Asia’s largest defense conference, the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, took place at Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel from May 31 to June 2. Acting United States Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said at the meeting that Washington would no longer tolerate China’s aggressive behavior in Asia. The U.S. would continue to support Taiwan and to conduct free navigation in the South China Sea.
Shanahan said that the biggest long-term threat to the key interests of each country in the South China Sea comes from those who want to disrupt and do not respect the international order. If the trend of such behavior continues, those manmade structures built in public places worldwide could become toll stations, and sovereignty would be reserved for major powers. There is no single country which can lead the Indo-Pacific, all countries must cooperate to build a prosperous future. In his address, Shanahan did not forget to warn China not to continue building new artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarize them thoroughly. He also described threats by China against countries in the region as a kind of “toolkit of coercion.”
Shanahan also said the U.S. and China did not find themselves in a situation of “confrontation.” He said that in the face of “China’s rapid rise,” countries around the world should not be afraid but welcome it. Competition did not amount to clashes.
In his speech afterward, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe criticized U.S. actions in support of Taiwan and its contested “freedom of navigation” actions in the South China Sea. Wei said that no action aimed at splitting up China would be successful, and each type of interference in the Taiwan issue was bound to fail. China, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory, would fight until the end, Wei said. If China succeeds in bringing Taiwan into its territory, then not only would the Taiwan Strait turn into a Chinese inner sea, but a large part of the South China Sea would also become China’s maritime area.
Taiwan now faces three choices, supporting the United States, supporting China, or just pretending the problem does not exist.
In the last case, people over the age of 50 will probably not care much since any changes are likely to happen after them. But for people under the age of 50, they might still live in a free and democratic Taiwan 20 years from now, but they could also need to jump over a wall to witness the Internet in a freer world, and to ask the government for permission to go travel overseas while facing disappearance if they question corrupt government officials when living in a Chinese Taiwan.
Choosing to support the U.S. would mean sharing a free and democratic lifestyle while helping to democratize China.
Choosing China would mean believing in China’s promise of “One Country, Two Systems” while “becoming rich” of the large single Chinese market.
China has brainwashed its 1.4 billion people into becoming aggressive and self-centered, without regards for human rights. Hardliners in its military have even suggested that after a takeover of Taiwan, China should leave the island in place, but not its people, said commentator Yang Sen-hung. Taiwan’s 23 million would be moved to China’s interior, to regions like Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, while the island would be turned into a military base turned against the U.S. across the Pacific.
If you choose China, do you believe that Beijing will allow democracy to continue in Taiwan, or will the Communist Party try to maintain its power and to abolish freedoms enjoyed in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau?
2019 has been described as a dangerous year because of all the significant anniversaries. The Communists took power 70 years ago, the “Great Leap Forward” caused a major famine 60 years ago, clashes broke out on the border with the Soviet Union 50 years ago, China waged war against Vietnam 40 years ago and massacred students on Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, repressed the Falun Gong 20 years ago and the Uyghur minority 10 years ago. Most dictatorships are unable to reach their 70th anniversary.
As the U.S.-China trade war intensifies, economic problems within China will intensify, with internal divisions and contradictions within the Chinese leadership growing deeper. In the end, more and more observers think China’s Communist regime will collapse.
China will need the rule of law and transitional justice. Everybody has equal rights and duties under the law, including government officials and judges, so the law will not become an instrument a government can use against its own people. Transitional justice reveals and compensates past brutal action by a government against its citizens.
If this June 4, China can reflect on the Tiananmen Incident, 1.4 billion Chinese will have the opportunity to move into a transition to true democracy and freedom.