China’s “peaceful rise” in recent years has been marked by repeated instances of aggressive and unreasonable behavior, to the point that the foul language and spurious arguments spouted by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) apparatchiks do not even make more headline news.
However, several recent statements by senior CCP officials have been so absurd that they have raised eyebrows again, and even sparked international ridicule.
First, there was the remark by the Chinese Ambassador to the Qin Gang (秦剛) of the United States during a visit to Texas earlier this month that “Taiwan has been part of China for 1,800 years – 1,500 years before the founding of America”.
A new example of historical revisionism came to light last week when it was reported that the puppet government that Beijing had installed in Hong Kong was preparing new textbooks denying that the territory was once a British colony.
Last year, Beijing said it considered the South China Sea to be China’s “internal waters” and did not recognize the right of foreign ships to cross the sea.
Earlier this month, Beijing went even further, its officials reportedly telling US officials in a confidential setting that it does not consider the Taiwan Strait an international waterway.
Following Qin’s statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and state media such as the Xinhua News Agency attempted to provide historical justification for the ambassador’s claim by citing an obscure possible reference to Taiwan. in the History of the Three Kingdoms (三國志), written during the Jin dynasty in the year 289.
The book supposedly refers to Taiwan as “Yizhou” (夷洲, “land of the barbarians”), saying the term was in use during the Three Kingdoms period from 220 to 280.
However, it is impossible to verify whether “Yizhou”, or the later term “Liuqiu” (流求) of the Sui Dynasty (581-617), refers to Taiwan, the Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa, Japan) or another island in the South China Sea.
Moreover, it is hardly necessary to point out that just because an ancient Chinese text referred, for the purposes of argument, to “Taiwan”, does not mean that “Taiwan has belonged to China since Antiquity “.
It would be like Beijing proposing that “Cambodia has belonged to China since ancient times”, based on the existence of the Customs of Cambodia (真臘風土記), a written account of the stay of a Yuan dynasty official at Angkor between 1296 and 1297.
However, it should come as no surprise that the ambassador made this absurd claim.
Qin lacks the academic background or understanding of modern democratic societies that one would expect of a diplomat stationed in Washington, although he does have impeccable “wolf warrior” credentials.
Shortly after taking office, Qin told a US-China diplomatic meeting conducted by videoconference in July last year: “If we are not able to resolve our differences, then shut up. ‘please.”
Qin’s decidedly undiplomatic words and body language would have stunned the other attendees. His ahistorical spiel about Taiwan, expressed during a speech at the Asia Society Texas Center in Houston, exhibited an astonishing lack of self-awareness and turned China’s amateur historian ambassador into a laughing stock.
The CCP’s fantastical fabrications and illusions are not limited to ancient history. Recent history is also being enlisted by the party as a tool to advance its political goals in its attempt to deny Hong Kong’s British heritage.
The new manuals state that the UK “exercised colonial rule” over the territory – a distinction that amounts to claiming uninterrupted sovereignty over Hong Kong.
The state-run Hong Kong History Museum also removed its description of the territory’s former status as a British colony.
Preliminary excerpts from the new handbook posted online say colonial powers can simultaneously possess “local sovereignty” and “power to govern”, but the UK has only exercised the latter and not the former over Hong Kong.
The CCP calls the Opium War treaties that ceded Hong Kong to the UK “unequal” and says China never gave up the territory.
However, Article 1 of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration states: “The Government of the People’s Republic of China declares that in order to recover the area of Hong Kong…it has resolved to resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong with effect from 1 July 1997.”
Article 2 reads: “The Government of the United Kingdom declares that it will return Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China with effect from 1 July 1997.”
The statement uses the phrase “resume exercise of sovereignty”, implying that China has ceded sovereignty to Britain, and says the UK will “restore” the territory to China, meaning a transfer.
Beijing’s case is further weakened by the fact that the UN has called Hong Kong a colony since 1972.
The modus operandi constantly employed by the CCP is to set the tone and characterize people, places and events according to the political need of the day, to act on the identified political need and to add a propaganda offensive to rationalize the actions of the party and achieve its goals.
To ensure Hong Kongers can never again attempt to claim the right to self-determination, the CCP must demonstrate that the territory has always been part of China and never a British colony. To achieve this goal, he calls Hong Kong’s 2019 anti-extradition law movement “violent terrorist activity” whose participants must be tracked down.
Beijing plays the same trick in maritime disputes. To bolster Beijing’s regional territorial claims, including on Taiwan, the CCP reframes the South China Sea as China’s internal waters and repudiates the status of the Taiwan Strait as international waters.
Facts are always twisted by the CCP to fit its political imperatives.
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines “internal waters” as the sovereign territory of the nation-state in which they are located. A nation state has complete legal jurisdiction over the internal waters within its borders and is therefore not required to allow the passage of foreign vessels.
The South China Sea is a strategically important waterway and a vitally important international shipping route, and it contains abundant seabed resources.
From Japan’s perspective, it is a maritime lifeline on which its economy relies. The disastrous consequences for Japan of Beijing’s maritime claims are easy to foresee. Tokyo presented a diplomatic note to the UN rejecting China’s claims and denouncing its efforts to limit freedom of navigation and overflight.
Additionally, Beijing broke its public assurances over land reclamation and offshore island-building activities, ignored a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in favor of the Philippines over its dispute. maritime with Manila, and continues to assert a maximalist territory. claims, citing the baseless “nine-dash line”.
Beijing has practically turned the South China Sea into an inland waterway and militarized it through a salami-cutting process.
The international community must stop tolerating Beijing’s wild territorial ambitions before it is too late. Leniency and appeasement only serve to further whet China’s appetite.
Emboldened by the international community’s lack of reaction to its actions in the South China Sea, Beijing has upped the ante and advanced a new claim – that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway.
The goal is the same. Beijing is seeking to turn the strait into China’s inland waterway, which would give Beijing the ‘right’ to block US and other foreign navy vessels from conducting freedom of navigation operations, and open the way for an amphibious invasion of Taiwan.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has refused to accept Beijing’s baseless claim over the Taiwan Strait and is formulating countermeasures.
As Taiwan would bear the brunt of a successful “inlandization” of the strait, the government must define the threat as a major national security challenge and formulate an appropriate response.
With the Taiwan Strait, Beijing is following the well-rehearsed and bold strategy of launching a slogan – “the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway” – developing the slogan into a treaty, then taking overt and secret.
Beijing then observes the international response to its actions and, based on what it sees, decides whether to press ahead or stand firm.
The CCP adheres to the “Big Lie Theory” championed by German Nazi Party chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels: “If you tell a big enough lie and repeat it over and over again, people will eventually believe it. »
The CCP also channels Napoleon Bonaparte’s maxim that “history is a set of agreed lies”.
The Chinese Ambassador’s fabricated historical claim to Taiwan and Beijing’s revisionist stance on the Taiwan Strait represent an escalation of its cognitive warfare strategy against Taipei.
Taiwan should not underestimate the significance of Beijing’s most recent assault on reality and its promotion of a new “big lie.”
Translated by Edward Jones
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