Monday, December 26, 2016

Beijing May Use Putin’s Crimean Strategy to Seize Taiwan, Moscow Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 26 – Yury Tavrovsky of Moscow’s University of the Friendship of the Peoples says that now that Donald Trump has played “the two-China card,” “’polite people’” from the mainland “may cross the Taiwan Straits” in much the same way that Moscow deployed similar cadres to annex Crimea.

            There are three reasons for that, he says: the Crimean precedent; the belief in the Taiwanese government that a two-China solution is possible, something anathema in Beijing; and the likelihood that Beijing’s “polite people” could find support among the Kuomintang on Taiwan who oppose a two-China outcome (

            In an article in today’s “NG-DipKuryer,” the Moscow sinologist says that Trump’s playing of the two-China card by taking a call from the leader of Taiwan “makes a resolution of the Taiwan problem inevitable already in the foreseeable future” because this action represents a challenge not only to Beijing but to Chinese President Xi “personally.”

                Xi, before coming to Beijing, worked in Futsian Province which is located across the straits from Taiwan from 1985 to 2002 and promoted economic and other forms of exchange between the mainland and the island. Since then, Tarovsky says, Xi has continued to oversee Beijing’s Taiwan policy and in November 2015 met with Taiwan’s leader in Singapore.

                But perhaps most indicative of Xi’s position was his statement last month at a ceremony in honor of Sun Yat-Sen that “we will never allow any individual, group or political party at any time or in any form to split off from China part of its territory.”

            Consequently, the Moscow scholar says, Beijing will respond to Trump’s actions, even if he appears to back away from them after assuming office. The only question is “when and how.”  Given that it is impossible to predict how the incoming president might respond to a military action, Tavrovsky says, Beijing is more likely to use a “hybrid” approach as Putin did in Crimea.

            What makes that especially likely, he argues, is that there are many in the Kuomintang, the nationalists who fled the mainland in 1949 and who are now in opposition on Taiwan, who do not like a two-China outcome and might be prepared to support a move by Beijing of that kind.

            Indeed, Tavrovsky argues, it could even happen that fearful of what a military action by Beijing could mean, some of those in the Kuomintang who are committed to a one China policy “could even turn to Beijing for assistance,” something that would serve as a cover for any Beijing move.

            If Beijing sent to Taiwan its own “polite people” who speak the same dialect as do most on Taiwan,” he concludes, such a “hybrid” force “could quickly find a common language” with those on the island on more issues than many might think.

            If that occurs, although Turovsky doesn’t say so, it will become obvious that the West’s failure to do more to counter Putin’s aggression in Ukraine is going to open the door to dangers not just in Eastern Europe but in places far removed from there, just as its failure to take a hard stand on Putin’s aggression in Georgia opened the way for his aggression in Ukraine.

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