- While conveniently interacting with the DPP authorities to use Taiwan as a pawn, Western politicians find themselves used by the separatists.
Since last year, Taiwan has served as a stage for politicians from countries like the US, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Canada and the UK to make a show. Congress members, retired officials, and local leaders of these countries have been flocking to the island for photo opportunities. They speak wildly, showing their “concerns” for the Taiwan question.
Since August 2022, in addition to then Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, visits have been made by South Korean National Assembly Deputy Speaker Chung Woo-taik, Czech Parliament Chamber of Deputies Speaker Markéta Pekarová Adamová, former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, and several retired high-ranking US military officials. In 2022, total visits of US and Canadian congress members to Taiwan reached a staggering 41. From January to May of this year, the US Congress members have had at least 21 visits in six batches, surpassing the number of their visits to Taiwan each year from 2017 to 2021.
These politicians’ visits to Taiwan are motivated by various factors: ideological biases against China and Communism, strategic ambition of using Taiwan region to counter China, or just for money or attention. However, they have one thing in common: they either have fallen for the deception and manipulation of the “Taiwan independence” separatists, becoming their pawns and taking risks for their interests, or they are using the Taiwan question to further their own political interests back home. In doing so, they are colluding with the separatists and complicating the situation across the Taiwan Straits.
In 2018, the leader from Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that Taiwan is also a chess player who will make moves accordingly. There were reports in the island’s media that a leader in the DPP-ruled government referred to Donald Trump as Taiwan’s pawn.
In reality, from Lee Teng-hui to Chen Shui-bian, the separatists have repeatedly manipulated the situation across the Taiwan Straits, using strategies like pretending to be the victim to gain sympathy from ignorant or greedy Western politicians.
Since regaining power on the island in 2016, the DPP learned from its failures in a straight-forward, aggressive pursuit of independence and shifted towards a more gradual and subtle approach. This approach avoids openly advocating for “legal independence” and instead promotes a gradual path to independence while maintaining a façade of “goodwill.”
They claim to be non-provocative and non-aggressive and maintaining the status quo, but are actually seeking gradual breakthroughs. Not only do they reject the 1992 Consensus and One-China policy, and persist with a separatist stance, but they also leverage their position as the ruling party to damage cross-straits peace, development, and exchanges while promoting “de-sinicisation” and building an anti-China atmosphere within the island.
Seeking foreign support
To the Western world, the “Taiwan independence” separatists present themselves as champions of “democracy and freedom,” seeking foreign support for “independence” and aiming to build up military strength to resist reunification. They suppress dissenters by accusing them of being agents of the Communist Party of China (CPC), thereby fostering a climate of fear.
Their deceptive tactics, coupled with their willingness to challenge the bottom line, which caters to the Western interest of directing values-based criticism at China, have easily gained sympathy of the arrogant Western politicians who believe they can leverage the situation. In doing so, they ignore the damage such support may cause.
For example, in December 2016, then-US President-elect Trump’s phone call with Tsai Ing-wen, in which he accepted her congratulations, was advertised by the island’s media as a “historic breakthrough” in “US-Taiwan relations.” However, the deceptive nature of the separatists is well known to informed individuals both inside and outside Taiwan. Many long-standing separatist politicians have admitted that “Taiwan independence” is simply unattainable and only serves as a means for personal political and economic gains from ruling the island. Western politicians, while conveniently interacting with the DPP authorities with the purpose of using Taiwan as a pawn, find themselves used by the separatists.
Resolving the Taiwan question and achieving complete national reunification is the shared aspiration of all Chinese people, including those living on the Taiwan island. It is also an essential part of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The historical momentum of Chinese national unity and rejuvenation is unstoppable.
Recently, Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister Li Shangfu pointed out at the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue that Taiwan is an integral part of China, and how to solve the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese people to determine. If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will not hesitate for a second, he stressed. “We will fear no opponents and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity regardless of any cost.”
At present, China is comprehensively promoting the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation through Chinese-style modernisation, offering significant development opportunities to countries around the world. Leaders of various countries and notable executives of multinational corporations, among others, have recently visited China successively, hoping to share China’s development opportunities and contribute to mutually beneficial cooperation in the new era.
These individuals possess wisdom and foresight. Politicians who visit Taiwan should awaken to the reality, learn from the wise, and recognise the trends of history. They should abide by the One-China policy, which is a fundamental international principle, and genuinely undertake actions that contribute to stability across the Taiwan Straits and promote friendly cooperation with China for the benefit of their own peoples.
Zhu Zhongbo is Director of the Department for International and Strategy Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.