2 New Flashpoints For Icy China-Taiwan Relations

22-Dec-2016 Intellasia | Forbes | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The Taiwanese government hopes to buddy up with US President-elect Donald Trump after he takes office next month. Closer US ties would annoy China because China claims Taiwan as its own and resents any outside government for treating it as a state. But as Trump and Taiwan explore how they might work together, the Communist leadership has directed most of its wrath at the United States rather than at Taiwan so the island’s latent anti-China sentiment doesn’t intensify.

You might expect China to dissuade even more of its tourists from visiting Taiwan – the headcount is already down since April – or wave money at some of Taiwan’s 22 diplomatic allies so they defect to Beijing. A military miscalculation could obviously shake a fragile relationship that’s been effectively frozen since May because neither China nor Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen can come up with agreeable conditions for talks. Taiwan is self-ruled. Beijing’s insists on eventual unification despite widespread opposition among Taiwanese. Both have moved ships and planes around the 160 km-wide (100 miles) strait between them for decades without a clash.

But here are two modern-day and more likely scenarios that could turn the freeze into a firestorm of anger, inflaming distrust long-term on both sides.

The Taiwanese government hopes to buddy up with US President-elect Donald Trump after he takes office next month. Closer US ties would annoy China because China claims Taiwan as its own and resents any outside government for treating it as a state. But as Trump and Taiwan explore how they might work together, the Communist leadership has directed most of its wrath at the United States rather than at Taiwan so the island’s latent anti-China sentiment doesn’t intensify.

You might expect China to dissuade even more of its tourists from visiting Taiwan – the headcount is already down since April – or wave money at some of Taiwan’s 22 diplomatic allies so they defect to Beijing. A military miscalculation could obviously shake a fragile relationship that’s been effectively frozen since May because neither China nor Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen can come up with agreeable conditions for talks. Taiwan is self-ruled. Beijing’s insists on eventual unification despite widespread opposition among Taiwanese. Both have moved ships and planes around the 160 km-wide (100 miles) strait between them for decades without a clash.

But here are two modern-day and more likely scenarios that could turn the freeze into a firestorm of anger, inflaming distrust long-term on both sides.

One of these overseas fraud cases goes wrong. China has pressured a series of countries to hand over Taiwanese citizens accused of offshore-based phone and Internet fraud that targets Chinese nationals. Kenya, Malaysia and Indonesia are among those who have passed on Taiwanese people for trial in Chinese courts that give harsher sentences than Taiwan judges would. Those cases are getting quiet support in Taiwan so far (you hear jokes about outsourcing a crime problem to Beijing), but someday it could go wrong. Suppose a Taiwanese fraud suspect is wrongly accused and mounts a strong defense via media, well connected friends or Taiwanese officials. Judges in China see suspects as convicts who are just passing through court to get their paperwork for prison. China is also showboating politically, so it’s unlikely to risk loss of face by handing back someone even if evidence points to innocence. Public outrage in Taiwan, government venting toward China and a snub by Beijing would follow this kind of case. So much for any thaw in relations.

2. Political face-off at the University Games in Taipei. In August Taipei will host the Summer Universiade, an international sporting meet for university athletes and an unusually big event for the city (which might explain the sloppiness of its English official website). The giant tech show Computex is about the only other event of scale held here. Master organiser the International University Sports Federation calls these games second in sports only to the Olympics. China makes Taiwanese teams at international sporting events including this one the name “Chinese Taipei” to imply a link with the Beijing government. They can’t fly the normal Taiwan flag. Taiwanese resent those conditions as degrading. Suppose in a moment of pride a Taiwanese athlete wears something other than “Chinese Taipei” and the China team gets angry. Taiwan risks getting thrown off its own stage. We saw a parallel when Taiwan’s Miss Earth 2015 candidate was barred for wearing a “Taiwan” sash. Or suppose Beijing gets peeved beforehand about something else and boycotts the whole event?

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2016/12/20/2-new-flashpoints-for-icy-china-taiwan-relations/#16564d6920cc

 


Category: Taiwan

Print This Post

Comments are closed.