Posts tagged ‘business’

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

China is wary of new China Strategies – of course

German-Chinese relations are under review by Germany’s federal government – Beijing is worried

I actually wanted to ignore the visit to Taiwan by “Free Democrat” (FDP) members of Germany’s federal parliament. The FDP  would drop Taiwan like a hot potato if Xi Jinping put China’s state-owned enterprises up for international privatization. It is understandable that Taiwan welcomes foreign visits, this one included, but forget that talk about “friendship”.

That said, China’s ambassador to Germany, Wu Ken, makes sure that the German visit to Taiwan can’t be ignored – he’s making another fuss of it, in Germany’s business-friendly “Handelsblatt”, warning German politics “not to play with fire and not to test China’s red lines”. He is also worried that the German “traffic-light coalition”, consisting of Social Democrats, Greens, and the FDP (whose trademark color is yellow) would entirely follow America’s China policy.

The government's colors

The government’s colors

Nils Schmid, the Social Democrat parliament group’s spokesman on foreign affairs, says that he is “somewhat surprised” by Wu’s criticism. “The SPD parliamentary group demanded an adjustment of China policy, and the coalition agreement contains unambigious statements.”

The Chinese embassy has certainly laid its hands on one or several drafts of Berlin’s strategy papers. However, Schmid suggests that it must be a version that is several months old, and says that there is no final version yet. He adds that “contrary to China, where the state-controlled media certainly wouldn’t publish a similar criticism by foreign ambassadors, the Chinese ambassador has the opportunity to do so without being censored, around here.” This showed that there was systemic competition between China and democratic states after all.

Gyde Jensen, deputy chair of the FDP’s parliament group, says that Wu Ken’s answers show how fundamentally differently China interprets guiding liberal principles (“liberale Leitprinzipien”) and “bereaves them of their core concept, such as free markets, entrepreneurial freedom, human rights and multilateralism”. That alone was enough to explain why Germany needed a comprehensive China strategy, “for the record for everyone, China not least, to show how we see these principles and concepts and which action or rules we derive from them.” This included Germany’s interpretation of the “One-China policy”, concerning Taiwan.

China’s ambassador to Germany probably chose the “Handelsblatt” as an interlocutor not least because of its business-friendly position. However, by far not all German business is as involved in business with China as he appears to believe.

If it was up to Beijing, the Communist Party of China would determine China’s policy on Western countries, and business would continue to determine the West’s China policies. That was, of course, an extremely profitable arrangement for China, and it’s not really surprising that Beijing would like to keep it in place.

But every relationship, economically and politically, has to be in its stakeholders’ mutual interest (to borrow a Chinese slogan). Germany’s China policy will still be partly business-driven: if German business had got the “access” to Chinese markets it has long dreamed of, a tougher German policy on China would be almost inconceivable.

In that light, there is no reason to sing the praise of either Germany’s, America’s or any country’s government and their sudden attention for human rights et al. But there is reason to welcome their “tougher” policies. Depending on the “last versions” and their implementation, they may be in the national interest of our countries – at last.
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Related

“The Ukraine crisis it has triggered”, “China Daily”, Jan 10, 2023
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Saturday, December 31, 2022

The State of Xi – Dented, but Dominant?


Friday nights in Sanlitun are reportedly busy:

Increasing numbers of people are going around maskless too. Fear of the virus is receding in Beijing, at least among the young. Most have already been infected anyway.

Reactions abroad aren’t that sanguine: those who dare to, introduce controls.Passengers arriving in Taiwan from China have had to undergo nucleic acid tests since Wednesday (December 28), South Korea has announced restrictions on visa for Chinese travellers until the end of January, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and France have introduced restrictions or are about to do so, but Germany is too busy working on its national security strategy – not least because the federal states demand to participate in its definition.

The State of Xi

The Chinese leadership, according to Xi Jinping at the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference’s tea meeting on Friday, has reason to celebrate:

We have solemnly celebrated the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, resolutely fought against “Taiwan independence” splittist behavior and foreign forces’ interference. We have continued to promote great-power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics and maintained overall stability within the general external environment. These successes haven’t been easy to achieve. They are the fruits of united struggle by the entire party, the entire army, the entire nation’s nationalities – the fruits of tenacious struggle.
我们隆重庆祝香港回归祖国25周年。我们对“台独”分裂行径和外部势力干涉进行坚决斗争。我们继续推进中国特色大国外交,维护外部环境总体稳定。这些成绩来之不易,是全党全军全国各族人民团结奋斗、顽强拼搏的结果。

Chinese People's Consultative Conferences Tea Meeting, December 30, 2022

Let’s have some tea together

Deng Yuguan, a regular columnist for the Chinese service of the “Voice of America”, believes that his (rather gloomy, apparently)  predictions of last year, concerning China and Xi Jinping’s government, have come true. Among those, China’s external environment hasn’t been favorable in 2022 (外部环境和中国面临的地缘政治让中国好起来的因素没有出现). The party leaders with Xi as the core etc. would agree: “a turbulent and unsafe environment outside China’s borders” (外部环境动荡不安,给我国经济带来的影响加深) is what they called it after their annual economic work conference on December 15 and 16.

Deng sanctimoniously deplores that the situation now was even worse than his predictions, and that “Xi’s image has quickly fallen from his divine pedestal” (习的形象从高高在上的神坛快速跌落). That said, it’s just Xi’s image, not the guy himself yet, and some of the examples Deng cites to prove the great helmsman’s decline are as evil as you’d expect, but, by Chinese standards, also rather trivial: the Li Tiantian “incident” (李田田事件[编辑]), tennis star Peng Shuai’s sexual-assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli and her disappearance, and the “Xuzhou chained woman incident”. Then Deng moves to China’s lockdown policies, and to what turned out to be “the failure to fight the pandemic” (抗疫的失败对习的权威是巨大打击). Those, of course, are real blunders, but his conclusions may still be somewhat far-reaching, concerning Xi’s reign.

There had been some ups and downs already, such as the trade standoff with the Trump administration, but every time, Xi had been able to defend his status – most recently by stopping the spread of Covid within China, successfuly sold as Chinese victories over the West to the Chinese public (although only for a while, until people lost patience), writes Deng.
He doesn’t go as far as to suggest that Xi will be toppled, but

Now, he has started his third term at the 20th party national congress with a unified Xi team, but the failure to fight the pandemic – while it apparently hasn’t hurt his grip on power – has seen him crossing the peak of his power and authority, and entering a downward spiral.
如今,他虽然在二十大如愿以偿开启第三任期,并建立了一个清一色的习氏班子,抗疫的失败看起来并未动摇他对权力的绝对掌控,可从毛的案例来看,他跨过了权力和权威的巅峰期,进入下行通道。

Comparing Xi’s situation with Mao’s after the latter’s numerous setbacks, Deng doubts that Xi would be able to overthrow everything that opposes him and restore his power and authority that way. On the other hand, while weakened, he isn’t likely to be sidelined either, writes Deng, and so much for the rendition of his VoA column.

If the U.S.-led policy on semi-conductor restrictions on China should turn out to be successful, Xi’s greatest mistake will probably turn out to be China’s “more assertive” role after 2012. The “wolf-warrior diplomacy” was utterly useless (except for those attacked by it – Sweden, Lithuania, South Korea and many other countries have gained new insights on what a “powerful” China will do, and the U.S. seems to have gained some insights, too.  Much of the “turbulent and unsafe environment outside China’s borders” (CPC speak, see above) is a world made by China itself. Beijing hasn’t been powerful enough (yet) to shape the world in a way to its liking, but they’ve successfully left unpleasant turds all through the five continents.

Meantime, not all the news is bad for Beijing.

Tired of a too-strong and newly weaponized greenback, some of the world’s biggest economies are exploring ways to circumvent the US currency,

notes a signed Bloomberg article. That’s not to say that the dollar is going to hell in a basket, according to the authors, but both sanctions and “[t]he he US currency’s rampant gains have [..] made Asian officials more aggressive in their attempts at diversification“.

So, let’s think of the dollars future reign (for whatever period) as something like Xi Jinping’s reign over China (according to Deng’s VoA column): possibly somewhat dented, but dominant all the same.

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Related

新年茶话会,习近平发表重要讲话, CPBS, Dec 31, 2022
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Monday, December 19, 2022

Sunday Press: “Resolutely preventing a Return of Large-Scale Poverty”

1. Headlines

Let’s start with “Guanchazhe, a news portal from Shanghai that is frequently considered as not-so-politicized, but don’t buy into that, because it’s complicated.

New Normal:
Moving across Guanchazhe’s (Shanghai) wbsite top line, we are told that “the most important thing is to boost confidence” – a report on the economic conference held by the central committee and state council on Friday and Saturday – see details further down, under “Economic Work Conference”.

Another New Normal (or who knows):
Nucleic acid test station booths are advised to turn into service stations that provide feverish passerbys with “convenient” treatment and advice (through the booth window). That, the Chinese press and radio suggest, are ideas that had become “hot” among netizens in Suzhou.

20221217_guanchazhe_test_station

“Guanchazhe” on Sunday

Old Normal:

When Sino-U.S. relations are bad, it must be America’s fault. Will U.S. President Biden come to his senses and stop believing that he can win against China? That’s the teaser for an exchange of opinions between Professors Zhang Weiwei (张维为) and Fan Yongpeng (范勇鹏), both from Fudan University.

Now, a few words ab out that “economic work conference, as promised. Let’s turn to an article published by CPBS, China’s nation-wide radio network.

2. Economic Work Conference

Reportedly held in Beijing on December 15 and 16. It’s an annual meeting … here’`s Wikepedia, as accessed on December 19:

held in the People’s Republic of China which sets the national agenda for the Economy of China and its financial and banking sectors. It is convened by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the State Council[1] following themes, keywords, set by the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.[citation needed] As of 2012, the meetings, which are closed, were being held for 2 or 3 days during the 2nd or 3rd week of December.[1]

While closed, they do publish some details of what has been said (or what sounds plausible, etc.). The entire party, country and all nationalities have been up to the challenges, achieving that wasn’t easy and should be highly valued, and the foundations of economic recovery aren’t sound yet, as demand contraction, supply shocks and weakening expectations remain the three big pressures1). To blame were – who would have thought it – “a turbulent and unsafe environment outside China’s borders” (外部环境动荡不安,给我国经济带来的影响加深). A general upturn was expected for 2023, given the strength anbd potential of the Chinese economy.

The two unwaverings (两个毫不动摇) are going to stay with us, and so will the promotion of a policy of opening up to outside world on a high level (持推进高水平对外开放). The three safeguards (三保, people’s livelihood, safe wages, and operation of authorities) are also featuring, and so are greater efforts in attracting and using foreign investsment, and resolute prevention of a large-scale return of poverty (坚决防止出现规模性返贫). High-quality development (高质量发展) is mentioned a number of times.

Have a good pre-Christmas week.
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Notes

1)  demand contraction, supply shocks and weakening expectations

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Tuesday, November 1, 2022

German Chancellor’s first China Visit: Opportunities and Liabilities

It is going to be the first visit to China for German chancellor Olaf Scholz who took office late last year with a three-party coalition (SPD, Greens, and FDP).

On Friday (November 4), he is scheduled to meet “President” Xi Jinping, according to his office’s website, and following that, a meeting his planned with him and Li Keqiang, his actual colleague as head of a government. Bilateral relations, international topics such as climate change, Russia’s “war of aggression” against Ukraine and the situation in the east Asian region are said to be on the agenda. “Federal Chancellor Scholz will be accompanied by a business delegation during his visit”, the office’s statement concludes.

dongnanweishi_scholz_and_companies
Not everybody’s first visit
Shanghai’s “Jiefang Daily” suggests*) that

many European companies have experienced serious economic problems this year, because of the energy crisis, high inflation, rising interest rates and problems like the economic slowdown. It is crucial for these European companies to make up for these losses in Europe by profiting from the Chinese market. Brudermüller for example, CEO at Germany’s chemical giant BASF, plans to further expand BASF’s “favorable investments” in China. It’s business report shows that unlike in Europe, results in China have been positive.
欧洲很多企业今年以来由于能源危机、高通胀、利率上升和经济放缓等遭遇严重经营困难。对这些欧洲企业来说,用中国市场的收益弥补在欧洲的亏损至关重要。比如德国化工巨头巴斯夫集团首席执行官薄睦乐就打算进一步扩大巴斯夫在中国的“有利投资”。业绩报告显示,与在欧洲的亏损不同,巴斯夫集团在中国的增长一直是正向的。


Michelin’s business report, said to have been published on October 25, also shows rapidly rising sales in China, in contrast with an eight-percent drop in Europe, “Jiefang Daily” reports.

Michelin’s handsome China numbers notwithstanding, the “Global Times”, a Chinese paper for a foreign readership, blames a “sour-grape” mentality for France’s differences with Germany’s China policy. Those differences probably exist, with Paris being more skeptical about Chinese “opportunities” than Berlin, but you might consider Germany’s dependence on Chinese export markets as a liability, rather than as an opportunity, just as well.

While the SPD remains highly cooperative when it comes to China business, both its coalition partners have advised caution. And while it may be difficult to forecast a trend of future German investment in, exports to and supply chain connections with China, there are statements from German business circles you wouldn’t have heard a few years ago.

China itself rather bets on protectionism, but wants to get into the act globally, including in Germany (China setzt selbst eher auf Abschottung, will aber überall in der Welt mehr mitmischen, auch bei uns in Deutschland),

German weekly “Focus” quotes Martin Wansleben, head of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce.  Scholz should champion clear-cut rules.
It isn’t only France that is concerned about Germany’s economic dependence on China. “Voice of America’s” (VoA) Chinese service, too, points out that “the West shows growing concern about Chinese trade practices and its human rights record”, as well as unease about “Germany’s dependence on the world’s second-largest economic body” (对德国对中国这个世界第二大经济体的依赖感到不安).

VoA also quotes a German government spokesman as saying that while Berlin’s view on China had changed, “decoupling” from China was opposed by Berlin.

When you keep pressing people for a while, the main problem appears to be China’s aggressive policy against Taiwan. Most Germans (this blogger included) never expected that Russia would really invade Ukraine. Now that this has happened, peoples’ imagination has become somewhat more animated – and realistic.

The Social Democrats are more skeptical than its middle- and upper-class coalition partners when it comes to the West’s human-rights agenda, and rightly so. (If China put all its SOEs on international sale, you wouldn’t hear a word about the Uyghurs from Western governments anymore.)

But the Russian-Chinese alliance is a fact, and so is that alliance’s preparedness to annex third countries. That is something the Social Dems can’t ignore. If the press, the oppositional CDU/CSU and the SPD’s coalition partners statements are something to go by, the tide of German integration with China’s economy is being reversed.

“Nothing speaks against German SMEs continuing to import their special nuts and bolts from China”, a columnist mused on German news platform t-online last week, but not without a backup source.

China’s propaganda doesn’t look at Scholz’ visit in a way isolated from its other global contacts. In fact, the German visitor is mentioned in a row with General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyễn Phú Trọng, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan – all of them bearing testimony, or so the propaganda suggests, of how attractive “Chinese opportunities” (中国机遇) actually are.

But Germany’s dependence on China, while worrying and in need to be cut back substantively, shouldn’t be viewed in an isolated way either. Scholz visit won’t even last for a full day, without an overnight stay, and also in November, Scholz will travel to Vietnam. Statistics appear to suggest that German industry will find backup sources there – if not first sources just as well.

And Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister and one of the leaders of the SPD’s China-skeptic Green coalition partner, is currently travelling Central Asia. All the countries there “once hoped to be a bridge between Russia, China, and Europe,” German broadcaster NTV quotes her – the European Union needed to provide Central Asia with opportunities. Options beyond Russia and China, that is.

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Notes

*) “Jiefang” actually “quotes foreign media”, but Chinese propaganda is often very creative in doing so – therefore no names here.

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Monday, October 24, 2022

Xi’s Kitchen Cabinet (1): For what we are about to receive

In an effort to better understand China, let’s take a look at the six men who are going to complement the People’s Leader during the coming five years (if none of them turns out to be Lin Biao II). A lot may have been written about them already, and a lot is going to be written, but let’s listen to the members of the Politburo Standing Committee themselves. 

liang_yan_xis_kitchen_cabinet

No interviews, I suppose, but we can turn to their publications, or to what they had China’s “reporters” publish about themselves. 

Obviously, I don’t know yet if all of Xi’s six men have provided the masses with spritual nourishment, or if some of them rather qualified by mowing the people’s lawns and darning their socks. In either case, this series shall amount to seven instalments (this introduction being the first). 

Stay tuned …

Monday, September 12, 2022

A Vice-Ministerial Visit to Taiwan and its Story

圖說:駐立陶宛台灣代表處正式掛牌設立,新獲任命的首任代表黃鈞耀及同仁攝於館牌前。 Splittist doorplate – click photo for source

A 28-person Lithuanian delegation of laser and biotechnology company representatives led by the Baltic nation’s Vice Minister of Economy and Innovation Karolis Žemaitis has reportedly arrived in Taiwan for an official visit today (Monday, September 12 UTC).  Also today, Lithuania’s public broadcaster LRT republished a Voice of America article saying that espite offering to build high-speed rail, China charm offensive loses appeal in Baltics.

National security may have been about as much a factor in the cooling relations between China and several of its European partners, as have unfulfilled business expectations.

The Latvia state security service published a report in 2020 “essentially saying that Chinese activities in Latvia are very similar to Russian intelligence activities”,

the article quotes Martins Hirss, a researcher at the University of Latvia. The China-Central-Europe connection originally included “seventeen-plus-one” nations, i. e. Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

The Voice of America / LRT article also quotes an observer as saying that China will work in a more ‘targetted’ way, enhancing its profile where it already exists in a positive manner, for example, Hungary, Serbia.

All three Baltic countries have ended participation int the 17+1 format by now, leaving China with Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia (14+1 or Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, China-CEEC).

Lithunia not only led the departure of the Baltic cooperation members (Estonia and Latvia followed in August  this year), but has also endured a particularly intense conflict with Beijing over the name of Taiwan’s de-facto embassy in its capital Vilnius  – The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania in English, or 駐立陶宛台灣代表處 in Chinese.

That was followed by Chinese economic warfare against Lithuania which in turn not only triggered a legislative process on the level of the European Union, but also likely convinced Lithuania’s two Baltic neighbors that they stood more to lose than to gain from “partnership” with China.

According to Taiwan’s foreign ministry as quoted by “Focus Taiwan”, the English-language website run by Taiwan’s Central News Agency CNA,

the fourth Lithuanian delegation led by a deputy minister-level official to Taiwan this year, following visits by Žemaitis’ immediate predecessor Jovita Neliupšienė on June 12, Ministry of Agriculture Vice Minister Egidijus Giedraitis on June 22, and Lithuanian Deputy Transportation Minister Agne Vaiciukevičiūtė on Aug. 6

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Related

Sender Viesintos, Wikipedia, acc Sept 12, 2022

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Thursday, September 8, 2022

The State of Taiwan

First of all, let me come clean: like many people I know, I take sides. I believe that Taiwan’s citizens have a right to determine their future, and that China has no legitimate reasons to interfere with Taiwan’s affairs.
However, you may be aware that not everybody sees Taiwan this way. China’s Communist Party (CPC) doesn’t only want to rule Hong Kong, Macau, and “the mainland”, as the People’s Republic is often referred to by mainlanders, Hong Kongers, Macauans, and by many Taiwaners alike. Rather, the CPC wants to rule Taiwan, too.

taiwanren_are_also_chinese

“Taiwanese are also Chinese, aren’t they?” A tourist from Hong Kong visiting Taiwan on “double-ten” day, in 2009

In the end, China will most probably try to occupy Taiwan, either by laying siege – a naval blockade – to it, or by trying to invade it right away. In either case, China will probably have its way unless Taiwan’s (probably substantial) military resistance gets support from America, and maybe from Australia, Japan, and other countries. So, if lucky, China would gain control over Taiwan by military force, and that would be that (apart from a rather unpredictable Taiwanese population under occupation – Taiwaners could turn out to be rather unruly).

A. Image concerns

But success by naked force, however tempting it may be in the eyes of many Chinese citizens, isn’t the preferred means to achieve the goal of what the CPC refers to as „reunification“. That’s true for a number of economic and military (including nuclear) reasons, as even a successful invasion and a rather smooth occupation might come at heavy opportunity costs, imposed by countries that wouldn’t accept China’s annexation of Taiwan.

This is also true for image reasons, While China appears to have abandoned the idea that it could convince the Taiwanese that „reunification“ with China would be in their best interest, it apparently still hopes to achieve the goal of „peaceful reunification“ by coopting Taiwan’s economic and political elites, and by intimidating a sufficient number of Taiwan’s citizens so as to push them over.

But if the need for military action to achieve „reunification“ would arise (from China’s point of view), China would like to justify its military aggression, just as it has tried to justify its efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally (hint: the never-ending Taiwan-WHO saga, or pressure on governments of third-party  countries to threaten Taiwan’s economic lifelines.

On Twitter, you are faced with a lot of Chinese propaganda, carried forward by the CPC’s official mouthpieces as well as its useful minions (some of them may be paid by China, others may act out of mere fanatism). Some free samples:

Table 1

“Taiwan is an inseparable part of China” (Reality shows that this is not the case.)
“If Taiwan declares independence, we / China will go to war right away.” (We are looking for an excuse – we’ve decided to annex Taiwan anyway.)
“Taiwan has always been a part of China.” (Only during the Qing era, and only if the Qing cared to say that there was “one China” including Taiwan. They probably didn’t care.
“There is only one China.” (Yes, and thank God for that.)
“Taiwan is part of China because Taiwan’s official name is “Republic of China”. If so, which Congo is part of the other? There are two Congos, the “Republic” and the “Democratic Republic”.China’s logic probably prescribes that the Republic must annex the Democratic Republic, because it’s always the democratic countries that get annexed.
You / your country have committed yourselves to the one-China principle. This is probably the case in a number of bilateral declarations of China and third governments – but by no means in each of them. For example, “one-China” policy basically means that you somehow handle China’s “once-China” principle, not necessarily that you agree with it.
Besides, you can always walk away from it – it has happened before.

So, a lot, if not all of the mouthpiece talk on “social media” is hollow words, suitable for propaganda, and maybe not even that. But China has to make do with the excuses it can find to gloss over its aggressiveness.

Did I mention that China applies pressure on third-party governments to deny Taiwan international space? Well, it isn’t just the World Health Organization, or the Nigerian government who accept that pressure, because it comes with good business. Many other third-party countries do likewise, to varying degrees. We’ll have a look at the examples of America and France later on.

But first, let’s take a look at the nomenclature that is flying around when people talk about China-Taiwan relations. To that end, I might use some pseudomath (it isn’t really that scientific).

B. Chinamaths

Table 1

table_one_mainland_china

or the other way round,

Table 2

table_two_orc
Then there’s that One China – or more than one idea of what that is. But wide swathes of mainland Chinese people, plus uncertain numbers from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, will have this kind of math on their mind:

Table 3

table_three_orc

From the CPC’s perspective, it can’t be
table_must_not_exist
because that would imply that Taiwan’s political system would be the emperor of the whole Congo.
Now, when we are talking about Taiwan, we usually refer to everything that is governed from Taipei, not just the island of Taiwan itself, although that’s where Taiwan’s (or the ROC’s, etc.) citizens live.

Table 4

table_four_taiwan
That’s my definition of Taiwan, too – when you read “Taiwan” in this post, this table-4 definition is the definition of it.

C. Taiwan: one country, two positions

Position 1 (pan-Green, more or less)

It may be more than two just as well, but these are the two I can think of.
One is that, when Japan relinquished sovereignty over Taiwan, it didn’t transfer sovereignty to anyone else. Two authors, Michal Thim and Michael Turton, described that position in an article for “The Diplomat” in 2017 – they are themselves supporters of this position, I believe.
Under international law and practice, only an international treaty can settle the status of specific territories, they wrote, adding that the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and the Treaty of Taipei between Japan and the Republic of China on Taiwan fell under that category. If those two had contradicted one another on the matter of Taiwanese sovereignty, the San Francisco Peace Treaty would have outweighed the Treaty of Taipei, but both treaties were silent on the issue of who owned Taiwan, merely affirming that Japan gave up sovereignty over Taiwan.

Position 2 (pan-blue, more or less)

Another position, also widely spread among Taiwanese citizens (if they care about what might be the legal superstructure of their statehood) is the Republic of China.
Now, there are probably many sub-positions to this one, like Taiwan equals the Republic of China, or that Taiwan can somehow claim mainland China (plus Hong Kong and Macau)  as well (that would be a minority, I guess). There is also a an interpretation of what the RoC is that seeks common ground between the San Francisco Peace Treaty supporters, and the RoC guys. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen adopted (and possibly coined) it when she ran for president for the first time, eleven years ago: the ROC, having lost all its territory in 1949, found shelter on Taiwan.

“Taiwan Independence”

In practical daily life, globally speaking, China and Taiwan are two separate countries. The rest is silly political squabble. But the silly squabble is accompanied by the clouds of war, and that’s why the rest of the world tries to take it into consideraton.
Obviously, wanting to please China (because it might be great business) is another reason to care about the “one-China” noise.

Supporters of the San-Francisco-Peace-Treaty version may argue that Taiwan is independent because Japan gave up sovereignty over it, and because there was nobody entitled to pick it up.

The “Taipei Times”, a paper from Taiwan’s “pan-green” political camp, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), described it this way, in 2017:

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) changed the constitutional system and became the nation’s first directly elected president.
By “vesting sovereignty in Taiwanese,” he acknowledged that Taiwan had become an independent state via democratic elections.

This, from Taiwan’s pan-green point of view (or the “Taipei Times” rendition of it), means that Taiwan’s independence is the status quo. Taiwan is independent, and the above is the legal reason.

Position 2, the pan-blue one, basically, may be best summarized by what former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou told an American audience in 2017:

On the question of Taiwanese independence, Ma recalled once being asked by a reporter why the island doesn’t formally declare. “Have you ever heard of a country declaring independence twice?” he replied. “We were an independent country back in 1912 — how can I declare independence again?”

1912 refers to the declaration of the Republic of China in the aftermath of the 1911 Xinhai Revolution. Ma therefore sees Taiwan as an independent state in the continuity of the mainland RoC from 1912 to 1949. That is pretty much in line with the general KMT view.

And if any version of “Taiwan independence” was palatable to the CPC in China, it would be this second one, because it is somehow about “one China”. The official reason for Beijing to be mad at Tsai Ing-wen and her DPP is that they would rather consider Lee Teng-hui the founding father of Taiwan’s sovereignty, than RoC founder Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

They ignore, however, that President Tsai’s position is somewhere between those two positions, and probably leaning towards position 2. It would be hard to ignore the RoC superstructure when you want to become Taiwan’s President – in fact, you are sworn in on the RoC’s constitution, in front of a large picture of Sun Yat-sen. That’s a tradition left behind by the KMT’s dictatorship era when there was only one legal political party on Taiwan anyway – the KMT itself. The RoC had, for many years, been a one-party state.

What is noteworthy is that both positions – pan-green and pan-blue alike – avoid another declaration of independence. What either camp would do if there wasn’t a threat of war from China is a question for another day. China’s reading of Taiwan’s status is that there hasn’t been a Taiwanese declaration of independence (yet).

How does the rest of the world deal with the “one-China” noise (mostly from China, not from Taiwan)? Let’s have a look at two third-party governments that have established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and severed (official) diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (RoC). Some countries either switched official diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing at some point in time, and some others – like the Federal Republic of Germany – hadn’t had diplomatic relations with Taipei anyway, and therefore found it rather easy to establish theirs with Beijing.
The two examples I know a few things about are the American and the French positions concerning Taiwan’s status.

D. Third-government positions

Sample 1: America

The frequently-quoted Joint Communiqué of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China (aka the “Shanghai Communiqué”), issued in February 1972 on a visit by then U.S. President Richard Nixon to China, says that

The Chinese side reaffirmed its position: the Taiwan question is the crucial question obstructing the normalization of relations between China and the United States; the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government of China; Taiwan is a province of China which has long been returned to the motherland; the liberation of Taiwan is China’s internal affair in which no other country has the right to interfere; and all U.S. forces and military installations must be withdrawn from Taiwan. The Chinese Government firmly opposes any activities which aim at the creation of “one China, one Taiwan”, “one China, two governments”, “two Chinas”, an “independent Taiwan” or advocate that “the status of Taiwan remains to be determined”.

As far as the withdrawal of U.S. forces and military installations are concerned, the U.S. appears to have obliged (although there may be varying, and unconfirmed, numbers of U.S. military staff plus equipment in Taiwan from time to time, or permanently, or whatever).

But Washington did not agree with China’s definition of Taiwan’s status – the 1972 Joint Communiqué basically says that the Americans listened to what the Chinese said about it during the talks:

The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, it will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes. The two sides agreed that it is desirable to broaden the understanding between the two peoples. To this end, they discussed specific areas in such fields as science, technology, culture, sports and journalism, in which people-to-people contacts and exchanges would be mutually beneficial. Each side undertakes to facilitate the further development of such contacts and exchanges.

Nearly seven years later (save one month), Washington and Beijing established diplomatic relations. That was accompanied by the Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations of January 1, 1979. Here,

The United States of America recognizes the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China. Within this context, the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan.

This is followed by a bilateral reaffirmation of the principles agreed on by the two sides in the Shanghai Communiqué. Also,

The Government of the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.

When you have read some “legal papers” before, you’ll probably think that in the 1979 Joint Communiqué, Washington didn’t accommodate Beijing’s positions any further than in the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué. I also think so.

The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China (1972) only says that Washington understands that Chinese people in China and Taiwan see it that way.

The Government of the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China (1979) doesn’t even acknowledge that an unspecified number of Taiwaners (“all Chinese”) sees it that way.

Sample 2: France

France went a step further than America in pleasing China – in 1994, that is, not in 1964 when Paris and Beijing established official diplomatic ties, and when Paris didn’t mention Taiwan at all, according to a piece by France-Info, published in August this year.

In 1994, France stated in another communiqué with China that (my translation)

The French side confirmed that the French government recognizes the government of the People’s Republic of China as the only legal government of China, and Taiwan as an essential part of Chinese territory.
La partie française a confirmé que le gouvernement français reconnaît le gouvernement de la République Populaire de Chine comme l’unique gouvernement légal de la Chine, et Taïwan comme une partie intégrante du territoire chinois.

Now, I would think that this states explicitly that Taiwan, from France’s point of view, is under China’s jurisdiction. But Antoine Bondaz, a Research Fellow and the Director of both the Korea Program and the Taiwan Program at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (FRS), points out that (my translation)

France doesn’t say explicitly that Taiwan is part of the People’s Republic of China, there isn’t any such declaration.
La France ne dit pas explicitement que Taïwan fait partie de la République populaire de Chine, il n’y a eu aucune déclaration.

Sounds like logic applied by a bunch of weasels, but that’s diplomacy. And if this assessment is correct, you can be pretty sure that China’s diplomats knew that, and still didn’t squeeze France to make further concessions (because that would have meant no communiqué at all, I suppose).

E. Some cold hard facts

All this is mostly about superstructure – cream on a cup of coffee that wouldn’t go away even if there was no cream. What remains as a fact is the existence of Taiwan (and its semiconductors, of course), and a Chinese disposition towards violence against Taiwan.
So if there are two Chinas, just as there are two Congos, why would China believe that it has a right to harass, invade and/or annex Taiwan?
Former Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi probably said it best, at the 17th Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi in July 2010, reportedly: “China is a big country and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact”.

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Note

Thanks to Multiburst who suggested that this topic deserved some more attention than what a few tweets would allow.

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Related

Some people, March 23, 2022
China-Deutschland, “Beijing Rundschau”, Oct 11, 2017

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Headlines: Guanchazhe, Shanghai, July 24

20220224_guanchazhe_press_review

Guanchazhe, headlines at 07:30 UTC

(1)     Actual Guanchazhe article there. Wikipedia has a useful article in English on Wentian space laboratory cabin module
(2)     Link
(3)     It’s more of a rant (you wouldn’t need academics for that, but it probably looks more authoratitve this way).
The article may contain some news for you however if you believe that Western sanctions against Russia are happily supported (or admired) everywhere else in the world
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