KAOHSIUNG (Taiwan News) — During his long spell as prime minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo was a respected global leader and dependable friend of Taiwan.
His eight years in the role are almost unprecedented in Japanese political history, and his legacy will continue to loom large over Taiwan for some time. When Abe speaks, his words carry weight, which is why his comments this week in a speech to the Institute for National Policy Research on Taiwan-Japan relations have been pored over so carefully.
His support for Taiwan and his strong message to China that any military action against Taiwan will also be viewed as an attack on Japan took most of the headlines. Another interesting comment he made was to warn China not to “misjudge the regional situation.”
On the same day as Abe, "C" was giving a talk at another think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in London. In case you are wondering, "C" is the codename for the chief of the U.K.’s Secret Intelligence Service, Richard Moore — and the real-life equivalent of the James Bond character "M."
It is only in recent years that Moore has been a public figure, and speeches that address the global challenges that MI6 faces are few and far between. Even so, Moore boldly identified the four key threats the U.K. (and by extension the rest of the free world) face: China, Russia, Iran, and international terrorism.
His comments on China were particularly eye-opening. It was made abundantly clear that China is MI6’s primary worry right now.
Moore highlighted China’s attempts to distort public discourse and political decision-making in the U.K. and around the world. He also warned about its use of debt traps, and data exposure as a tool of political coercion. For example, in Uganda, China is on the cusp of seizing control of the country’s only international airport because of spiraling Belt and Road Initiative debts.
Like Abe, Moore warned that one of the biggest threats that China poses is through the risk of its own miscalculations:
“Beijing believes its own propaganda about Western frailties and underestimates Washington’s resolve,” C explained. “The risk of Chinese miscalculation through over-confidence is real.”
It is easy for us to mock China’s absurd propaganda when it comes to issues like Taiwan. It is so patently ridiculous that it is convenient to assume the Chinese people, and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), know this too.
However, as Moore and Abe have pointed out, this is not necessarily the case. China's propaganda is mostly aimed at a domestic audience, and consequently, it is intended to make believers of CCP members and the Chinese people.
This poses a major threat to Taiwan and the wider world as well.
Under Xi Jinping (習近平), nationalistic saber-rattling has become a cornerstone of the CCP's propaganda drive. The question of Taiwan is at its very apex.
Pressure on China from the international community over its human rights abuses, its economic coercion of the developing world, and its intellectual property theft continues to mount. Meanwhile, the impact of COVID-19 and growing economic concerns are also increasing pressure on the CCP leadership.
It is no coincidence that in this environment, the war of words against Taiwan is getting louder, in order to distract the populace. The idea that China could make a decision to invade Taiwan based on this propaganda rather than a rational assessment of the geopolitical situation and the potential consequences of such a move, is not far-fetched.
If the head of one of the world’s biggest intelligence agencies and a prominent former head of state like Abe Shinzo are now speaking openly about this risk, it is safe to assume that not only is it possible, but it could even be increasingly likely.
Even if Taiwan repelled such an invasion with the support of its allies, it would still be catastrophic to this country in terms of lives lost and economic impact. Furthermore, as the MI6's Richard Moore said in his speech, military action against Taiwan would “pose a serious challenge to global stability and peace.”
This is why it is vital that Taiwan continues its policy of building a coalition of support around the world. It is also why it is in the interests of Japan and all free, democratic nations to back Taiwan against China’s threats.
If China does get a rush of blood to the head and make a move on Taiwan, we will need friends like Japan to repel them. And it will be in their interests to do so, too.