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Montevideo, April 19th 2024 - 09:18 UTC

 

 

Taiwan's unknowable future and president for life Xi Jinping rage

Wednesday, January 17th 2024 - 10:30 UTC
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If there were a referendum in Taiwan today on declaring independence from China (and Beijing didn’t threaten to invade to stop it), a large majority of Taiwanese would vote yes If there were a referendum in Taiwan today on declaring independence from China (and Beijing didn’t threaten to invade to stop it), a large majority of Taiwanese would vote yes

By Gwynne Dyer

Taiwan’s fate is as unknowable as usual, even though we know who the next president is, William Lai, vice-president under outgoing President Tsai Ing-Wen, mainly because the two opposition parties failed to agree on a joint candidate and ultimately split the slightly-less-anti-China vote between them.

Tsai, who is retiring after eight years in the presidency, could have won re-election if she had not reached the two-term limit. Lai is cut from the same cloth: firmly against enforced unification with China, and careful to tend the relationships with the United States and Japan that hold Beijing at bay.

Meanwhile, China’s president-for-life Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China continues to insist he will use force, if necessary, to bring Taiwan back under the rule of the “motherland.”

Maybe the island of Taiwan and its 23 million people are an offshore province of China, temporarily separated from the mainland by the losers in the Chinese Civil War when they retreated there with a million soldiers in 1949.

Or maybe it’s a Pacific island (the original home of the ancestors of all the Pacific islanders) that was conquered and settled by a wave of Chinese immigrants in the 1600s and 1700s, fell into Japan’s hands in the late 1800s, was ruled from Beijing for four years from 1945 to 1949, and is now independent in all but name.

All those things are potentially true, but we will only know which set of facts stays relevant when China conquers Taiwan, or when the current pseudo-Communist regime in Beijing collapses and its successors recognize Taiwan’s independence.

President Xi has raised the volume of the threats Beijing regularly hurls at Taiwan’s government, and Chinese military incursions into Taiwan’s waters and airspace have grown, but there is no sense in either country that war is imminent.

It definitely was not a major issue in the January 13 election. All three parties acknowledge China will be able to attempt a sea and air invasion of Taiwan within five years, as its military build-up continues. But they also know such an invasion might fail, and all three parties support expanded military spending in Taiwan to keep that doubt alive in Beijing.

If there were a referendum in Taiwan today on declaring independence from China (and Beijing didn’t threaten to invade to stop it), a large majority of Taiwanese would vote yes, but they also are realists and would be content to live with the current status quo indefinitely.

The cost of living, housing availability and low wages finally decided most votes, because Taiwan’s economy is suffering a post-Covid slump, not as severe as China’s but bad.

This means the future President Lai may have to get his policies past a majority coalition of the opposition parties in the Yuan (parliament). No big deal; the three major parties are all fairly close together in their economic and social policies, so the deal-making should be quite easy.

As a model for what all of China could and one day might be, Taiwan is encouraging. It is one of the most democratic countries in Asia, and also the most tolerant. (It was the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage.) GDP per capita in Taiwan is six times higher than in China, and yet wealth inequality is much less in Taiwan than it is in China.

However, this island’s fate is largely out of its own hands. The long-standing U.S. guarantee of Taiwan’s security is deliberately ambiguous: the Americans might or might not actually show up if China invaded.

Xi Jinping appears to be putting Taiwan into the same role in his heritage project that Russian President Vladimir Putin gave to Ukraine. Both men have recently passed 70, and they both seem to think that reuniting the motherland would be a fitting legacy.

Categories: Politics, International.
Tags: China, Xi Jinping.

Top Comments

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  • imoyaro

    Well, let's hope he blows a blood vessel and dies of a stroke...

    Jan 17th, 2024 - 06:09 pm 0
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