Relatives of 12 Hong Kong residents who were detained in August after they were caught fleeing to Taiwan to evade protest-linked prosecutions rally outside the Government Flying Service headquarters in Hong Kong on Oct. 8. (Photo: AFP)
It is no surprise that communist China has set its eyes on Taiwan after trampling upon the democratic freedoms of Hong Kong with its sheer muscle power, flouting a signed agreement in utter disregard for international criticism.
China’s military now routinely intrudes the airspace of Taiwan, forcing the United States to change in its defense policy and Taiwan to evaluate its preparedness to face a possible Chinese military attack.
In recent weeks, the Chinese resolve to annex Taiwan has accompanied a series of military drills, including test-firing of ballistic missiles.
Taiwan's state-run Central News Agency reported on Sept. 30 that the military was considering hiking the frequency of call-ups of reservists, indicating its combat readiness amid an increased Chinese threat to its maritime and aerial borders.
Taiwan's 165,000 troops are no match for the mammoth People's Liberation Army, which has 2 million members on its payroll.
The Chinese threat came in conjunction with the visit of US Under Secretary of State Keith Krach in September following the high-profile visit a month earlier by another high-ranking US official, Alex Azar, to the self-governed democratic island of 24 million.
Whenever the threat perception increases, Taiwan has looked to the US for backup. Of late, their ties have gone beyond military cooperation and they are currently exploring bilateral trade agreements to counter the economic clout China enjoys among other countries.
Concerning Taiwan, the US has long followed a policy of "strategic ambiguity." It means a willingness to assist Taiwan in case of a need but without stating whether or not the US military will rescue Taiwan against Chinese military attacks. Since 1979, Washington has cut official relations with Taipei to start diplomatic relations with China.
The stakes are high for Washington in Taiwan. Losing a democratic Taiwan to China would probably dwarf American power in the Pacific and be detrimental to US allies like Japan and South Korea.
Led by ultranationalistic President Xi Jinping, China has handled dissidence in Hong Kong, the Buddhist struggle in Tibet, and Uyghur Muslims' clamor for religious freedom in Xinjiang province.
China seem to be caring little about international norms and conventions as it moves ahead on its own terms in maintaining international relations and diplomacy.
Despite international criticism, Beijing bypassed Hong Kong's constitution to create a draconian law to suppress the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony. It violated China's agreement with the United Kingdom, signed in 1997 when Hong Kong was handed over to the communist regime. China had then agreed to maintain Hong Kong's socioeconomic freedoms and independence for 50 years.
But it used sheer military power to suppress the call to end Beijing's suppressive policies in Hong Kong. It used force to suppress Buddhists’ clamor for freedom in Tibet and jailed millions of Uyghurs to suppress their religion and culture.
With an iron fist, China locked horns with its neighbors over disputed islands in the South China Sea. On its Himalayan side of the border, the Chinese army has confronted Indian troops twice this year.
The US, which projects itself as the champion of democracy and religious freedom globally, has criticized Beijing’s polices. The US blames China for the growth of Covid-19 to a pandemic, damaging relations between them.
Taiwan's tilt toward the US has angered mainland China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province.
This week China rebuffed Taiwan's legislative proposals that sought more cooperation with the US. According to China, Taiwan should "refrain from doing anything that harms cross-strait relations."
Taiwan is an integral part of China, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told reporters, implying that China is against all acts aimed at creating Taiwan independence.
In August, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who is dead against unification with the mainland, proposed hiking the defense budget. Mandatory four-month military service has also been proposed for the nation's youth. However, experts complain that such stints are too short to protect the nation.
The Taiwan Strait constitutes one of the biggest flashpoints in the world. Communist Party leaders, from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping, have minced no words when it comes to bringing Taiwan into the fold.
After forcing Hong Kongers, Uyghurs and Tibetans into submission, China has zeroed in on what is next in line. But Taiwan is a different story culturally, politically and militarily.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.