Saturday 6 August 2022

Reality check on One China policy (The Sunday Guardian)

 The “1992 Consensus” invented by KMT functionary Su Chi in 1992 held that there was indeed One China, except that both the Taiwanese and the PRC side had their own interpretations of what acceptance of the phrase implied. In the case of Taiwan, the “1992 Consensus” was unilaterally scrapped by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, who went public that there was not just one China, but only one interpretation of the “1992 Consensus”, the interpretation held by Beijing. Given this, efforts by apologists for the PRC to point to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that holds power in the island nation as being responsible for scrapping Su Chi’s doctrine are disingenuous. Even the KMT would not be able to accept the Xi Jinping interpretation of the “One China” consensus and ever hope to return to power in Taiwan. The frank authoritarianism of the regime led by Xi has caused the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese citizens to veer away from support for unification with China. The relevance of the assertion that there is only a single legitimate definition of the One China principle, the version favoured by the CCP, is that such a change in the mode of interpretation of the doctrine clearly applies not just to Taiwan but to other countries as well. As yet, the CCP General Secretary may not go public about this altered reality, but his intent is clear. Whether it be the Philippines, Vietnam, the US or India, acceptance of Su Chi’s diplomatic sleight of hand implies obedience to the line adopted by the CCP in the matter. In the case of India, officials who say that the world’s most populous democracy accepts the One China principle is to accept a falsehood, which is that Arunachal Pradesh, large tracts of Ladakh and other parts of Indian territory ought to be considered as Chinese. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj pointed out that there was no justification for India to accept One China, unless the PRC accepted One India, a construct that obviously includes the entirety of Ladakh and Arunachal. The rhetorical part of Xi’s campaign against the visit of Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan has as its centre-piece that such an action is in breach of the One China principle that was last accepted by President Joe Biden a few days before Speaker Pelosi landed in Taipei. The reality is that the authority assumed by Beijing to control who goes to Taiwan has not been recognised except by countries such as Pakistan and Russia, who are part of the PRC-led coalition of nations active in Cold War 2.0. Several countries in ASEAN or the EU send high level delegations to Taiwan, ignoring uneasiness in Beijing. Other countries have thus far restricted their own visits or the entry of Taiwanese officials to lower levels, in an effort at mollifying Beijing.

The revitalisation of the Quadrilateral Security Alliance was the consequence of actions towards the same that were initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Not having a secretariat or a formal structure has placed several limitations on the effectiveness, indeed the very credibility, of the Quad. Such a lack needs to be attended to soonest. In the meantime, both the European Union and the Quad need to ensure that it is made clear to all countries that acceptance of the One China principle does not in any way imply acquiescence in the PRC’s expansionary designs. Both the EU and the Quad have their own interpretations of the One China principle, and it is such an interpretation that will prevail over the version adopted by Beijing. In the case of Taiwan, even during the days when US Presidents who were boosters of the PRC such as Nixon and Clinton were in office, it was emphasised that any unification with the PRC needed to come about voluntarily, and peacefully—that resort to force in an effort to extinguish the sovereignty of Taiwan would not be accepted. Under such circumstances, there was nothing untoward in Speaker Pelosi’s visit. The manner in which military power is being used to try and scare away officials from the democracies from visiting Taiwan reflects the zero-sum mindset of the present CCP leadership.
In the case of India, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru followed the path of total acquiescence to the wishes of the PRC. Such a policy of appeasement was most starkly reflected in his indifference to the takeover of Tibet by the PLA, thereby giving Beijing extraordinary leverage that was used against India. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee gave up what little remained of the elements of Government of India’s policy on Tibet that were different from the CCP line. These concessions were made unilaterally and without securing anything in return. Given the lesson that has been learnt about the behaviour of the CCP after seeing what has happened with Tibet and Xinjiang, there has been a firmness shown in the matter of CCP efforts at taking control of Taiwan that was absent in the other two cases. Under Prime Minister Modi, India is following a policy that is principled in its firmness. What needs to be done is to ensure that a clear elucidation of the manner in which the One China principle is regarded by the democracies. Xi’s efforts at making the principle mean what the CCP intends it to mean needs to be countered. The best way of doing this is to stress that the definition of One China for each country is defined by itself and not by Beijing.

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