Tensions escalate in the Taiwan Strait, with rising risks of war. So why does Taiwan, a little island with only 24 million people, attract so much attention and ‘devotion’ from Beijing? Is the Chinese Communist Party applying Sun Tzu’s Art of War to delude the whole world? This in-depth analysis lets current news and past history shed light on each other.
Taiwan Strait tensions
Recently, tensions have been rising in the Taiwan Strait, with accelerating threats of conflict. On June 13, China’s Minister of National Defense at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore warned the country would fight against the separation of Taiwan, said Bloomberg. “We will fight at all costs,” Wei stressed.
At a regular news briefing in Beijing on the same day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reiterated China’s claim of “sovereignty” over the Taiwan Strait. This contradicts what was said by another Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson in 2017, “The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway shared by the mainland and Taiwan.”
In response to Beijing’s declaration that the strait separating the island from the mainland belongs to China’s exclusive economic zone, on June 14, Taiwanese Foreign Ministry accused Beijing of “distorting international law,” with statements revealing “[Beijing’s] ambitions to annex Taiwan,” according to Le Monde.
Earlier this year, Jin Canrong, an influential advisor to Beijing on foreign policy, told Nikkei that it is “very likely” that Chinese President Xi Jinping will employ force to unify Taiwan with China by 2027, the 100th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army.
This warning was in line with Xi Jinping’s pledge in July 2021, as reported by Reuters, to “complete reunification of the motherland” and “resolutely smashing any ‘Taiwan independence’ plots.” At the time, the Chinese authority had accelerated efforts to assert its sovereignty claims, sending regular flights by fighter jets and bombers close to the island.
The tensions were such that The Economist published an article in May 2021 calling Taiwan “The most dangerous place on Earth.”
China’s sovereignty is not a priority of the CCP
The aggressive posture of Beijing over the Taiwan issue was just like in the Diaoyu Islands dispute between China and Japan, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) insisted that these islands belonged to China since ancient times. These incidents seem to tell the world how much the CCP cares about its country’s sovereignty.
However, they could not explain why the CCP’s former leader Jiang Zemin easily surrendered swaths of land 47 times the size of Taiwan to Russia and other neighboring countries, although they have also been China’s territory since ancient times.
Wang Youqun is a Ph.D. in Law from Renmin University in China and a former aide for Wei Jianxing, a member of the CCP Politburo Standing Committee from 1997 to 2002. He highlighted that China’s Haishenwei, meaning “a small fishing village by the sea,” whose size is more than 40 times that of the Diaoyu Islands, was occupied by the Russian army in June 1860 and renamed Vladivostok, meaning “Conquering the East” or “Ruling the East.” In accordance with the Sino-Soviet Friendship and Alliance Treaty signed by the Soviet Union and the Republic of China in 1946, Vladivostok was to be returned to China after 50 years, in 1996. Yet, by 1996, the CCP appeared to have forgotten about retaking Vladivostok. And more surprisingly, in December 1999, Jiang Zemin gifted Vladivostok unconditionally to Russia.
“On Dec. 9, 1999, Jiang Zemin and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a Sino-Russia border agreement. The agreement fully acknowledged a series of unequal treaties between Russia and the Qing government and unconditionally gave away more than 380 sq. miles of land in northeast China to Russia,” Wang noted.
The contradictory attitudes of the CCP toward Taiwan versus Haishenwei question its real motivation behind Taiwan Strait tensions. Why is the Chinese Communist Party so interested in this small self-governed island?
Sun Tzu’s Art of War: “Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west”
Since ancient times, China developed a series of stratagems applied largely in politics, war, and civil interaction. The Thirty-Six Stratagems were usually attributed to Sun Tzu from the Spring and Autumn period. Among these 36 stratagems was one called “Shēng dōng jī xī” (聲東擊西), meaning “Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west.”
It explains that, “In any battle the element of surprise can provide an overwhelming advantage. Even when face-to-face with an enemy, surprise can still be employed by attacking where they least expect it. Create an expectation in the enemy’s mind through the use of a feint. Manipulate the enemy to focus their resources somewhere before attacking elsewhere that is poorly defended. Tactically, this is known as an ‘open feint’.”
In case of Taiwan Strait tension today, how does the CCP employ this stratagem?
Note that Sun Tzu himself considered war the worst solution, a reluctant strategy to use, while people’s welfare and social peace are the highest goals of war. But the CCP seems to apply “the art of war” to defeat its own people.
A recent episode of “One Hundred Years of Truth” has revealed four main reasons why the CCP is obsessed with the “unification of Taiwan”, in which the fourth cause lies in its need to divert domestic conflicts.
After the CCP subverted the Republic of China, it was always worried that someone would subvert its own regime, and has been relying on coercion and deception to maintain a one-party dictatorship.
During the Mao Zedong era, dozens of bloody and brutal political movements were launched, including the Cultural Revolution, also called the ten-year catastrophe. At that time, various social conflicts were extremely acute, the national economy was on the verge of collapse, and the CCP’s rule was in jeopardy.
After Deng Xiaoping came to power, he had no choice but to carry out the so-called “reform and opening up” to save the Party. Deng put forward a slogan at that time: “Let some people get rich first.” Who are these “some people”? First of all are the children of high-ranking officials.
Then, under Jiang Zemin’s reign, corruption reached a new height and popularity. Taking the Jiang family as an example, from top to bottom, all kinds of people in power at all levels are desperately trying to make money. China Affairs, an overseas Chinese website, affirms that Jiang Zemin possesses a secret Swiss bank account worth at least $350 million. Jiang also bought a mansion in Bali, Indonesia as early as 1990, with a market value of $10 million. Former Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan arranged the purchase.
In today’s China, on the one hand, CCP elite families use their power to make huge profits and live a life of luxury and corruption. But on the other hand, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said the monthly income of 600 million Chinese people is below $150. As a result, it is difficult for many of them to access basic necessities such as housing, medical treatment, schooling, retirement, and funerals.
The list of people who are currently persecuted in China is already very long, including Hong Kong people, Xinjiang people, Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, human rights lawyers, unemployed workers, landless farmers, veterans, petitioners, and so on. They continue to oppose the persecution in various ways, and mass incidents emerge one after another.
These days, when China’s trapped in a catastrophic Zero-Covid policy that damages the whole economy and creates widespread frustration, the Chinese Communist Party has even more incentive to detract domestic attention. To “create topics,” the CCP hypes up the Taiwan issue from time to time, disguising itself as a “patriot” who defends national sovereignty, territorial integrity and security, and incites the people of the mainland’s “patriotism”, “nationalism” sentiment.
The only thing the CCP cares about is its own power
Besides diverting domestic conflicts, the CCP is also obsessed with “unifying Taiwan” for three other reasons. First, it wants to destroy “the Republic of China,” which is truly China’s legitimate regime. The national seals of the Republic of China, which symbolize China’s legal regime, are still inherited in Taiwan. For the illegal CCP, Taiwan—the Republic of China—has become a thorn in the eye and the flesh.
Second, the CCP’s policy toward Taiwan has failed. The concept of “one country, two systems” has revealed its whole malice in the case of Hong Kong, making the Taiwanese fully aware of the CCP’s deceitful promise. According to Reuters, most Taiwanese have shown no interest in being ruled by Beijing. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says the island is already an independent country, named the Republic of China.
Third, the CCP is driven by the communist ideology of “defeating capitalism.” Taiwan is a strategic location in the first island chain of the free world headed by the United States to defend against the threat of the CCP. When the CCP takes Taiwan, it directly threatens those close by, for example, capitalist Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. At a distance, it directly threatens the capitalist United States. Furthermore, it threatens the entire capitalist world.
Regardless of the reason the CCP targets Taiwan, the real intention is always to sustain its own tyranny, not for the sake of the Chinese or Taiwanese people. Only with the perdition of that communist regime, could the Chinese on the two sides of Taiwan Strait enjoy true harmony, peace and freedom.