A negative response in the wake of President-Elect Trump’s phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) could backfire. Such an educational, peaceful, and friendly phone call—clearing up an enormous misconception and even security concerns—deserves nothing less than praise. One harmless, little phone call encouraged millions of people in Asia to relax. Only an aggressor would object.
China did not directly or clearly protest. They did cordially make a “solemn representation” to remind the US of US-China relations and fired a handful of missiles—which they shoot off from time to time anyway. From China’s viewpoint, Beijing’s response was shrewd and defensible. Beijing is not rolling like any loose cannon so far.
The question that comes up, however, is about “Taiwanese Independence”. The Western press already paints Taiwan as “viewing itself as independent”, though Taiwan is nowhere close to inking any such opinion. On the books, Taiwan thinks it’s capital is deep in the heart of China and that Mongolia is a break-away province. Given the alternative, it would be magnanimous of China to welcome Taiwan discarding the current KMT-Nationalist definition of “one China” in exchange for anything, even “Taiwan Independence”; Mongolia might not take kindly to Beijing endorsing Taiwan’s out-dated view of the Mongols. Beijing is in a tight spot, and understandably so.
As much research documents, the Taiwanese people overwhelmingly already think of themselves as a nation-state and want the best of friendly relations with Beijing. Both the popular opinion and the offer for friendship are dangerous to reject.
The question of Taiwan Independence also has bearing on Hong Kong. While Beijing has done a much better job than Britain did—not to mention all the new Christians in Hong Kong since Britain left—the noise from Umbrella Movement paints Beijing as a regional killjoy. If Beijing wants the question of “Taiwanese Independence” to remain out-of-the-question, it has a tall order of PR work to do in the territory it already controls: Hong Kong.
We see the psychology of Chinese cultural leadership on full display. China stopped communicating with Taiwan. An accidental firing of a live missile, killing one and injuring two, on a parked Taiwanese naval corvette was judged to indicate a “loose screw” in Taiwan’s military leadership.
The KMT-Nationalists from Mainland China have been managing Taiwan’s military for the last several years. The sailor responsible for the accidental firing was fatigued on the day of an inspection. They didn’t use a two-person firing system; it only took one sailor to fire. The Taiwan incident indicates “Mainlander” leadership, not the leadership of the opposition party that only took power within the last few months. We still don’t know how that new leadership will turn out. But, refusing to capitulate to China’s unilateral definitions is a good indication that Taiwan has strong leadership.
As for the force controlling China’s Mainland, the Communists, they are on trial over their activity in the South Sea. What is their solution? They hold more Naval exercises in the very waters they are being pressed over. Usually when a man is on trial, it is best if he pretends to be weak. While Beijing loudly denies it, actions indicate thoughts that a “show of force” will soften the decision of the international courts—because that works with Chinese courts, just as it works when the KMT did it with courts in Taiwan. However, the West will see China’s navel drill as further inditing evidence—of either excessive force or lack of discretion.
China is making it difficult for even Russia to come to their defense. Taiwan is making it difficult for America to want to give them missiles, unless meaningful changes happen soon, but that’s too soon. Taiwan claims to see the need for changes, but we’ll see. Beijing apparently thinks the opposite and then says opposite of that. The wise should be concerned over any force that doesn’t know his own situation.
By demonstrating the same worldview in both militaries, we can suspect that similar antics and accidentals are already happening in both. But there is another factor: Communication.
By cutting the “communication mechanism” with Taiwan over a unilaterally defined “one China”, China thinks it is making a power move, when actually, it has sabotaged its own intel gathering. More importantly, in the eyes of the watchful West, China proves that it doesn’t mean what it says. By not communicating with Taiwan over the “one China” concept—according to its own “one China” claim—China is not communicating with itself. That means that China never really believed its own “one China” idea in the first place.