being from Hong Kong, not China. And soon we saw protesters fly the Union Jack to show extreme discontent. They began to say—incredibly—they were better off as a colony than as part of the “Motherland.”
Yet at the beginning of 2014, massive civil obedience was inconceivable to most. But here too, Beijing’s hardheadedness created opposition to its rule.
To understand this dynamic, we need to go back to the middle of last year. In June, Hong Kong’s democracy movement was floundering. Just about everyone had written it off.
The fortunes of the democrats dramatically changed on June 10, however, when China issued its “white paper” on governance of the territory. Instead of affirming Hong Kong’s autonomy as promised in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and as enshrined in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s “mini-constitution,” the Chinese central government essentially declared people in Hong Kong had no rights. That view clearly was inconsistent with Beijing’s promise to Hong Kong that it would enjoy “a high degree of autonomy” under the “one country, two systems” formula.
China’s position, in essence the claim of unlimited power over Hong Kong, persuaded hundreds of thousands of its residents—approaching a half million of them—to participate in the annual July 1 democracy march.
Beijing, however, was unmoved by the large turnout and followed up its stark June 10 declaration with its proposal, issued on August 31, for the 2017 election of Hong Kong’s chief executive, the city’s top political official. The Chinese plan provided for universal suffrage, a step forward required by the Basic Law, but it also included a nominating procedure so restrictive that only China’s hand-picked candidates could ever qualify to run.
Soon thereafter, people in Hong Kong began to speak of “fake democracy,” but the hardline Chinese tactics seemed at first to work. Established activists, who had earlier threatened to shut down the city’s main business district with peaceful sit-ins—to Occupy Central with Love and Peace—folded in the face of Beijing’s intransigence.
Yet younger activists, inspired by Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement, rushed to fill the void by starting a series of boycotts and protests at the end of September. After “occupying” busy streets and public areas with tens of thousands of residents, the protests grew even larger as authorities overreacted, creating sympathy for the pro-democracy forces.
The tear gassing of demonstrators, brought into Hong Kong living rooms by television, prompted ordinary residents to immediately leave their apartments and join the protesters.
And just when protests were waning at the beginning of October, gangsters from triads attacked demonstrators at the same time in multiple locations, using similar tactics. The police at one of the sites—in the Mong Kok shopping district in Kowloon—were evidently working with the goons as they helped the criminals escape after they had attacked pro-democracy protesters, and there was other instances of what appeared to be official cooperation with the thugs.
Beijing’s apparent use of the triads, who have been allied with the Chinese government for decades, was a failure from its perspective. The Mong Kok crowd, just a few dozen at the time of the triad attack, swelled to over a thousand in response to the triad violence.
After 75 days of occupations of streets and public plazas, the protests ended. But Beijing did not “win,” as some say. Far from it. The struggle is continuing, just in different ways.
This means the public in Hong Kong is not focusing on the tactics of the students. The public is now thinking of the broader issues, and this is not something Beijing should want. After all, its view—that the people in Hong Kong are not capable of governing themselves—is a minority one, distinctly unpopular.
China has lost hearts and minds in Hong Kong. And they have also lost them in Taiwan, which Beijing considers its 34th province.
Most of the people of Taiwan, looking at what has occurred in Hong Kong in recent months, have become even more wary of an authoritarian Beijing.
For one thing, they can see the Communist Party cannot keep its promises. The Communists broke every promise to Hong Kong, and Taiwan people know they will break every promise to them.
Just as Beijing has created resistance to its rule in Xinjiang, in Tibet, and in Hong Kong, it is creating resistance to itself in Taiwan.
China’s leader Xi Jinping, acting like a typical Chinese communist, decided last year to proceed with his attempts to absorb Taiwan as if nothing was happening in Hong Kong. Just as the street protests there began to swell at the end of September, the Chinese supremo hosted Yok Mu-ming, chairman of Taiwan’s New Party, and his delegation of some 20 pro-unification political figures, none of whom had ever managed to attract a following on the island. Xi publicly affirmed his view that “one country, two systems” was Beijing’s “guiding principle” in solving what the Chinese call “the Taiwan issue.”
Xi’s message was so off-key that even China-friendly elements in Taiwan had to run for cover.
The Kuomintang, which also sees Taiwan as a province of China and has been working to unify Taiwan with “the Mainland,” had to backtrack fast.
“In the early 1980s the ‘one country, two systems’ concept was created for Taiwan, not for Hong Kong,” said President Ma Ying-jeou to Al Jazeera at the end of September. “But Taiwan has sent a clear message that we do not accept the concept.”
And on November 29, the people of Taiwan made it clear they also do not accept Ma Ying-jeou and his Kuomintang.
The party suffered its worse electoral defeat ever, in the November 29 “nine-in-one” poll.
Voters in November turned out governing party candidates in seats that had been safely “Blue” for decades. Ma’s party garnered only 40.7% of the ballots cast and lost nine of the 15 cities and counties it had controlled, even failing to keep the capital, Taipei City, long a stronghold.
It was a “brutal defeat” in a high turnout contest in which 67.6% of eligible voters participated.
We should not be surprised. Not only did Xi Jinping do his best to help defeat KMT candidates by his in-your-face assertion about one country, two systems, but the KMT helped defeat itself.
Ma Ying-jeou insisted on reminding Taiwan voters about his unpopular cross-strait policies, raising the issue about ten days before the balloting, thereby making the polling a referendum on China.
Ma, for instance, ordered Kuomintang candidates to push their rivals to take a stand on the ratification of the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services, which had been signed in 2013. Ma, during his tenure as Taiwan’s leader, had fostered economic integration between the two sides of the strait by putting trade, transit, and investment
agreements in place.
The services deal, teed up to be the 22nd such pact, was proceeding through the Legislative Yuan until a KMT lawmaker in the middle of March announced the completion of the first reading of the deal, which was rushed without much deliberation or debate.
In response to the hurried consideration, students first stormed the national legislature and then began their 24-day occupation.
The students instantly attracted hundreds of thousands of citizens who came to support the occupiers and “write history.”
Since then, the Sunflower Movement, as it became known, has taken on a life of its own,
crystalized thinking and fundamentally changing the island’s politics.
Ma somehow missed the significance of the political earthquake. His raising of the services pact in the final stage of the November campaign undoubtedly made the drubbing of his party even worse.
At a time when there were real doubts in Taiwan about the benefits of cross-strait economic integration, the president argued that integration should proceed even faster.
You would think he had learned his lesson, but since the resounding defeat in November Ma has been pushing cross-strait economic integration even harder and has had 119 of the Sunflower protesters arrested last month on various charges including trespassing, obstructing those carrying out public duties, instigating others to commit crimes, and
violating the assembly and parades act.
The KMT, by insisting on charging the Sunflowers, has revealed itself as being out of touch. Ma Ying-jeou can talk all he wants about closer economic ties with Beijing
and better relations with the “Mainland,” but he no longer speaks for the people he supposedly leads.
It is not so much the country has gone “Green” as much as Taiwan’s society has irrevocably changed. The island’s people over the course of decades paid a high price in blood for their democratic institutions, and, having come this far, are not inclined to give up their hard-won gains.
The struggle for self-governance occurred while people were also fighting to assert Taiwanese, as opposed to Mainland, identity, and each movement fueled the other.
These struggles have translated into today’s unmistakable air of assertiveness, impatience, and demand.
The feeling has existed, in varying degrees, across the nation for years, and it has grown over time, even when it was hidden from view. Many in the opposition to the KMT, for instance, had grumbled for years that young Taiwanese did not seem to care about cross-strait politics or even the future of their country.
In March, however, a handful of students galvanized society and within days changed almost every political calculus on the island.
Today, Taiwan is leaving China behind. After the November election, Beijing made its usual assortment of threats of war, but the Taiwanese just yawned.
Only a few dozen protesters gathered to jeer Chen Deming, China’s point man on cross-strait relations, as he flew into Taiwan in December, and for the most part the eight-day trip was uneventful. Previously, violence and headline-grabbing incidents had marred the visits of high-ranking Beijing officials to the self-governing island.
“They didn’t need to do more,” said Alexander Huang to Reuters, referring to Taiwanese who want nothing to do with the Chinese and China. The former Taiwan cross-strait official was right. After all, the people of the island had already made their feelings known in the November election.
So Chen Deming arrived and left the island with little impact. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the November elections is that Taiwan’s people, who for a long time have been imagining a society separate and apart from China’s, see the Chinese state as increasingly irrelevant to their lives.
After the November election, Bruce Jacobs of Monash University in Australia told Reuters that the KMT are “yesterday’s people.” Now, in the eyes of the Taiwanese, the Chinese are too.
We can see that in survey after survey on self-identification. An American Enterprise Institute study released late last year, for instance, shows 60.4% of citizens say they are “Taiwanese” versus 3.5% responding “Chinese” and the rest classifying themselves as both.
When people are given only two choices in surveys—Taiwanese or Chinese—about 90% say Taiwanese.
In a generation, there will be virtually no one who sees himself as descended from the Yellow Emperor.
And this change in self-identification has real consequences. Surveys consistently reveal that—at most—12% want to become part of the People’s Republic.
So the Taiwanese are creating their own society, and as China is falling, Taiwan is rising.
And Taiwan’s new society will not be tied to China’s.
No matter how prosperous, how strong, how attractive China may be, Taiwan people do not want to be part of a Chinese state.
But at this time—a time of evident Chinese failure—we will see even those who once thought integration with China was a good idea will recognize it to be undesirable.
China is failing before our eyes, and soon virtually no one will want to be part of it.
And at the same time, other countries that were hopeful about China are changing their minds.
Most foreign policy establishments in Washington and other capitals spent most of the last half decade trying to ignore what was happening in Beijing. They had always believed—hoped is a better word for it—they had always hoped that China would become a partner rather than another Soviet Union or worse a 1930s Germany or Japan.
But that is a mistaken approach. A better one is Taro Aso’s. In ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬late 2006, when he was Japan’s foreign minister, he proposed an “arc of freedom and prosperity” for Asia.
Aso’s concept of a coalition of democracies went nowhere then because regional leaders were optimistic about China enmeshing itself into the international system and becoming a supporter of the global commons.
Now, however, Asian leaders know better. Now, nations are thinking more of how to protect themselves from China and less of working with it.
So Beijing is losing friends fast.
In Sri Lanka, Beijing’s man, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, lost snap elections in January.
North Korea, China’s only formal military ally, has even branded Beijing an “enemy.”
Burmese generals, once China’s most reliable friends, are now turning toward America and the West.
Vietnam now welcomes port calls from the U.S. Seventh Fleet.
And India is moving away from China and toward Japan, Vietnam, and the United States. That’s why President Obama made an historic trip to New Delhi in January.
The process of changing perceptions is not occurring fast enough, but it is taking place.
And as they change their minds, leaders around the region are scrambling for friends.
So what does all this mean for Taiwan?
The people of Taiwan can become the biggest beneficiaries of all that is taking place. Taiwan, a vibrant democracy, is in the center of the arc of countries that are threatened by China.
So Taiwan should be a prominent member of the coalition that is now taking shape in Asia.
Taiwan can reach out to everyone, but especially Tokyo and New Delhi.
But most important, Taiwan should build relations with Washington. Remind Americans how close Taiwan is to Japan’s southern islands. This means it will be especially hard for the U.S. to defend Japan if China holds Taiwan.
And if America cannot defend Japan, there’s almost no way it can defend South Korea. Moreover, Taiwan sits just north of another U.S. ally, the Philippines.
Taiwan is the lynchpin for America in Asia. So defending Taiwan, we should remind Americans, is defending America.
Chinese belligerence, therefore, gives Taiwan an opening into the international system. Soon, nations will no longer treat Taipei as an outcast. It is Beijing, trying to redraw the map of East and South Asia by force, that will be considered the pariah.
China is threatening its neighbors and thereby helping to form a coalition against itself and helping to create a group of friends for Taiwan.
How does Taiwan take advantage of these trends? Let’s start with the elections in January of next year.
Support the candidate who will reach out and work with Taiwan’s neighbors because every nation wants to protect itself from Chinese expansionism. Every nation wants assistance.
Taiwan, therefore, can become a critical member of the emerging arc of freedom and prosperity.
Because of that opportunity, a new era for Taiwan is beginning.
In this new era, people in Taiwan will demand freedom, they will not see themselves as part of a greater Chinese union, they will believe in themselves.
Two decades ago, millions of Taiwanese stood up and declared they would determine their own destiny.
Even though Ma Ying-jeou wants to sell out his country and therefore become a criminal of a thousand years, we saw in the Sunflower Movement and the November election that the people of Taiwan will not allow him to give their country to his China.
Momentum is in favor of Taiwan. The people of Taiwan are looking to tomorrow. And in preparing for better days ahead, they are strengthening their identity, affirming their nation, they are not giving up.
And they never will.
And because they won’t stop fighting, Taiwan will one day be recognized for what it is, a free, independent, and sovereign state.
The road ahead, however, will be hard.
No one said changing history is easy—and that is exactly what you are doing. So for all your ambition, for all that you have done, and for all that you will do in the days ahead,
I admire you, I support you, I salute you.
Because of you, we are one step closer to that ideal world.
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