I write from Taipei, in Taiwan. I am speaking at and chairing a portion of the East Asia Peace Forum, the purpose of which is discussing and exploring peace in East Asia and the possible neutrality of Taiwan.
Three hundred people are participating, fifty of them from overseas and neighbouring countries, many of them parliamentarians and very senior academics. Sherry Chen, the first South African MP of Chinese descent and her husband, Vincent Lin and I are the only Africans.
The Taipei Times headline today was: “Beijing shake-up to result in increased restrictions,” foreshadowing stronger Chinese action against Taiwan. China is adamant that Taiwan is not an independent country; Taiwan is a province of China. It applies constant pressure, saying Taiwan is not independent and never will be.
Taiwan states it is an independent entity, a nation of nearly 25 million people, with the world’s 22nd largest GDP, entitled to recognition as such. Taiwan was recognised by most of the world until President Nixon and Secretary Kissinger decided to bring China into the power equation by moving closer to both Russia and China than those were to each other. Thereafter, most of the world recognised China that imposed its One China policy, with Taiwan no longer able to maintain official diplomatic ties with most of the world. Taiwan is mainly served by interest offices or trade offices in most countries. South Africa, under Mandela, followed suit in the late 1990s.
For all the years, an uneasy peace continued between China and Taiwan, with China prepared to tolerate Taiwan’s existence – provided it did not seek to declare independence, and with the USA effectively guaranteeing Taiwan’s existence.
American hegemony in the Pacific is under attack. The so-called Pax Pacifica, described by Harvard’s Professor Graham Allison, existing after the Allied victory in World War II, is no longer unchallenged. Pax Pacifica provided the security and economic framework within which Asian countries have produced the most rapid economic growth in the world.