Kiev and Taipei. Aleksandr Podrabinek on the dangers of tolerating authoritarianism

10 August 2022

By Aleksandr Podrabinek

Source: Radio Svoboda

Сommunist China is conducting military exercises near Taiwan, rehearsing an attack on the island. In a similar way last autumn the Russian army conducted military exercises on its borders with Ukraine. Beijing is no less irritated by the independence of Taiwan, of course, than Moscow is by Ukraine’s. The Chinese communists looking at Russia’s attempt to conquer Ukraine are now probably thinking: why shouldn’t we try the same with Taiwan?

Moreover, Beijing now has a motive that Moscow doesn’t – envy. The Republic of China (Taiwan) is a successful modern state. The 19th largest economy in the world, according to the IMF in 2021 Taiwan’s GDP per capita was 17th in the world, while communist China was in 80th position. Something to make the communists, declaring their care for the needs of simple workers, mad! The standard of living in Taiwan is significantly higher than on the Chinese mainland. But that’s not the main thing. Moscow and Beijing share a sense of danger: Taiwan and Ukraine demonstrate to their neighbouring authoritarian regimes that a State can be both democratic and successful, and its people free. I think this is what irritates Vladimir Putin and  Xi Jinping most. 

Probably it’s not only communist China that now is watching Russia’s war on Ukraine closely. There are also others keen to resolve territorial disputes by means of military force. A bad example is infectious, they say, and impunity makes the bad example doubly infectious. If the international community allows the Kremlin to annex territories carved out of Ukraine, this could serve as a signal for the start of numerous local wars. There is already a significant increase in the level of military activity in Karabakh, in the Balkans and in China.

Unfortunately, history gives no grounds for optimism. This can well be seen by the example, once again, of Taiwan. The Republic of China was declared in 1912 on a territory that embraced almost the whole of present day China. In the Second World War, the Republic of China was a member of the anti-Hitler coalition. Then civil war began and, with the help of the USSR, communist rebels overthrew the legitimate Chinese government. The latter sought refuge in Taiwan. Until the 1970s independent Taiwan had been recognised by most other countries as the ‘international face’ of the whole of China. As a founding member of the UN, the Republic of China was a permanent member of the international organisation’s Security Council.

But then began the epoch of so-called detente, which was in fact a retreat by the West under pressure from the international communist system, marked by а series of betrayals of those who had fought for freedom and democracy. In 1971 the Republic of China was excluded from the United Nations and its place in the Security Council was given to the People’s Republic of China. This is the only instance, it seems, of the complete exclusion of a country from the UN. Beijing received the right of veto and along with the Soviet Union began to block many sensible initiatives for the resolution of international problems.

And so it continues to this day. China remains a totalitarian communist regime. Russia inherited the USSR’s place in the UN and now claims the Soviet ideological legacy as well. Both countries successfully paralyze the already meagre UN peacekeeping activities. The USSR had three votes in the UN: the USSR proper, Ukraine and Belorussia. They were considered as separate states, although it is not clear why the 50 American states, for example, were not then considered as separate States with UN representation.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the Western democracies pursued a bizarre and craven policy of concessions to communism. The consequences and, at times, the continuation, of this ruinous policy can still be seen today. Until recently the West invested heavily in Russia, keeping Putin’s regime afloat. They nurtured an authoritarian monster, turning a blind eye to human rights violations and the steady destruction of democratic institutions. All this has led to the de facto annexation of some of Russia’s neighbouring territories and war with Ukraine.

The West invests even more in the economy of communist China, in the same way turning a blind eye to the lack of democracy in the country and the political repression of dissenters. One would think the example of the unjustified economic support for authoritarian Russia and the resulting war with Ukraine might act as a warning to the free world that the same thing could happen in the near future with China. Is Taiwan destined to suffer the same fate as Ukraine? Perhaps tough sanctions should be imposed on Beijing now, without waiting for the start of a war between the two Chinas?

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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