Saturday was October 10, Taiwan’s Independence Day from China. Well, not officially, but it’s treated that way by most. I’ve got the fireworks induced headache to prove it.
For over sixty years, the rightwing Kuomintang party (KMT) have insisted that China belongs to Taiwan, and that the official power of China rests in Taipei. They have also been “PRC friendly”, willing to talk to Beijing about the “one China policy”.
On Wednesday, for the first time, the new KMT leadership have openly talked about full diplomatic relations with the US, and words suggesting recognition as an independent state. Those are words they have never spoken before and always opposed, especially when Taiwan was a police state under KMT rule.
A stunning reversal by members of Taiwan’s leading opposition party — long seen as supporting friendly relations with Beijing — has given fresh impetus to Chinese calls for the use of military action to bring the self-governing territory to heel.
“We must no longer hold any more illusions,” wrote Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of Global Times, part of China’s state media conglomerate. “The only way forward is for the mainland to fully prepare itself for war and to give Taiwan secessionist forces a decisive punishment at any time.”
Hu’s October 6 editorial was prompted by two bills proposed by the Kuomintang (KMT) in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, urging the government to actively pursue restoration of formal diplomatic ties between Washington and Taipei and request U.S. official assistance to defend the island against any future Chinese aggression.
“Our government ought to try and persuade the United States to lend us help diplomatically, economically, and/or through direct military intervention” if and when the Chinese communist authorities take such actions as to constitute a direct threat to Taiwan’s democratic existence, the proposed legislation said. The bills were passed without objection Tuesday.
“We wish for the world to see and understand that we in Taiwan, across Party lines, are determined not to seek war, but also equally determined not to fear war,” the KMT caucus stated.
Members of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) described the language in the bills as “unprecedented” from a KMT party that has long been seen by Beijing as a dialogue partner, with a shared vision of “one China” and unification as the eventual goal.
There are two possible motivations for this sea change in policy. One, they accept that the populace here has no desire for reunification under any circumstances. Recent polls were the highest ever for full independence. Two, massive losses in last January’s national elections and success of president Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at coping with COVID-19 and the economy (an expected -0.6% decrease for the year, best in the world unless China’s numbers are legitimate), the KMT have a long slog if they have any ambitions of governing again. They are still the second largest party, but the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) and New Power Party (NPP) have made significant gains at their expense in the last two elections.
At the same time, the increased talk of independence has increased the sabre rattling (or should I say, dao rattling) from Beijing. Mainland aircraft have invaded Taiwan’s airspace several times in the last few weeks, and US and Taiwanese military aircraft have responded by patrolling the line between Taiwan and China, not crossing it. Xi Jinping’s bellicose posturing may be just for show considering China’s domestic problems. I’ve intended to talk about this in depth, but have been interrupted.
China has a potential food shortage and mass starvation, the worst since the “great leap forward”. This summer’s flooding and pest infestations have destroyed much of the domestic rice crop, plus other foods. For the past two months, propaganda has been blasted in the regime’s media, telling people to eat smaller portions and to not waste food. A sign of desperation was China’s largest ever purchase of US corn during July.
Taiwan may be at less risk of invasion than the four Southeast Asian mainland countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam). Thailand and Vietnam are two of the world’s ten largest rice producers as are several of its neighbors.
At this time of year, the rice that grows on Bao Wentao’s family farm should have been ready for harvest.Instead, heavy flooding engulfed huge swathes of southern China, including more than 36 acres of rice paddies that Bao, 19, and his father cultivate in their village near Poyang Lake.
“The harvest has completely failed,” Bao told CNN Business in an interview on social media app WeChat, adding that his family had already lost around 200,000 yuan ($ 28,000) in produce. “The rice was almost ripe and ready to harvest before the floods. But now it’s all gone.”
Flooding floods hit the shores of Lake Poyang in Jiangxi province last month, destroying thousands of acres of farmland in what is called the “land of fish and rice”. The wider Yangtze River basin – which includes Lake Poyang and stretches over 3,900 miles from Shanghai in the east to the Tibetan border in the west – accounts for 70% of the country’s rice production.
Xi’s limping military posturing is akin to Cheetolini’s. It’s starting to sound like flag waving measure to rally the populace. But people are unlikely to listen if they’re hungry. How desperate will he be to hold onto power? And can he?
China’s bellyaching about Taiwan included “instructions” for the media in other countries about how to report on Taiwan’s Independence Day. India’s government and media laughed at this, and one politician went so far as to place a Taiwan flag and sign of congratulations outside the PRC’s embassy.
It was an unusually noticeable 109th Taiwan National Day in India, with posters and flags hung outside the Chinese embassy by a ruling party member and Taiwan’s president thanking “dear friends in India” for sending wishes for their annual celebration.
There had been heightened awareness about the Taiwan national day, especially after the Chinese embassy issued a ‘letter’ to the Indian media with instructions not to use certain terms that would violate the ‘One China’ policy.
India has followed the ‘One China policy’, which means that it doesn’t have diplomatic ties with Taiwan. However, both sides have trade offices which operate as de-facto embassies.
Subsequently, India’s Ministry of External Affairs dismissed the Chinese embassy’s instructions, by stating that the “free” Indian media would report “as it sees fit”.
India and China are currently involved in a military stand-off since May in eastern Ladakh. While both sides are still talking, the negotiations have stalled with China unwilling to return to its side of the Line of Actual Control. There have been heightened emotions in India due to the stand-off, which have already led to the first casualties along the border in over four decades.
The Bharatiya Janta Party’s Delhi unit spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga had tweeted pictures of having erected posters with flags of Taiwan in a sidewalk near the Chinese embassy in the capital’s diplomatic enclave on Friday night.