Among all the security issues in the Indo-Pacific, Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait have occupied more than their share of global attention in recent years. This has been especially true since 2018, when trade wars between the United States and China began to escalate.
In this security environment, Beijing’s stance on Taiwan is so consistently aggressive and controversial that it leaves little room for other nations to find a way to come to an understanding with China. And of course, Taiwan isn’t the only security issue involving China. Beijing protests virtually all international criticism of incidents involving or originating in China. In recent years, its relentless maneuvers have caused a sensation within regional and global security communities and, as the latest news has shown, it has complicated the development of defense policies of the countries concerned.
Japan, itself a major economic and democratic power in the region, as well as America’s closest regional ally and a close neighbor to China, has not been ruled out. Indeed, Japanese defense policy has increasingly been shaped by China’s actions over the past decade. A notable change in foreign affairs in Japan in recent years has been the development of a revised position on China and Taiwan which is almost the exact opposite of its earlier “ambiguous” policies. Japan’s previous policy of “partly leaning towards China” was the product of a position it had maintained since 1972 (when diplomatic relations with China were reestablished). This unusual position could be described as being based on the following psychological principle: “maintain ambiguity – say nothing and do nothing – on any matter relating to China”. However, starting in 2015 under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan moved away from these old principles and crafted a new China / Taiwan policy that reflects its own judgment in response to China’s growing inflexibility.
When it comes to the myriad maritime issues related to China, such as the East and South China Seas, as well as the free and open Indo-Pacific concept, Japan has been on the same wavelength as the United States. over the past two decades. In contrast, European democracies were not fully in tune with US policy towards China. Much of the gap between the United States and Europe was the result of the America First policy of then-US President Donald J. Trump, which reduced the emphasis on alliances and cooperation foreigners. However, China’s brutal human rights oppression within its borders, exemplified by its ongoing policies in Hong Kong and towards the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, quickly changed the outlook for major European nations. In light of these abuses in China, European leaders who have traditionally placed human rights as a key social value in their communities have shifted their Chinese policies from silent disagreement to active opposition. In other words, human rights as an indisputable universal principle outweighed any economic benefits that could accrue to Europe if it maintained close and non-critical economic relations with China.
This is how Japan and the United States, joined by leading European democratic nations, began to express strong and clear concerns about human rights issues in China. The anti-Chinese perceptions, which sparked its actions in the human rights field, subsequently gained momentum, spreading to other key areas: China’s unilateral and coercive actions on maritime theaters, as well as President Xi Jinping’s determination to unify Taiwan by all means. Democratic nations see Xi’s stance on Taiwan as a major part of his Chinese dream, or “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” The concern for these countries is that this may involve the use of military force, especially if outside powers attempt to intervene. For China’s neighbors, the situation is increasingly reminiscent of the historic authoritarianism of the Middle Empire. Xi’s intentions and future actions are of growing concern.
Ironically, Beijing’s foreign policy has firmly united democratic powers that might otherwise have been at odds. A series of official statements have been issued during numerous high-level meetings involving democratic nations. These include the Japan-US 2 + 2 Summit (March), the Japan-US Summit (April), the QUAD Summit (May) and the G-7 Summit (June). Taken together, they reveal strong and explicit concerns about China’s actions on human rights and tough security policies. Finally, in July, Japan’s defense white paper, “Defense of Japan 2021”, sent a clear signal to China by observing that “the security of the Taiwan Strait has a direct impact on the security of Japan.” It should be noted that issues related to Taiwan have been highlighted as a common theme in these various statements and documents.
Not surprisingly, China reacted aggressively. Responses shared familiar themes: “The Cold War Mentality”; “China’s internal affairs / non-intervention in China’s internal affairs”; and “Intentionally and willfully developed fake news to condemn China.” From these three themes, China has sought to justify its position and to win by putting democratic nations in their place. However, no matter how much he praises them, these themes cannot dispel the growing doubts and suspicions of other nations. In the eyes of democratic nations, almost all of China’s actions seem self-righteous, arrogant, arrogant and coercive.
It is therefore a natural response for democratic nations to ask direct questions and express their doubts directly to China. However, Beijing remains recalcitrant. His preferred approach is to use his economic and military might to ward off skeptics and forcibly deflect difficult questions. Undoubtedly, democratic nations have their own misunderstandings and prejudices about China, and China has points to make. However, China’s current wolf warrior diplomacy precludes constructive communication.
The simple fact is that China cannot control the world by imposing on it a “Chinese way” which stems from an obsolete Sino-centric philosophy and which is also a product of the glorious so-called “great rebirth of the Chinese nation.” “. China will at some point have to increase its appreciation and respect for international standards, rather than simply upholding its own standards.