The Taiwan elections, Nauru, and Colonialism

  • Council on Pacific Affairs Exclusive – 18 JANUARY 2024 – Dr. Nikolay N. Goryachev, CPA

On January 13, general elections were held in Taiwan: the “president” and the parliament of the island were elected. These elections can be viewed as a kind of geopolitical sweepstakes: numerous experts, political scientists, journalists, and those just interested in politics have been discussing which candidate is more profitable for whom for the past couple of months. The question was, who would be best candidate for Beijing, or for Washington, or for Moscow? Many more predictions and assumptions have been made, varying from realistic to fantastic ones.

Some experts believed (and still believe) that the victory of Lai Ching-te, the candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) currently ruling on the island, would provoke an escalation of the crisis and perhaps lead to Beijing’s military operation to return Taiwan to its homeland. Initially, it was assumed that that candidate was the best alternative for the United States, because he would keep the Taiwan issue at stake, which would bother the Chinese authorities for ages. At the same time, the possible victory of Hou Yu-ih (Kuomintang (KMT)) was considered as an occasion after which Taiwan would soon reunite with the mainland. And the third candidate, Ko Wen-je (Taiwan People’s Party (EPP)), was the most interesting, as he tried to balance between the positions of both other would-be presidents. So he was some kind of compromise figure, at the same time he was not pro-Chinese.

At last, the elections have taken place. The elected “president” was Lai Ching-te (Democratic Progressive Party), so the ruling party retained its position. But the parliamentary triumph did not take place – the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) did not win there. KMT party won. However, KMT did not have a solo majority. Although in a coalition with the TPP, they will be able to resist the president. But what’s next?

First of all, it is a common knowledge that all three candidates, all three political forces (despite their political statements) are separatists, and the heirs of the separatists. There are no ‘Taiwanese’ in the political sense of the word. They are Chinese who broke away at one time, just for political and no other reasons. This process can be compared to the wave of so-called White emigration in Russia (White Russians: Pro-tsarist Russians, members of the White Movement and officers in the White Army, in the period directly following the 1917 and 1918 Revolutions). But these are still some differences.  The White emigrants did not create a government in exile, or any state of their own. And they also did not engage in the mass export of objects of material and cultural heritage from Russia.  But… Thanks to the Kuomintang, everyone who visits the Forbidden City in Beijing today cannot enjoy the interior of the Imperial Palace complex. Everything from the palaces was moved to Taiwan in 1949! It is similar to as if the White emigrants in 1918 took out all the interior contents of the Moscow Kremlin, even the inner decorations from the walls. That’s how political motives have led to the fact that cultural heritage is divided. And it’s not just the Chinese who suffer from this – the whole world suffers.

Secondly, none of the three candidates is truly loyal to the Chinese government, and even more so, pro–Chinese in the civilizational sense. All the candidates visited the United States, not Beijing, as part of the election campaign, and some of them more than once. It seems that they should be taken primarily as politicians who coordinate their actions with foreign authorities – so they do not have sovereignty.

And thirdly, the status quo in Taiwan has been preserved for the most part now. In a global perspective, no one needs military escalation: neither China nor the USA. It can be very painful for the whole world. On the one hand, Taiwan manufacturers of electronic components are currently indispensable on a global scale. Despite the fact that the United States has some plans to build similar production facilities, these are still only plans that are still unknown when and if they come true. Moreover, if the escalation takes place, every country would lack high-grade microelectronics, even the United States. On the other hand, it is much more beneficial for Beijing to adjust to peaceful measures (although economic sanctions against Taiwan are taken place), and to offer “Taiwanese” better development, better living conditions than the West can offer them. And there is a third point. If military escalation occurs, the burden of US satellites in the region, such as Japan and South Korea will be heavy. Despite their statements of full support for the US policy, there is no certainty that their allied (although it is more appropriate to call it vassal) obligations will be fulfilled by them as Washington expects.

We can wonder, what does the establishment of diplomatic relations between Nauru and China have to do with it? However, given that the number of States recognizing Taiwan has been steadily decreasing over the past ten years, this is an important signal.

Taiwan authorities  has already stated about that: “This timing is not only China’s retaliation against our democratic elections but also a direct challenge to the international order”.

This statement, though short, is full of cliches and cliches. Starting with democracy (which, as it turns out, is not all good, but apparently only the one that is Western), and ending with the international order. Apparently, here we are talking about the so-called “rules-based international order.” But where are these rules? Recent years have shown that the international order exists on the old Roman principle of “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi”. There is no other way to explain why none of the Western democracies imposed sanctions against Israel for the killing a thousands of civilians in the Gaza Strip. And in general, the world order is changing now, but this is a separate and very interesting topic.

In our case, in Taiwan’s statement in the mouth of the “foreign minister”, we can see nothing more than a good example of manifestation of colonial thinking. Taiwan officials are simply denied Nauru’s right of choice. Moreover Taiwan officials believe that it was not the government of Nauru (and, accordingly, the Nauru people) which made their choice, but Beijing has chosen for them… Perhaps this is an idealistic point of view, but if a state is represented in the UN, then it is very strange to deny it political will, which Taiwan has done in fact.

Everyone in the Pacific knows the story of the rapid rise and fall of Nauru’s economy, based on the extraction of phosphate rock, as well as the fact that the extraction of this mineral has caused enormous damage to the Nauru’s environment. In modern mining and related activities, not many countries have necessary competencies for sustainable landscape remediation and environmental restoration. And China is one of those countries. Let us look back what happened with the statement of the Government of the Solomon Islands on the establishment of diplomatic relations with Beijing in 2019, when, it turned out that the Taiwanese government promised to invest in the economy of the islands, but no one saw these investments. Now, in various ways, information is being spread that Nauru government did so just because it was tempted by renminbi from Beijing (it is likely that West will soon talk about Chinese debt traps again). But is it real? Environmental remediation assistance is exactly what China can provide. But the West, as usual, has simmered everything to money…