At a time when India, struggles to call Mission Impossible-Fall Out’s bluff for carrying out wrong map of India and calling “Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir” as “India- controlled Kashmir”, China threatens 44 international airlines to fall in line and honour its “One China Policy”. It is unfortunate that Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) hasn’t raised serious objections to the movie which has churned out 56 crores from Indian markets in its first week of opening despite depicting Kashmir wrongly. After mere four cuts, a disclaimer and some voice over modifications, CBFC has allowed screening of the movie in India and hasn’t bothered to press the producers to incorporate all these relevant changes in the international version of movie screened across the World. The easy-going attitude of India towards ill portrayal and negative propaganda, often perceived as sign of weakness is in sharp contrast to China’s authoritarianism that tolerates no non-sense. A cogent argument on art form or an act of fiction be exempted from such tough scrutiny is beyond the scope of this article. But this issue inadvertently compels us to capitulate China’s assiduous and vigorous attempts of strangulating the independent identity of Taiwan, a renegade province of China.
In first week of July, there was a sudden surge of outrage when Indian government acceding to China’s demand instructed Indian Airlines to change Taiwan’s name to Chinese Taipei. Strategists castigated New Delhi for bending backwards to appease China. But soon all other International Airlines including the American airlines- Delta, United and American airlines fell in line by the set deadline of July 25th. This is just one classical example of how China is trying to muzzle the independent existence of Taiwan.
Coercing Foreign Companies
Earlier in May, China has pulled up cloth retailer Gap, for showing Chinese map with its territories- Taiwan, Tibet and the Nine-dashed line of South China Sea (SCS). Gap was forced to issue apology for failing to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. In January, China closed Marriot’s website for a week for showing Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau as countries in online survey. To protect its business interests in China, Marriot even now carries a message, “we never any separatist organisation that harms China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We apologise profoundly for any behaviour that will cause misunderstanding about the above stance”. Mercedes-Benz was forced to delete an Instagram post that carried a quote of the Dalai-Lama, “Look at the situation from all angles, and you will become more open”. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) considers Dalai-Lama as a political agitator and terms him “wolf in monk’s clothing” and Chinese people share similar sentiment. Within hours of the posting the Instagram message an angry wave of outrage flooded the Mercedes account. Mercedes immediately took to Weibo, Chinese microblogging channel to issue a lengthy apology saying, “in light of this, we will immediately take measures to deepen our understanding of Chinese values and culture, including our overseas colleagues, to ensure this won’t happen again”. A week ago, Google announced plans to launch a new censored search engine that complied with Chinese ideology.
Of late, China is pursuing a muscular “One-China Policy” and coercion has become its favourite tool to impose strict adherence to Chinese rules and laws on foreign companies. Clearly at a time, when the world is busy with North Korea denuclearisation, sham elections games of Pakistan, Islamabad’s IMF bailout plans, sinking Iraqi Rial and trade tariff wars between China and US, simmering crisis in Taiwan Straits has escaped global attention.
Stifling Democracy in Hong Kong
China’s attempts to stifle democracy, free speech has reached a new crescendo after President Xi Jinping assumed charge. The tremors of such aggressive efforts to assert control over autonomous regions like Tibet and Xinjiang reached threatening proportions in his regime. Since transfer of sovereignty to China, Hong Kong began to feel the heat of Chinese authoritarianism which escalated in 2012 with the election of Chief executive in CY Leung. After China refused to introduce Universal Suffrage and thrusted a restrictive democracy, pro-democrats launched sit-in protests famously termed as Umbrella Movement in 2014 rocked Hong Kong. Beijing crushed the democratic movement with iron hand. Undeterred students the launched “Occupy Central”. But Beijing refused to give in and barred pro-democracy candidates from contesting in legislative council and intervened in Hong Kong court’s decision to remove pro-democratic leaders for taking oath improperly. In some cases, it prevailed on universities to bar students who participated in these protests from universities. Recently, it influenced the courts to hand over seven years jail sentence to all the pro-democracy, pro-independence leaders. In 2017, several business leaders mysteriously disappeared showed up in Chinese custody. Eventually, China placed a pro-Beijing Chief Executive in Hongkong and strangulated democratic movement.
Within a month of taking over as President Xi gave a clarion call of “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and announced two centennial goals. First to build a “moderately prosperous society” and second, making China “fully developed, rich and powerful nation”. Above all Xi infused a new enthusiasm and adroitly adopted a muscular vision to reclaim past greatness. To realise these goals, Xi believed that CCP should take over the territories of greater China which includes Tibet, Xinjiang, Hongkong and China. He urged Chinese not to forget “Century of humiliation” and vowed to reinstate the civilizational credence of being centre of Universe or the “Middle Kingdom” meaning lying in the space between the heaven and earth. Xi tightened control over political discourse and called for ideological conformity and brought about unprecedented changes through reshuffling of bureaucracy, reorganising military and taking strictest action against graft. Simultaneously, in a bid to protect the country from maritime conflict, Xi stressed the need for controlling the seas within “first island chain” that runs through Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and South China Sea. Overpowered by the indomitable will of realising Chinese Dream, Xi ratcheted pressure campaign against Taiwan. Instead of trying to win hearts of Taiwanese for a prospective reunification, China employed coercion.
Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan
Ever since Tsai-Ing wen of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) became President of Taiwan in 2016, China intensified diplomatic strangulation. From 1949 Taiwan, a renegade province of China has been a self-governing political entity. Chiang Kai-shek of Kuomintang (KMT) after losing the civil war to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Mao Zedong, exiled to Taiwan in 1949. He ruled over Taiwan, called it Republic of China (ROC) until his death in 1975. Chiang insisted that his government represented the Chinese of the island and mainland. The West and other Communist countries for long, countries heeded Chiang’s claims and refused to recognise PRC. Taiwan currently a home to 23 million people was annexed in 1600s by Qing Dynasty who ceded this island to Japanese after their defeat at Sino-Japan war of 1895. The island remained under Japanese control till the end of World War-II 1945 when Tokyo was convincingly defeated by allied powers. Japan handed over Taiwan to military forces of ROC led by Chiang. In recognition of victory over the Axis forces in 1945, ROC joined UN as the founding member.
After Outer Mongolia gaining independence in 1961 and Albania’s UN General Assembly resolution 1668, that called for replacing ROC with PRC at UNSC won two-thirds vote, ROC lost its diplomatic heft. In 1971, General Assembly Resolution 2758 moved by Albania garnered support from Communist countries and NAM countries following which PRC was recognised as sole legal China and PRC became permanent member of UNSC. Subsequently, Taiwan was forced to join multilateral organisation under the name of “Chinese Taipei”. In the meanwhile, exploiting the rift in the communist bloc, President Nixon reached out to China secretly. Soon, he officially formalised ties with China and recognised “One-China policy”. In 1979, Washington stated, “the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese position that there is, but one China and Taiwan is part of China”. ROC then mobilised its diaspora which in turn pushed Congress to pass the “Taiwan Relations Act” signed by President Jimmy Carter. TRA states, “the United States will make available such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capabilities”. By and large, relations between the two Chinas characterised by tension and instability and are distinctly defined by the term “Cross-Straits relations”. Even after the civil war of 1949, both PRC and ROC clashed with each other frequently. First Cross-straits crisis ended in Formosa resolution of 1955 after PRC annexed Yijiangshan and Tachen Islands. In a second crisis, PRC started shelling in Kinmen and Matsu Islands to “liberate” Taiwan from KMT rule. In 1995 and 1996 as a warning to ROC from deviating the “One-China policy” and intimidate the electoral process, PRC began firing missiles across the Taiwan Straits.
Against US strategic ambiguity, China began to strengthen relations with third-world countries, participated in various international movements against super powers. By 1982, US reduced its arms sales to Taiwan but refused to formally accept the sovereignty of China over Taiwan. Reflecting its position on Taiwan, US issued three communiques and six assurances. Though America agreed to officially abrogate relations with Taiwan, it maintained cultural, commerical and economic interactions with Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which serves as non-official US embassy and issues visas.
Chiang ruled over Taiwan under a martial law after his death, successors continued the repressive rule till 1987. But the island gradually embraced democracy, by conducting first legislative elections in 1992 and Presidential elections in 1996. The nationalists or the Kuomintang historically upheld the policy of “one China Policy” loathed independence of island. As a result, it soon lost the support of youngsters who are unwilling for closer ties with mainland China to other parties. DPP, which vociferously batted for independent Taiwanese identity and called for de jure independence of Taiwan from mainland China. Soon it stormed into power as its ideology was in sync with the aspirations of younger generation. DPP remained in power from 2000-2008. But lost elections after its President Chen Shui-bian was convicted on charges of corruption, KMT again came back to power.
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