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CHINA-TAIWAN - UNFINISHED BUSINESS (Part 5)

XI JINPING’S ROLE IN THE REUNIFICATION CONFLICT


Xi Jinping became President of China (PRC) in 2013 after 5 years as Vice President. He has also been the General Secretary of the CCP since 2012 so he has huge influence over his party and therefore his country. His father, Xi Zhongxun, was once deputy Prime Minister of China and a comrade-in-arms of Mao Zedong. He was often out of favour especially during the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976. After criticizing the Government over the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989. As a result, the young 16 year old Xi was sent to the countryside in 1969 where he worked for 6 years as a manual labourer on an agricultural commune in Shaanxi province.


Xi joined the CCP in 1974, went to Tsinghua University and graduated in 1979 in chemical engineering. He then worked for 3 years as secretary to Geng Biao, vice premier and minister of national defense. In 1982 Xi quit that job to move to Heibei province to act as a deputy secretary for the CCP. In 1985, he was appointed a party committee member and vice mayor of Xiamen (Amoy) in Fujian province which was the start of quite a connection with Fujian.


In 1987, Xi married a local folksinger Peng Liyuan in Fujian where they remained until in 1999, Xi became acting mayor of Fujian and became governor in 2000. During his time there he was concerned about environmental conservation and cooperation with nearby Taiwan. He remained there until 2002 when he moved to Zhejiang province as acting governor and from 2003 party secretary. His fortunes continued to rise for several years through positions in Shanghai and through to becoming one of the nine (9) members of the CCP standing committee or politburo in 2007.


In March 2008, Xi was elected vice president of China when he became focused on conservation efforts and international relations. (Curious eh?). At the 18th party congress in November 2012, Xi was again elected to the now 7-member politiburo.


On 14th March 2013, Xi Jinping became the President of China when elected by the National People’s Congress.


He then commenced a national campaign of anti-corruption that saw the removal of thousands of offenders. He also emphasised the “rule of law” with adherence to the constitution and more professional judiciary in order to develop “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Of greater international relevance was Xi’s increasing assertiveness in foreign affairs. He was the driving force behind China’s alarming and even bizarre claims of sovereignty over most of the South China Sea! China imposed its ‘Nine-Dash Line’ on the sea which effectively enmeshed numerous islands into the Chinese grasp. Most notably were the Spratly Islands off the western coast of Philippines. Those islands are still disputed by many countries including Malaysia, Vietnam and others.


This grab for territory was outlawed at The Hague and the Nine-Dash Line has no international legality whatsoever. The claim was primarily aimed at legitimising the Chinese commandeering 3 of the islands and building enormous military bases on them. This gives China military advantages within about 400 nautical miles of its southern coast and an outpost against US rival military activity.

China already controls the ParacelIslands off the south coast of Hainan so it is clear they seek to control a major seaway through which enormous amounts of shipping pass annually. Taiwan is virtually ‘in the way’ and at the top of China’s 9-dash line. If China could gain control of Taiwan, it would open up the East China Sea as well PLUS give China control of Taiwanese administered or owned islands such as Penghu, Kinmen and Pratas Islands.


The only island chain remaining between the Spratly Islands and South Korea would be the Ryuku Islands between Honshu (Japan) and Taiwan. These are owned by Japan and incorporate Okinawa where the US has military assets.


Meanwhile, Xi Jinping continued his anti-corruption drive and by 2017 had removed and punished one million corrupt officials, along with a few political rivals. In 2016. the CCP declared Xi a ‘core leader’. In a very rare move, the CCP in 2017 voted to enshrine Xi’s name and ideology (described as “thought”) in the party’s constitution.


Most astounding of all was the CCP in 2018 through its NPC abolished term limits for the President and Vice President – in doing so Xi could remain in power beyond 2023 when he was due to step down.


The Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017 claimed that “complete national reunification is an inevitable requirement for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. He has also said that “reunification with Taiwan must be fulfilled” and has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve this. This is effectively Xi Jinping’s view which he has promulgated through the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He fervently sees Taiwan being ‘reunited’ with China prior to the 100th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s victory in the Chinese Civil War and the founding of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) on 1st October 1949.


In simplistic terms though, the ROC and PRC never were united. The ROC ruled over all of China up until Mao Zedong’s revolt whereas the PRC have only ruled over their own supporters. The PRC never ruled over the ROC and even in history, the Han Chinese only had influence over Taiwan for a few years in the 17th centiury.


Xi Jinping cannot argue any solid case for REunification. And the ROC flatly refute the notion of REunification and want absolutely no part of it or unification! The ROC is quite content with its hard-won democracy and tremendous economic achievements and way of life.


Bottom line: Taiwan is very happy the way it is. The CCP and Xi Jinping want to take over Taiwan and have framed a ruse of reunification under which to achieve it. Why? What is the point? Like all good business ‘mergers’, they only end up in hostile takeovers!


The term ‘reunification’ implies that the ROC and the PRC were once united. They were not.


So what is Xi’s real agenda? Nobody seems to have a clear and precise handle on this. The reasoning still seems to be just platitudes or clichés. Xi just says it “must happen”. He offers no detailed rationale. And to their credit, the Taiwanese are not buying it. So you have the massive super power threatening the minnow daily. And to balance the scales, other countries would be drawn into any armed conflict.


Given what Xi himself has said, we could assume we have until October 2049 to resolve the matter to everyone’s satisfaction and to finally write the closing chapter of the Chinese Civil War. That leaves 27 intervening years – a hell of a lot of things could happen in that time.


Xi just turned 69 in June so it is highly doubtful that he will be around in 2049. In fact, he is likely to be replaced within the next 10 years at which time our problem may resolve itself. It remains to be seen whether the CCP genuinely support Xi’s ‘One China, 2 Systems’ mandate or not. His successor too may well be far less fervent about the notion.


We can hope for one thing at present, that Xi Jinping does not become emboldened by the Russian’s actions in the Ukraine and instead looks at the huge weight of support for the democratic Ukraine and the sheer determination of its people to resist the Russian despot Putin.


Before we finish, a couple of thoughts or wild ideas.


  1. China wants to rule the South China Sea and all its islands. The US has 2 distant bases and a limited option in the Philippines. Why doesn’t the US do a deal with Taiwan and establish military bases on Taiwan’s islands? This might counter the Chinese Spratly bases. It would also put the US closer to Taiwan with backup bases on Okinawa and Guam.

  2. Now that Marcos rules in the Philippines, the US should expand its operations once again to put naval and air strength closer to China and more particularly, the Spratly bases. In the even of conflict, it will be difficult if not impossible to disrupt the Chinese bases but at least they would have to “watch their backs”.

  3. The US and allies need to make sure that China is not able to join up its East and South ChinaSeas as a single Sino front. Taiwan is a natural barrier between the two – let’s keep it that way! The First Island Chain is an important barrier.


Finally, we have a question. Given Xi’s background, his affinity with the upper echelons of the CCP, his time in Fujian and hence proximity to Taiwan, and his obvious ego, how do we dismantle his logic and compunction over this reunification? How do we change his and the CCP’s mindset and perhaps give them a different focus?


It is strange that Xi divides his view of China into 4 parts: ancient history covering the first 5,000 years, the century of humiliation, the new China era (under Mao) and the era of socialism with Chinese characteristics which started under Deng Xiaoping and continues today. We can only wonder if Xi can see how his stance on Taiwan can be seen as an act of self-humiliation? Because it sure isn’t winning him any international friends!


GB / AB



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