A Model to Bring Back Taiwan Into Beijing’s Fold Turns Into a Negative Example
HONG KONG — Andrew Browne writes: For modern Chinese leaders, no mission carries more patriotic importance than realizing the dream of “One China.”
“As prospects for political accommodation between China and Taiwan evaporate, expect tensions to increase.”
Deng Xiaoping saw Hong Kong as an opportunity to win over hearts and minds in Taiwan, the greatest and most elusive part of that vision. Freewheeling Hong Kong was the opportunity to show a model that could work: “One Country, Two Systems.”
If China could take over and preserve Hong Kong’s existing capitalist system and way of life, the thinking went, it would demonstrate to Taiwan “compatriots” that their future, too, would be secure under Communist rule.
President Xi Jinping is now watching as prospects of Taiwan returning to the embrace of the motherland recede into a far distant future, as parts of Hong Kong remain paralyzed by pro-democracy protests.
“By Beijing’s own calculation, Hong Kong was the key to bringing Taiwan back into the fold.”
Although it isn’t apparent from the rhetoric coming out of Beijing, one of the most significant outcomes of the rallies in Hong Kong over the past weeks has been to further diminish whatever was left of the hope that China could achieve the reunification of Taiwan and its 23 million people.
The implications of this may not be felt immediately, but they could be far-reaching over time. Behind Beijing’s stated wish for “peaceful reunification” is the threat to use force if necessary. That keeps the Taiwan Strait as a potential flash point for conflict between China and the U.S., Taiwan’s main arms supplier and international supporter.
“Now, Mr. Xi confronts simultaneous challenges from two sets of students in Taiwan and Hong Kong…”
As prospects for political accommodation between China and Taiwan evaporate, expect tensions to increase.
By Beijing’s own calculation, Hong Kong was the key to bringing Taiwan back into the fold.
Its return was relatively straightforward: It fell back into China’s arms because a British lease over the main part of its territory expired in 1997. Taiwan, a self-governing island, would have to be persuaded through powerful example.
“Worse, the groups are finding common cause: Leaders of the Sunflower Movement have been sharing street tactics and negotiating skills with those running the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong.”
For a while it looked promising, but for many Taiwanese, Hong Kong is now a negative example—proof that China won’t tolerate genuine democracy, can’t be trusted to deliver on its promises of autonomy and lacks the flexibility needed to manage a sophisticated population and their political aspirations.
Taiwan has even more to lose since it is an independent country in all but name, with an already-flourishing democracy.
“Hong Kong Today, Taiwan Tomorrow,” has become a slogan of the student-led Sunflower Movement in Taiwan, which engulfed Taipei in protests earlier this year against a proposed free-trade agreement with Beijing. Opponents argue the arrangement would make the island dangerously vulnerable to economic coercion from the mainland. Read the rest of this entry »