OPINION - Editorial

Carrots and sticks

Red China woos/threatens free China

The saying goes that only Nixon could go to China. Of course, that’s not true. He took help with him.

A secretary of state named Henry Kissinger was among those who went with the president to meet the Red Chinese and “open” the middle kingdom to the world again. When Richard Nixon went behind doors to talk privately with Chairman Mao, the story goes that Secretary Kissinger was left to make small talk with his counterpart in the ChiCom government, Zhou Enlai.

Scratching around for something to talk about, Henry Kissinger supposedly asked Zhou Enlai what the party’s thoughts were about the French Revolution these days. The Chinese diplomat thought about it for a minute, then said, “It’s too early to tell.” The mainland Chinese have a long view of the world. Which is easy for a nation that’s has more than 4,000 years of recorded history.

How much more patience, some wonder, will the mainland Chinese have when it comes to Taiwan?

The People’s Republic of China—which is neither a republic, the people’s, nor even all of China—keeps threatening the free Chinese on the island of Taiwan, demanding that the thriving nation come back, one way or t’ other, under Beijing control. The Taiwanese consider giving up their freedom, prosperity, and way of life to be an impractical request. So Red China threatens. Red China demands. Red China strongarms.

This past week, Red China tried carrots to go along with the sticks.

According to the Associated Press, mainland China “is promoting new economic opportunities for Taiwanese people while at the same time ramping up military activity around the island it claims as its own.” Experts told the AP that the effort signals to Taiwan, and not just Taiwan, that the magnanimous, charitable, indulgent ChiComs offer Taipai “a choice between peaceful reunification and military aggression ahead of a Taiwanese presidential election next year.” How thoughtful. Allow Beijing to send its shock troops, not to mention its government and oppression, to your country, or Beijing will do it by force. No wonder that Taiwan prepares to fight.

“As part of the plan, Beijing is encouraging Taiwanese companies to list on Chinese stock exchanges and is promising better conditions for Taiwanese investors and a more ‘relaxed’ environment for travel, according to a statement Tuesday by the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the State Council, China’s Cabinet.” Wow! A deal with the government of Red China to join the communist club with assurances that Taiwan will be treated right. Before taking the deal, the Taipei government might ask Hong Kong how it’s doing.

If that particular carrot doesn’t looking particularly appetizing, just know that the Red Chinese have plenty of sticks, too. The same week that Beijing offered this can’t-miss deal, Taiwan reported seeing nearly 70 warplanes and 10 warships encircle the island. Taipai’s defense ministry said 40 of the aircraft penetrated its air defense zone. How Taipei didn’t shoot down a dozen of them proves 1) that it has a cooler head than most other nations, and 2) its enemy across the strait doesn’t mind putting its own troopers in harm’s way to intimidate its neighbors.

Does mainland China think its carrots-and-sticks approach will gain it Taiwan soon?

Probably not “soon”. More likely, experts say, this kind of thing is meant to drive a wedge between the ruling party in Taipei—a party that Red China doesn’t talk to—and the political opposition on the island. It might take a while, but Red China’s plan seems to be to divide Taiwan, then get invited in if the country splinters. None of that is likely to happen soon.

But Red China has learned to take its time. It always has taken the long view.