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‘West continues to stoke conflict on China’s stoep’

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Picture: I-Hwa Cheng / AFP / Taken on January 12, 2024 – A supporter carries Taiwanese flags during a campaign rally of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party ahead of the presidential election, in New Taipei City on January 12. The West tries to support separatist elements in Taiwan and to portray Taiwanese as hostile towards mainland China’s people, despite even Taiwanese leaders wish to have closer relations with Beijing, the writer says.

By Wesley Seale

Nauru is a country not many people have heard of.

The island is the smallest republic in the world by land mass and is about thrice the size of Robben Island.

This past week, the Republic of Nauru signalled that it would follow UN Resolution 2758 which recognises the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government representing the Chinese people and recognises Taiwan as an inalienable part of Chinese territory.

The statement released by the government of Nauru went on to state that there would no longer be official relations or official exchanges with Taiwan province. The development in Nauru came a day after the country commended Taiwan for the conduct of its elections.

On January 13, Taiwan held its presidential and legislative elections. Yet these elections must be viewed as no different from the ones held in Hong Kong. Hong Kong elects a “chief executive”, whereas Taiwan, also a province of China, elects a “president”.

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader, Tsai Ing-wen, has completed her two terms as president of Taiwan. She was therefore ineligible to stand for a third term and will be succeeded by her current vice-president and leader of the DPP, Lai Ching-te, who won with 40 percent of the vote.

The vote for the DPP was therefore not overwhelming and this in itself illustrates the unwillingness of the majority of Taiwanese to have adversarial relations with the mainland.

As with Hong Kong, the West has often tried to support separatist elements in Taiwan and attempted to portray the people of Taiwan as hostile towards their brothers and sisters in mainland China. This is despite the fact that even Taiwanese leaders wish to have closer relations with Beijing.

For example, opposition leader Hou Yu-ih indicated in early December that if he was elected, he would seek to strengthen friendly relations between China and the US and criticised the current government of Tsai Ing-wen for not doing enough to reinforce relations with the central Chinese government.

In a television interview during the election campaign, the leader of the third largest party, the Taiwan People’s Party, Ko Wen-je, echoed the sentiments of the Kuomintang leader, Hou, when he pledged that under his leadership he too would foster a more amicable approach to relations with the mainland.

Yet the West continues to stoke conflict on China’s stoep.

Writing in China Daily, emeritus professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Professor Lau Siu-kai, stated that “tensions between Beijing and Washington have somewhat eased, but that does not mean Washington has substantially changed its policy towards Beijing and Taipei, even though it has perfunctorily reiterated its opposition to ‘Taiwan independence’.”

The reaction to the elections in the region was not alarming and it shouldn’t be. It was an election like in any other autonomous region in China.

Countries in the region, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore and South Korea, all congratulated Taiwan on the elections while firmly reiterating their countries’ One-China policy.

Sadly, the double-speak in the West has not assisted either Taiwan nor the rest of the region in ensuring peace and stability.

On the one hand, the West wishes to reiterate its One-China policy but on the other hand, it continues to push for ‘Taiwan independence’.

For example, this past week The Wall Street Journal suggested that the “Taiwan vote adds risks to US-China ties”.

The report stated that “Taiwan’s election of the presidential candidate China most distrusts puts at risk a fragile détente between Washington and Beijing, threatening another flare-up between the world’s biggest economic and military powers”.

It is difficult to understand why there would be a “flare-up” between “the world’s biggest economic and military powers” when these are internal Chinese matters. Significantly, US President Joe Biden reiterated at a press conference that “we (the US) do not support independence”.

China does not want conflict. It goes against Chinese foreign policy, its trajectory of a modern and prosperous Chinese society, especially before the centenary celebrations of the New China in 25 years’ time.

The Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy spells out peaceful co-existence among Chinese people and with the country’s neighbours and the peoples of the world.

Having clocked an average 5 percent growth rate last year, China will not threaten its economic and social stability with an unnecessary conflict. The on-and-off stand-off with the US is more than enough for it to handle.

At the same time, the US and the American people in particular – war-weary after costly expeditions in Iraq, Afghanistan as well as the latest conflict in Ukraine – do not want another major war.

Already US members of Congress are refusing to fund the corrupt government of Ukraine in its conflict.

This is partly the reason why Donald Trump is popular because he promises peace with everyone, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Even more so, the Biden administration is sitting on tenterhooks hoping that the genocide in Gaza will not spiral into a bigger conflict in the Middle East.

Yet the Chinese red-line on its territorial integrity must not be crossed. It is something that China will never allow.

In Africa, South Africa, and in the Western Cape in particular, there too are separatist elements.

We must not be surprised if these find resonance or have found support among Western backers who keep pushing for “Taiwan independence”. As Africans and South Africans specifically, we too must fight for our territorial sovereignty.

Dr Wesley Seale is a member of the provincial executive committee of the ANC in the Western Cape. Seale holds a PhD in Chinese foreign policy.