Enough of the Beijing 'threat' cliché, Taiwan should face reality
Tom Fowdy

Editor's Note: Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain, and the United States. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

On July 31, China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that it was prohibiting individual travel permits for locals heading to Taiwan, citing the "current state of cross-Strait relations" as the reason. The ban will apply to travelers from up to 47 cities, with the status of group tours having been restricted since 2016 when Tsai Ing-wen refused to accept the "1992 Consensus" till now. In 2018, an estimated 2.7 million mainland travelers visited Taiwan: the move thus not being without significance.

Why has this decision been made? The Western mainstream media would tend to paint it as an act of "Beijing aggression", which is the usual stance they take on all matters concerning Taiwan. However, on an objective perspective, no nation can tolerate challenges to its national sovereignty which are enabled by the work of a foreign power.

In this light, it is repeatedly overlooked that Tsai Ing-wen, buoyed on implicitly by Washington, is opportunistically whipping up instability in cross-strait relations and has refused to compromise with Beijing, instead choosing a path of antagonism against the mainland in pursuit of a goal of formal independence. In light of such, the People's Republic of China (PRC) feels it is time to get tough on Taipei.

In today's media discourse, due to the PRC's economic achievements and increasing role in global affairs, we hear a lot about what is termed as "Beijing aggression", that is a set of assumptions set upon the idea that the contemporary PRC is an expansionist power which seeks to pursue hegemony and dominion over other countries.

These discourses originate from the Cold War era, whereby the emergence of Socialist and Communist states were explained in the simplified dictum of being a moral evil, rather giving a nuanced analysis of the complex social, economic and historical circumstances which contributed to their respective origins. From this it is subsequently assumed in today's discourse that the PRC must always be motivated by "bad intentions" – with Western foreign policy repeatedly projecting "good vs. evil" games in order to justify its goals.


A group of tourists from Chinese mainland in the coastal city of New Taipei, May 1, 2012. /VCG Photo

A group of tourists from Chinese mainland in the coastal city of New Taipei, May 1, 2012. /VCG Photo

In reality, the foreign policy vision of the PRC, since its emergence in 1949, has never been about hegemony, expansion or conquest, but instead reaffirming China as a modern, developing state in the world and overcoming the challenges to its national sovereignty and integrity which has borne at the hands of Western powers. Ultimately, China seeks to rectify what it sees as injustices on itself.

This leads us to the matter of Taiwan. The discourse of "Beijing aggression" is repeatedly applied to the current standing of cross-Strait relations, often ignoring the fact that China, as any other country, simply cannot be expected to accept the division of their own sovereignty by the military hand of another. On this matter, many in the West continue to treat the PRC as a "lesser other" to be shaped to its own liking, than an equal.

Thus, it is neither realistic nor fair for China to simply accept "Taiwan independence". For example, when Catalonia voted illegally to declare its independence from Spain, was it accepted by the authorities in Madrid? Or did the United States decide to use military power to force Castille to accept the division on terms favorable to itself? Did the "Democratic consent" of Catalonia justify a national division?

Whilst of course, the two sides across the Strait have changed a lot in the light of 70 years, with differing ideologies and perspectives, nevertheless Tsai Ing-wen is deliberately obstructing a serious and pragmatic resolution of the cross Strait-issue, instead deciding to pursue a path of antagonism against Beijing, dismissing the "1992 Consensus" and instead of building stability, creating enmity and disruption. Buoyed on by Washington, she has sought to push every line and boundary short of declaring formal independence. When this has inevitably drawn protest from the mainland, she has simply been able to hide behind the hegemonic discourses of "the Beijing threat" and "Beijing aggression" to play the victim. Yes, again there are differences, but the matters concerning its origin and relationship with the Chinese mainland cannot be ignored.

Therefore, authorities in Beijing feel inevitably it is time to get tough with Taipei. This isn't as some claim, aggression, rather it concerns a matter of which since the day the PRC was founded nearly 70 years ago, Taiwan has been a consistently and repeatedly declared as a political priority. It is not realistic to expect that Chinese mainland must say nothing and do nothing on this issue.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com.)