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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Embracing Taiwan’s bargaining chip role

Embracing Taiwan’s bargaining chip role

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President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) telephone call with US president-elect Donald Trump has snowballed into a political storm, a development Beijing probably never anticipated. For years Beijing has heavily relied on the US to promote its “one China” policy without realizing how fragile their plan was. Indeed, Taiwanese know full well that they have been used by the US as a bargaining chip against China, yet they also know they can use that to their advantage, which is key to reversing the situation.

Even if China realizes that now, it is still too late because Trump is a typical businessman, not only in terms of his personality, but also his approach: When China seized a US underwater drone on Dec. 15, Trump simply said they could keep it.

From Beijing’s decision to send fighter jets past the median line and into Taiwanese airspace, to fabricated images of a Chinese bomber flying past Yushan (玉山) issued by the People’s Liberation Army and other desperate attempts at saber-rattling, it is apparent that the “one China” principle and the pan-blue camp’s so-called “1992 consensus” are too flimsy to stand up to scrutiny — not even the scrutiny of an incoming US president.

Trump exposed China’s lie like the child in The Emperor’s New Clothes, and like a businessman he tried to use that to raise the stakes for China before negotiating with it.

Trump not only exposed the “one China” lie by talking with Tsai on the phone, he also fixed the US’ relationship with the Philippines with a phone call, relieved tension with Russia by sending his greetings, and made Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visit him in the US by threatening to quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Nevertheless, is Taiwan truly ready for the big change?

Once Taiwan completely abandons the “one China” principle, what will its economic plan be? Will it improve economic ties with Japan or will it begin talks with the US over a bilateral trade agreement?

One of Trump’s plans is to encourage corporations to move back to the US, which could seriously threaten many companies in China and even cause some to shut down. By that time, the government would have to choose which side to be on. The Tsai administration must be prepared.

This is how Vietnam has managed to attract many businesses from China. Tension between Vietnam and China has risen significantly due to the disputes over the South China Sea. As a result, before his meeting with then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) visited Vietnam, hoping to build bridges between the two countries. However, Vietnam put China in its place by signing a military cooperation agreement with Japan, which led many investors — from the US, China and Japan — to move their capital to Vietnam.

Tsai’s administration must take advantage of Taiwan’s role as a bargaining chip for bigger nations; that is the most effective way a smaller nation can survive. Despite Beijing’s threats, the “one China” policy shall not and would not be Taiwan’s only choice.

Zhang Ming-yo is the director of the Northern Taiwan Society.

Source: Taipei Times- Editorials 2016/12/30

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Beijing yesterday praised President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) call for Taiwanese to refer to China as “mainland China” or “the other side,” a move that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said constituted political manipulation.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi (楊毅) said that Chinese officials had seen reports of Ma’s comment on the matter and they welcomed the move wholeheartedly.