Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Taiwan & the Son of Heaven!

Two months ago James Soon, leader of Taiwan's People First Party (PFP), made a visit to Beijing and was met and feted by Chinese President Hu Jintao. Soong was the second Taiwanese Opposition leader given the red carpet welcome by Beijing. Obviously, the aim of mainland China has been to outmanoeuvre and deliberately marginalise Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian.

The issue is of course the independence of Taiwan. Only President Chen and some of his American and Japanese rightwing supporters desire that. Beijing has time and time again warned against any such bright ideas. Taiwan's Opposition parties, mainly the Kuomintang or its splinter groups, are hardcore Chinese nationalists and thus uphold the indivisibility of One China. In this, the Koumintang and Beijing are of one mind.

Then Chen, witnessing his political opponents given the red carpet treatment in Beijing, panicked and fell for Beijing’s tactics of isolating him into a cross-straits political nonentity. He had been initially unaccommodating to Beijing’s overtures, believing that with President Bush in the White House, he could drag the USA into the cross-straits imbroglio, and present China with a fait accompli, an independent Taiwan.

Washington, particularly the State Department, and America's top business corporations like Boeing, Microsoft, IBM, etc have been very wary of President Chen's loose cannon brinksmanship in his unrealistic drive for de jure political independence today. Even Google played ball with the mainland Chinese by not permitting the word 'democratic' (or something to this effect) appear on the Chinese Google.

They know Beijing is not yet ready to accede to Taiwan's demand, and to protect relationship (for the US State Department) and business interests for the American conglomerates, they toe the 'party' line (the Chinese party line, that is).

I personally believe China will let Taiwan go its own independent way in another twenty or thirty years when matters are more stable in China's NW regions and Tibet.

The second reason is 'face' and we are talking about 'face' inside China, rather than with the world. Chinese leaders will have problems among their own constituencies like party members and the military. If they allow Taiwan to sever the historical/nationalistic umblical cord, they themselves won't last long.

The third reason is to retain a slight tension across the straits. China doesn't want countries like the USA and Japan getting silly ideas that they could develop pro-American or even pro-Japan independent states with military bases or spying stations in those states (like South Korea)around Chung Kuo.

China is aware that the USA has been courting Vietnam, India, Nepal, and the "-stan" nations of Central Asia as part of its encirclement-of-China strategy. China, together with Russia, have already neutralised the last through the Shanghai Cooperative Organisation (SCO). She has also been doing some wooing of her own, with Vietnam, India, South Korea, and ASEAN nations. She supports North Korea, Nepal and Burma with military and other aid, and has strong economic and cooperative ties with the "-stan" nations and Iran.

Back to Taiwan - President Chen had initially and stridently criticized the trips of the two opposition leaders, but when he saw the tumultuous and warm reception they received in Beijing, he quickly expressed cautious support for them. Just trust a politician to notice the favourable situation and jump on the bandwagon.

Thus, he couldn’t contain himself anymore, and wanted to get into the act himself, declaring that he alone would be capable of breaking the deadlock with China over Taiwan's political status. He wanted to talk to Beijing himself and sought an invitation. Beijing snubbed him of course. The Son of Heaven chooses who he wishes to speak to!

Chen's pro-independence supporters had been absolutely furious with his change of direction, and demanded that he be resolute with the irreversible course of independence.

Now, as another tantalising teaser at Chen, Chinese President Hu Jintao has just congratulated Taiwan opposition leader James Soong for his re-election as head of the People First Party (PFP), where Soong secured more than 99 percent of the party's vote. The Son of Heaven has shown who is in his favour!

But the fact that Soong has emerged overwhelmingly victorious in his party election does indicate that not every Taiwanese is interested in Chen's provocative brand of independence. Afterall, Taiwan is already de facto independent.

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