The 2019-nCoV Wuhan virus isn’t doing any good for Xi Jinping’s public trust. Dissidents inside China are silenced and their social media accounts scrubbed. Joshua Wong issues a call to arms from Hong Kong. Taiwan closes its border and plans to evacuate its citizens from the quarantined cruise ship, Diamond Princess. Yet, the Philippines blocks entry to Taiwanese airline passengers while in-flight because World Health Organization information reports Taiwan as part of China. And, Xi tells Trump that everything will be okay after April’s hot weather kills the virus.
It looks like the world wants a fight. Why did evacuation plans for this cruise ship take so long? Why doesn’t China close its border to Hong Kong as an act of good faith to at least pretend to want to earn public trust? China locked down Wuhan and Huanggang, why not Shenzhen?
The WHO praised China’s efforts, claiming they bought the world time. That doesn’t stack—information control started the problem, China’s clampdown on information only grows, the Philippines close their border to a country run by a completely different administration on account of the WHO reporting in denial. Is the WHO controlled by China, does the WHO just want to start a war, or could it be that the WHO wants to start a war because it doesn’t like being controlled by China?
Fear of the virus may be overrated. Initial figures suggested that the seasonal flu may be more deadly. But, panic is panic. And, with Chinese cities going on lockdown, countries closing borders, and hundreds of people getting sick on a cruise ship after it was quarantined, nerves are on edge. Chinese State control of information has been exposed for the hoax it is; no Chinese people will trust China’s government again. Even those who support the Communist Party can’t expect the public to believe them anymore, no matter what they say. In the middle of the breakdown of Chinese trust and control, Xi’s solution is to fly bombers around Taiwan.
Nothing re-elects a president like a war someone else started and nothing fires a president like an outbreak or a failed economy. If Xi invades Taiwan, Trump’s re-election will be even more certain and Xi’s own party could be doomed along with him. Nothing would weaken China’s People’s Liberation Army at home like the decision to boost its political image by invading one of the best responding WHO-non-members in the world, Taiwan. Xi is so addicted to failing, self-destructive decisions, invading Taiwan might be the ultimate fatal flaw of failure that he just can’t refuse. While this viral outbreak isn’t quite enough to push Xi to the point of desperation for distraction, it’s another bail of hay on the camel’s back.
The words of US President Trump set an unsettling policy for Communist China: “We’re also getting our allies, finally, to help pay their fair share.” This is far-reaching.
By having multiple nations with multiple militaries operating with appropriate budgets, China faces an enclave of opponents, not just one. There is no single head to decapitate. If you’re in Beijing, sitting in a room filled with Mandarin speakers who agree that they are entitled to make the world their servant, Trump’s words scare you.
While Beijing fights the virus it tried to cover up, Taiwan had recorded 10 deaths from that virus. Yet, China reported 13 in Taiwan, then told the United Nations that China speaks accurately for Taiwan, still arguing that Taiwan should not enter the WHO—even taking offense, still, at any suggestion of entry. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Wu pointed out that the WHO has referred to Taiwan by at least three different names in reporting on China’s Wuhan outbreak. This week, even the US spoke up for Taiwan’s request to join the WHO; China was all the more offended.
The outbreak isn’t fairing well for China’s credibility in governing Hong Kong either. Supermarkets are full of empty shelves.
While China’s central government will continue the playbook strategy of blaming the very local governments it dominates, the central government’s solution to the failure of a centralized government will be to centralize more government. In Confucian Communism, control is the solution to every problem, especially the problems that control causes. So they themselves believe even more than they purport, the reason that China has so many challenges within its vast stretches of land is that it doesn’t have even more land. The Chinese Communists believe that their number one problem is that they don’t control the world.
The world is fed up with China’s Communist Party, including people in China. The Wuhan virus is a blame-blaming scandal of a magnitude greater than Chairman Mao. It could crack the foundation of Xi Jinping’s rule and party confidence along with it.
Top down leadership ties the hands of first responders. So does propaganda-driven speech censorship. Of course an outbreak will breakout where people aren’t allowed to respond or warn without permission from the central bureaucracy. For China, it was only a matter of time.
And, the world is fed up. Now Hong Kong, severely underprepared for an outbreak, faces a strike of 6k medical workers and growing—if CEO Carrie Lam doesn’t completely close the Hong Kong border to China. Simply not having the resources to handle an outbreak should be enough for Hong Kong to to close its border. Not doing what simply should be done begs more questions of whether Beijing’s top down leadership is preventing Hong Kong from responding to the Wuhan outbreak, which would be yet another violation of the Basic Law and a breach of China’s treaty with Britain that allowed Hong Kong to return.
Shameless in the face of its mismanagement in Wuhan then Hong Kong, China then asked the EU for emergency medical supplies. The EU would be wise to respond that giving medical supplies would require proper oversight, including an end to the bureaucratic methods of centralized control that delayed containment in Wuhan and keeps Hong Kong in danger. Also, the EU should require China to stop politicizing Taiwan’s need to join the World Health Organization.
Argument could be made that Taiwan and the West are capitalizing on the Wuhan crisis to get more international recognition for Taiwan. But, then it could also be argued that China created that need to capitalize on a crisis to do something that should have been done long ago. In light of the Wuhan outbreak, Canada, Japan, and the EU now sponsor Taiwan’s request to join the World Health Organization as an active participant, not a mere observer. A viral White House petition snowballed past the threshold over the weekend, effectively making the same request of President Trump. Now that Trump has a massive petition to respond to, China won’t be able to claim “interference” when he responds. But, China may try to anyway because, in Confucian Communist thinking, petitions of the people should be ignored.
Trying to be polite or indirect while not taking no for an answer does not give anyone a right to make trouble. When someone gives a decisive, “No,” decent people accept that answer, then move on somehow. But, China doesn’t seem able to do that. In Beijing’s thought, relentlessly pushing forward, no matter how many more thousands hate them by the day, China is being polite to Hong Kong. They are being indirect. By not giving up, the Chinese Communists believe they have very politely told Hong Kongers how things will be, thereby justifying whatever manslaughter China chooses to invoke.
It’s not as if China has a lot of time to worry about telling other people what to do. Hong Kong was designed in its Basic Law to be largely autonomous. That means that Hong Kong can take care of itself, should China need to put energies into other matters—such as stopping the African swing flu or the Wuhan coronavirus.
China’s choices led to a landslide re-election for the de facto independence president of Taiwan. She says there is no independence to declare because Taiwan can’t possibly be any more independent than it already is. Some in Beijing might think that means Taiwan has reached its limit; but anyone in the West knows that means Taiwan already has the fullest measure of independence as defined. Yes, many in Beijing might not know that.
Vietnam reached a similar vague point in gearing up for military strength in ASEAN. Buying boats from India is also on Vietnam’s agenda—yes, India is another country China has managed to aggravate.
Why do things unfold this way in China’s back yard? It’s not that China is so much evil as it is immature. But, we tend to stay immature when we age, if we won’t open up to the outside world. Rather than helping China learn, the West just dumped money and emboldened a brat, all so we could save a few pennies on our stuff. Who is really being the most unfair to who? Friends know when to accept a no because friends know when to say, “No.”
China is engaging in “rapid expansionism”; this is different from the slower-moving modes of Russia and, until Trump, the United States. During Obama, Russia took back Crimea—after that fling Nikita Khrushchev had in giving Crimea to Ukraine when it wasn’t his to give. Russia has also been crawling its influence in Syria, softly with Iran, and shrewdly using China as an effective puppet.
America, though not an empire seeking to claim more within its political borders, propelled power through military bases around the world. Once the Chinese got over their phobia of technology—a disease it long had, which even led up to the Opium Wars—they looked beyond their bubble and saw America’s non-border expansion. But, they still haven’t seen Russia’s soft-handed expansion for what it is. 180 military bases in China’s backyard didn’t bode well with China’s neediness for receiving endless heinie kisses.
Thankfully, Trump is slowly recalling propelled American power—consider Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, and now Iraq. He is not the archetypal “neocon” expansionist. But, other than Trump, America did have its own soft form of expansionism.
China, different from either of the two soft expansions of America and Russia, is engaging in a more rapid, rude, speedy expansion. The Chinese don’t care how they come across to others because they have been knocked off their emotional rockers, having seen that the world doesn’t regard them to be a fraction of what they think themselves to be. This speed has alarmed the nations of the world like a body’s immune system responding to a spreading virus or cancer. Even India is on alert.
Russia played its card well—or maybe we should say Russia played its China well: expansion backed by Russia, which upsets the global balance, and Russia doesn’t get blamed for it. China doesn’t know what its speedy expansion, mainly against Taiwan and India, will do because China hasn’t been paying attention to the rest of the world for most of human history.
The overwhelming, earth-shattering, landslide re-election victory of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen sends a shocking message to Beijing: If you plan to take Taiwan, prepare for greater opposition than you got from Hong Kong. But, like the house cat who doesn’t know it’s not God, let alone that it’s not any tiger, they won’t ever decrypt the message. Beijing will be emotionally hurt, insulted, and will thus froth with rage.
Choosing former Premier William Lai as her Vice running mate was wise. Not only is he loved for—perhaps only for—his intractable stance against corruption, he also views Taiwan as having an already de facto independent status. While President Tsai prefers status quo—a peacefully unresolved dispute with China—Vice President Elect Lai views any Taiwanese declaration of independence from China as no more than a formality for how things already are anyway.
This choice of William Lai strengthens her position. If she were to step down, a president would take her place with an even stronger stance against Chinese expansionism. So, even her political opponents would want her to remain in office.
Taiwan’s position is stronger, not only in US relations, but also within Taiwan. Expect actions from China that result in Taiwan responding with moves toward even greater independence than status quo already boasts.