After Tsai Ing-wen won re-election as president of Taiwan, some Indian politicians congratulated her. Photo: AFP

A catastrophic storm is a storm that causes a lot of damage and is dangerous to human well-being. These are more than just heavy winds and flooding. They bring with them mishap and fiasco that tear cities to shreds, and consequences are extremely harsh in their severity, such as total loss of life.

What are the greatest threats to the cross-strait and Indo-Pacific security? It’s a Category 5 catastrophic storm in the Taiwan Strait.

Let me start with what’s been going on over the past few years in the Taiwan Strait. As part of the Indo-Pacific geopolitical sphere, the US-China-Taiwan trilateral relationship is intricate and complex; in the past few decades, there has been room for ambiguity and operations, as well as a peaceful, secure and stable trilateral relationship conforming to the interests of all parties.

However, since Tsai Ing-wen and Donald Trump became presidents, the trilateral relationship has undergone substantive changes.

The US-China confrontation continues to escalate, cross-Strait relations have deteriorated and the Tsai administration has manipulated the issues of sovereignty and national identity. Another Taiwan Strait crisis is seemingly looming.

Thinking that under the protective umbrella of the US, Taiwan’s people could sleep soundly at night, they must seriously ponder the possibility of a Category 5 hurricane. Next January’s presidential election will be the point of no return for Taiwan’s future. If Tsai continues in power and insists on the existing path, Taiwan will march towards the center of a Category 5 catastrophic storm.

The US-China-Taiwan trilateral relationship has never been an equilateral triangle – Taiwan is obviously the weakest side. The Tsai government, in order to manipulate its anti-China strategy, ferociously playing the “sovereignty card” and “security card,” it will eventually encounter devastating counter-attacks.

Earlier this year, Beijing announced “Xi’s Five Points”; the Tsai government seized the opportunity to emphasize that Beijing forcibly pushed for “one country, two systems,” claiming that it attempted to annex Taiwan.

Since June, the violent protests and demonstrations in Hong Kong have intensified. Both Beijing and opposition groups in Hong Kong have drawn their swords and arrows. The Tsai authorities have even seized the opportunity to spread Sinophobic sentiments among the people in Taiwan, creating a sense of crisis.

However, what China pursues is “reunification by consensus,” and not “unilateral annexation.” Taiwan’s true challenge is not being annexed, but whether it will be marginalized.

Annexation is the habitual rhetoric used by the Tsai government to scare the public. Regardless of the views held by the pro-reunification and pro-independence groups among the Taiwan people, the goal of Beijing’s pursuit of reunification will not change; with the increase of national strength, the pressure on reunification will become greater and greater.

If we see through this point, what the knowledgeable in Taiwan should do then is not to gradually go separate ways with China or to turn confrontational as foes, but to strive to overcome Sinophobic sentiments, especially daring to engage in negotiations with Beijing in order to seek the maximum rights and benefits for the people of Taiwan.

Taiwan’s true challenge is not being annexed or being another Hong Kong, but misjudging the situation and missing its opportunities.

The US, China and Taiwan have been playing this Go chess game for 40 years, the situation has overturned, but Taiwan from the very beginning has not been a party to move freely. To safeguard the nation’s sovereignty and dignity, Tsai should do her best in opting for the good and avoiding the evil, and not utilizing the pretext of defending to engage in provocations in order to make partisan gains.

In this electoral campaign, Tsai and DDP scramble to play the role of boxers, fighting to win votes of fury and dissatisfaction in the deteriorated cross-Strait relations. Would they have any thought to find a peace valve for the loss of dialogue and interchanges in future cross-Strait relations?

In facing US-China conflicts, Tsai is relying on external forces and a system of laws to structure cross-Strait relations of hostility, and using populist approaches and authoritarian politics to control people’s identity. From opening doors to closing them in cross-Strait relations, from democracy to dictatorship in politics, why has history made such twists and turns? Both sides have to self-reflect, and strive to reconstruct the underpinning conditions for peaceful coexistence, so as to overcome the crisis of continuously expanding ruptures.

The 23 million people in Taiwan pursue stability and peace, hoping to lead a better life, and this will never change. Stable cross-Strait relations are in conformity with Taiwan’s maximum interests. This must be the direction of popular will.

The so-called China annexing Taiwan is a fake issue created by the Tsai administration to cover up its ineffectual governance. Taiwan’s people must jump out of the trap of issues set by the Tsai government, thus Taiwan will be able to avoid a Category 5 storm in the Strait.

Kent Wang

Kent Wang is a research fellow at the Institute for Taiwan-America Studies (ITAS), a conservative Washington-based think-tank focusing on aspects of US-Taiwan relations, and is broadly interested in the United States-Taiwan-China trilateral equation, as well as in East Asian security architecture.

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