April 7th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Free trade agreements leave us even more dependent on China

EDITORIAL Why Russia re-elected Vladimir Putin

CANBERRA OBSERVED Empty seat last vestige of minor parties' party

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Liberals take power but plan for none for SA

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Sexual exploitation at Oxfam symptom of culture of death

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM General protection gives a false sense of security

PHILOSOPHY AND CULTURE On celestial politics

GENDER POLITICS Trans ideology awash with big money from big biomed and big pharma

REGIONAL AFFAIRS Taiwan stands up to Beijing's bullyboy tactics

CINEMA Outstanding film follows St Paul to his death in Rome

HUMOUR An Appetite for Diamonds: Porphyry Volpone investigates

MUSIC Power playing: Technique v musicality

CINEMA Peter Rabbit: More Bugs than Beatrix, but lots of fun

BOOK REVIEW We're doomed; but we're not alone

BOOK REVIEW Subcontinent set for Asian century


NATIONAL AFFAIRS The deeper causes of Australia's social malaise

GENDER POLITICS Queensland proposes transgender birth certificates

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Taiwan stands up to Beijing's bullyboy tactics

by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, April 7, 2018

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has urged regional powers to take a stand against China’s bullying in the cause of regional solidarity and a rules-based approach to problem solving.

China has blatantly disregarded agreements with Taiwan over regional aviation routes, causing chaos in the busy Chinese New Year period, when thousands of mainland-based Taiwanese businessmen traditionally return to Taiwan for family reunions. Chinese New Year – also known as the Spring Festival – is universally celebrated in Chinese societies, for which it is a reaffirmation of family values and a festival to bring good fortune in the coming year.

In January China announced the expansion of the heavily trafficked flight route M503, saying that the route, which previously accommodated only southbound flights over the Taiwan Strait, would be expanded into a north and south-bound route. It would also establish three extension routes servicing the Chinese cities of Xiamen, Fuzhou, and Dongshan.

President Tsai expressed hope that the international community understood Taiwan’s intentions and would support both sides to begin talks on the aviation issue. Taipei wants to negotiate bilaterally with Beijing on an equal footing. Beijing unilaterally tore up the agreement on the M503 aviation route, despite an agreement with Taipei to negotiate over its implementation.

Taipei’s aim has been to maintain the status quo in the interests of transportation safety. The M503 aviation route runs almost down the centreline between Taiwan and mainland China. As such, Beijing’s unilateral move to begin using the M503 aviation route, without consulting Taipei, endangers the safety of air passengers, both in Taiwan and mainland China.

Beijing’s tactics are evidence of its blatant disregard for Taiwan as an independent state. Under the former Kuomintang (KMT) president, Ma Ying-jeou, Beijing and Taipei had reached a modus viviendi based on the 1992 Consensus, of “one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what that might be”. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), of which President Tsai is the standard bearer, has refused to confirm the 1992 Consensus. The left-leaning DPP is the core of the Pan-Green coalition, which aims for eventual independence from China. The traditional KMT is the core of the Pan Blue coalition, which aims for reunification with China, at some distant time in the future.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been attempting to restrict Taiwan’s international space. The Republic of China (ROC) – Taiwan’s official name – has only 21 formal diplomatic allies. Recently, much has been said about the ROC losing the Holy See as a diplomatic ally, its only formal ally in Europe. This is an ongoing dialogue that never seems to result in any action and any action seems unlikely in the short term.

Informed observers say that the Vatican would have to engage in a global information campaign before recognising Beijing, as any move to dump Taipei and recognise Beijing would incense the many friends Taiwan has in the Catholic Church. They have not forgotten the brutal treatment handed out to Catholic priests and other religious ministers when Mao Zedong took over in 1949, when some 10,000 Western missionaries were summarily expelled from mainland China. During the mass insanity known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), an unknown number of Chinese Christians were tortured and killed.

The PRC’s bullying aims to denigrate the ROC and reduce its status to that of a regional government. In Taiwan, this is described as “dwarfing” Taiwan – to reduce its status to that of an entity that is less than an independent sovereign state. Taipei will not accept the status of a special administrative region, like Macao or Hong Kong, or a regional government under control of Beijing. Beijing, however, will not negotiate with Taipei unless it accepts the One China principle.

Former President Ma’s acceptance of the 1992 Consensus, with one China and each side interpreting that as it saw fit, was sufficient at the time to satisfy Beijing. Taipei’s Foreign Minister until recently was David Lee, a professional diplomat with no discernible ideological leanings. He has now been replaced by a minister connected to President Tsai’s DPP.

The head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which handles relations with Beijing, has also been replaced by a DPP loyalist. As mainland China is not technically a foreign country, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) does not have jurisdiction over relations with the PRC. It is no secret that MOFA and the MAC coordinate closely, but the technical separation between MOFA and the MAC is significant.

The aviation dispute has sent relations between Taipei and Beijing to a new low. Taipei and other regional powers, including Australia, want a rules-based international system. Beijing seems intent on doing what it pleases, regardless of agreements and negotiations. Under “President for Life” Xi Jinping, China has assumed a role as a global heavyweight.

Need it be this way? The divided states of North and South Korea are negotiating on an equal footing, something that seemed impossible even just a few months ago. There is no need for Beijing and Taipei to be at daggers drawn. Under President Ma, Beijing and Taipei had a mutually beneficial relationship.

No one wants to challenge President Xi, on the basis that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t, but things are not looking promising. China is now a major power and flouts international principles whenever those principles don’t suit it.

Taiwan, and Australia have an interest in maintaining a rules-based global order. China will not accept an independent Taiwan, and Taiwan will not accept a status akin to a special administrative region.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm