Yes there is a ‘colonial project’ – China’s
Taiwan does not belong to the Middle Kingdom
2 July 2022
The Chinese Communist regime first denies to its people that its military killed demonstrators protesting peacefully in Tiananmen Square, at most referring to it as the ‘June fourth incident’. Now the same regime is preparing new textbooks for Hong Kong which deny the territory was ever a British colony. A report in the South China Morning Post states that the new textbooks have also ‘adopted the government’s account of the 2019 social unrest in Hong Kong, saying it was a threat to national security and external forces were behind the protests.’ The regime has also announced that English-language teachers will have to swear an oath of allegiance to the CCP’s security law, a move that many fear will result in an exodus of teachers.
One of the first actions of the CCP following its Hong Kong crackdown was to remove a statue commemorating the victims of the Tiananmen Square killings. The pattern is familiar: replace any inconvenient facts with a new narrative and repeat it continuously in propaganda. The strategy has been successful. Witness the unbelieving reaction of some young Chinese studying in Australia when confronted with evidence of the 1989 massacre. No doubt the regime hopes to erase in a similar manner any memory of the British rule of Hong Kong.
Contrary to China’s revisionist history, the Qing Dynasty formally ceded Hong Kong to Britain in an 1842 treaty. The territory was run by a British colonial administration. Many residents of Hong Kong retain British passports; many have sought to emigrate to the UK. Speaking at the handover on 1 July 1997, President Jiang Zemin spoke of ‘China’s resumption of the exercise of sovereignty of Hong Kong’ a clear expression of the colony’s former status. Some observers note that the new narrative is driven by the regime’s concern that under UN provisions, Hong Kong could claim independence as a former colony.
Not that the CCP worries too much about international law and UN treaties. The ink had hardly dried on my previous column in which I detailed the People’s Liberation Army warning about its redlines and President Xi’s inclusion of the China Sea in its territory, then the CCP asserted it owns the vast expanse of water known as the Taiwan Strait. A foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wendin, declared that the Taiwan Strait belongs to China. It is a claim that Chinese officials have been making privately for some time. As Beijing doesn’t recognise Taiwan, ‘China has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait,’ added the official. This approach supports Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. The US administration has rejected the claim, as it should.
The dubious claim is made on the basis of the so-called ‘nine dash line’ an obscure chart that the CCP has produced to assert its claims. These claims have already been rejected in a dispute about artificial islands that China has constructed. In a recent article, the former Dutch diplomat, Gerrit van der Wees, concluded that Beijing’s claim to Taiwan has ‘no historical basis, and second, historically speaking it is relatively recent.’ It was not a part of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). ‘The inhabitants [of Formosa] viewed the [subsequent] Qing Dynasty as very much a colonial regime and in no way saw themselves as “part of China”. It was not until 1887 that Taiwan was formally elevated to the status of “Province of China”, but that only lasted eight years – an inconvenient truth for Beijing.’ From 1895, the Japanese ruled the island, establishing the basis for its modern infrastructure. Under the Treaty of Shimonoseki that ended the war between Japan and the Qing over Taiwan, all Qing subjects had a two-year opportunity to decide to return to China or remain on the Island. Less than 10,000 people, of some 2.5 million, returned.
A seminal study of Taiwan’s history last century reveals that the leaders of the CCP consistently recognised the Taiwanese as a distinct ‘nation’ or ‘nationality’ (minzu). The ‘founding father’ of Taiwan Sun Yat-sen and the subsequent leader Chiang Kai-shek equated Taiwan to colonised Korea and Vietnam. Mao Zedong was quoted as saying in 1937 that ‘we will extend to them (the Koreans) our enthusiastic help in their struggle for independence. The same things applied for Taiwan.’
In reality, the People’s Republic of China has never controlled Taiwan, while the Republic of China, Taiwan relinquished its authority in the mainland after moving its capital to Taipei in 1949. Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui’s statement in 1999 on the ‘special state-to-state relationship’ may have surprised some, but it was no sudden policy shift or declaration of independence. ‘Only the implementation of a comprehensive democratic system, through the rule of law and transparent political processes will mutual trust be enhanced between the two sides,’ he said the year before. ‘And only democracy will ensure that both sides in fact honour their agreements and guarantees a win-win situation.’
The CCP rejects the rule of law, human rights and democracy. According to Xi, the West’s promotion of democracy has caused wars, chaos and human displacement around the world. In a recently released read-out of his remarks to a Politburo study session in February, Xi asserted that some Western nations ‘forcibly promote the concept and system of Western democracy and human rights… taking advantage of human rights issues to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.’ Xi neglects to note that Chinese scholar P.C. Chang was one of the architects of the United National Declaration of Human Rights.
As President Tsai Ing-wen has said, Taiwan does not need to declare its independence. The West must push back against the CCP’s historic distortions that serve their cause to control Taiwan. In the past two decades, especially under Xi Jinping, China has become the new imperial coloniser. Its actions in many parts of the world, ranging from Africa to the South Pacific, are evidence of this.
The history of colonisation reveals a familiar pattern. Military involvement usually follows economic exploitation, which results in political and military control. In the past few weeks, Xi Jinping, who is the Chairman of the Central Military Commission as well as Secretary-General of the Communist Party, signed off on 59 new articles. According to the regime’s mouthpiece the Global Times, these articles establish a legal basis within China for the PLA to ‘safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests.’ Significantly, the paper stated that ‘Chinese troops can prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard China’s overseas investments, projects and personnel.’ As I have previously warned, nations that allow Chinese money to determine their activities will find themselves colonies of the Middle Kingdom.
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