Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Taiwanese Failure to Make Progress

China has long held that owning Taiwan is a core interest of Peking, and that any overt moves to declare independence would trigger an attack to bring Taiwan under control. Less appreciated is that the threat of force holds if Taiwan delays unification indefinitely. Taiwan just stopped making progress toward unification.

While I find this good news, there is also danger for Taiwan:

Taiwan's warmer relations with China were called into question Sunday after the island's Beijing-friendly ruling party suffered its worst-ever polls defeat in local elections, sparking the resignation of Premier Jiang Yi-huah.

The rout came as the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party struggles to combat public fears of China's growing influence, as well as a slowing economy and a string of food scandals.

The Chinese are already warning about lack of progress as Taiwan's 2016 presidential election nears:

"We hope compatriots across the strait will cherish hard-won fruits of cross-strait relations, and jointly safeguard and continue to push forward peaceful development of cross-strait relations," said Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office.

Economic problems, fear of reliance on China, and scenes of Chinese repression of democracy protesters in Hong Kong have soured many Taiwanese on the China-friendly policies of the ruling KMT.

Elections in 2016 are a long way off, so these "barometer" elections may not hold true when the presidential election comes.

But China has already given up on their KMT partners, and is reaching out to forge ties with small fringe parties without a chance in Hell of winning power. This should scare the Taiwanese immensely:

This type of Chinese outreach is useful for an Astro-turf "popular" revolt that China can use to justify a rapid invasion and conquest of Taiwan; providing a ready-made puppet government ready to install to thank China for the humanitarian intervention and put a Taiwanese face on the organs of state repression that will follow as China adds a peripheral province to China as a warning to others on the periphery seeking to leave or loosen China's embrace.

Why Taiwan doesn't see the need to spend 6-10% of their GDP on defense is a mystery to me.

And funny enough, China's president just reminded the world that China's interests trump mere votes:

“We should firmly uphold China’s territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests and national unity,” Xi told a Communist Party meeting on foreign affairs held on Friday and Saturday, according to excerpts of his speech released by Xinhua on Sunday.

While much of that is directed at China's South China Sea and East China Sea claims, that "national unity" stuff certainly applies to Taiwan.

Will China really be content to see a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) victory in 2016 that will openly reveal that the Taiwanese don't want ever closer ties to China, which China interprets as eventual unification?

With China unintentionally signalling that voting is important, will China strike before that Taiwanese presidential election can verify the dangerous lesson that votes can change policies?

With China and Russia drawing closer, is it out of the realm of possibility that the two could coordinate their aggression to complicate our response and perhaps freeze us in indecision long enough to achieve their objectives?

And do they see an opportunity to act before a new administration takes office in Washington, D.C., after our own 2016 election?