In May of 2018, Burkina Faso renounced its relations with the separatists of Taipei and established full diplomatic relations with China. This week, El Salvador has done the same. According to Roberto Lorenzana, the press secretary to El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren,
“We cannot ignore that China is the world’s second power and the leading export economy on the planet. We should instead be asking ourselves why we didn’t do it sooner. How much has El Salvador lost by not having a relationship with an economic giant like China. The enormous opportunities that open up for an economy like ours in a market of that magnitude is impressive from a scientific and technical point of view. We must bet on this type of relationship”.
Of the 193 member states of the United Nations, 178 have formal diplomatic relations with China while only 16 maintain relations with the Taipei separatists. This reality presents a profound paradox as the United States in spite of formally establishing relations with China in 1979, continues to have close informal relations with the separatists. Thus one sees that when the world continues to desert diplomatic relations with Chinese Taipei in favour of forming ties with the Chinese government, the US stands alone in bolstering the position of separatist forces.
While seemingly a paradox, these duel phenomena are actually related. If the United States continued to honour its own post-1979 interpretation of the One China Policy and only conducted business with Beijing without interfering in the cross-strait issue, chances are high that through a process of dialogue and de-escalation, Chinese Taipei could once again become fully re-integrated into the rest of the nation, perhaps on the one country-two systems model that has worked so successfully in Hong Kong and Macau.
But if re-integration was allowed to proceed based on internal Chinese dialogue, the United States would lose one of its strategic tools through which to provoke and antagonise China. In this sense, it can be said plainly that the US is pumping geopolitical life support into Chinese Taipei at a time when for the wider world, the status of the island of Taiwan is a crude anachronism of the 20th century that is increasingly out of place in the 21st.
While Taipei politicians tend to show stern resolve in the face of a reality of being totally deserted by the wider world, the fact remains that without US support, it would simply be a matter of time before the situation could peacefully normalise.
This is so much the case that recent months have seen international private sector air carriers including those from the United States take the pragmatic decision to recognise China’s territorial integrity in their flight literature and on their websites. In this sense both Washington and Taipei are isolated not only from the rest of the world but from private sector companies in the United States that are well aware that sacrificing necessary business contacts with China in order to make a crude ideological point is simply bad for business and therefore surplus to requirements.
Taken in totality there is one clear provocateur when it comes to cross-strait issues and this is certainly not Beijing. The authors of Washington’s new aggressive policies seem unaware of the fact that the Chinese government has no desire to ever shed the blood of fellow Chinese under any circumstances. The cross-strait issue is an internal political matter not one that implies a rush to militarisation. China after all pursues a policy of non-interference and good relations with every country in the world so why would China adopt a militarily hostile policy to an internal political matter when China does not even threaten the use of force against hostile foreign states? The answer is that once again, the US policy makers have failed to grasp the essence of the Chinese political mentality.
Furthermore, the US must be aware that China has changed a great deal since Bill Clinton’s provocation of 1996. China’s military today is the strongest in the long history of China and with plans to further modernise the People’s Liberation Army’s hi-tech weaponry, it is safe to say that something along the lines of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction would be the result of a full scale war between the US and China.
No sane person in the world would want to see a war between two countries which in spite of the current protectionist policies in Washington remain vital trading partners and furthermore, partners who have been able to work together to accelerate the Korean peace process.
Therefore, while war is not in anyone’s interests, the US should remember that if it attempted a 1996 style provocation in the Taiwan Strait, it would elicit the kind of response that in 1996 China was less capable of giving. Those who stand next to an oil field should not develop a habit of playing with fire. This is the stern but reasonable message that US policy makers should understand if they think that provoking China in its territorial waters will not result in meaningful consequences.
Finally, the US should realise that there is no point in provoking the most extreme political elements in Taipei when this can only result in global conflict. Nothing positive whatsoever from anyone’s perspective can occur as a logical result of such a stance. If the US fully committed its actions to the One China Policy that Washington currently supports with its words, it would be entirely possible for the Taiwan issue to be solved on a permanent basis through inter-Chinese dialogue without external interference.
US meddling in the issue is manifest of a colonial mentality in Washington that is unfit for the 21st century as not a single American life nor an inch of American territory is effected by the internal Chinese matter. When Chinese President Xi Jinping recently met with former chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) party Lien Chan, they were obviously speaking Chinese rather than English and they were speaking from the position of a shared historical Chinese cultural experience within the framework of a political conflict which must continue to be shaped by the 1992 Consensus rather than framed by hostility or US provoked secessionism.
As the cross-strait issue is one that can only be logically solved by dialogue, the US should know that no good can come out of provoking China and that certain disaster would befall anyone who sets fire to the international and cross-strait Consensus by fanning the flames of dangerous secessionism. Chinese officials will be well aware for example that a fringe group of extremists in the US state of California are agitating for secession from the United States. But just because this is the case, Chinese warships have not sailed into the San Francisco Bay and made unilateral weapons deals with California Governor Jerry Brown.
China respects the sovereignty of the United States in-full and realises that internal conflicts in America can only be solved by the American people themselves. The US must apply a similar position and remain removed from an internal Chinese matter where it behoves no one either in China nor in the US to provoke violence within one of the world’s most prosperous and peaceful nations. The US ought to stop fighting windmills and understand that the winds of international change are blowing towards China and away from any notion of perpetuating the relic of 20th century separatism.