In Spectator World, Jaso Morgan explains his reasoning for assuming China is preparing a war for Taiwan. He writes:
This October, at the Twentieth National Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping was elected to a third term as chairman. “The New Mao” — so has rung the common refrain.
It’s an entirely accurate assessment. The very existence of the two-term-limit precedent that Xi has now broken was set in place by Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, in 1982. The reasoning behind the term limit was to prevent the cult-of-personality chaos that Mao and his sycophants had whipped up during his untrammeled, ruler-for-life tenure at the helm of the Chinese state. Deng wanted to make China rich enough so its citizens wouldn’t care that they were not free. To do that, he needed law and order, not proto-woke Red Guards beating up middle school teachers.
And to have law and order, Deng knew he needed to keep the political turnover in Beijing moving along at a healthy clip. No more maniac geezers like Mao hanging on until the country turned into a giant communist revival tent. Two terms and you’re done.
It worked for a while — until the rise of Xi. Xi came to power in the usual fashion — murder both judicial and extra-judicial, by hook and by crook. But he has played for keeps, and double-crossed the strongest in ways few have ever dared. Like others in his situation, Xi the tyrant realizes that to lose power, or even to appear to let it slip from his grasp momentarily, is to invite instant retaliatory assassination. He will hold the brass ring until rigor mortis sets in. Just like Mao did.
The romance of the Revolution
But Xi is like Mao in another way, too. Chinese politicians after Mao have been mainly Party Central types, interchangeable bureaucratic nobodies (with the exception of the loony Jiang Zemin). The historic destiny of the Chinese Communist Party? Ha. “The historic destiny of my Swiss bank account” was the driving factor for China’s elite after Mao and Deng. Not Xi, though. Xi is a romantic. He believes in socialism with Chinese characteristics. Believes in it so much that he’s willing to risk world war to see it spread over the earth as a soothing balm.
Xi, like Mao, wants the Revolution to continue. He wants to roll the Hegelian dice with his own hand. Marx and Lenin, rise from your graves and conquer! And so, hewing to the old-school CCP version of “history,” which claims that China is fated to undo all its past “humiliations” and return to the center of geopolitics, Xi all but lowered the green flag on the final grand battle that will make China great again: the invasion of Taiwan.
As if to signal that the days of business as usual, grift-grin-retire communism were over, during the Twentieth National Party Congress, Xi had former president Hu Jintao, now a distinguished-looking gentleman with silver streaks in his hair, escorted off the stage by Party goons. Xi looked Hu straight in the eyes, half ruthless and half bemused, as the old man was yanked away, surely never to appear in public again.
So long, Hu. Copacetic communists are anathema. Xi is in charge now. And he is steering the Chinese ship of state headlong toward the Revolution’s apocalyptic ending.
The irony of Taiwan
The CCP’s showdown with “history,” and the rest of the world’s showdown with the CCP, appears to be materializing over a smallish island tucked in the grand archipelagic arc comprising also the Philippines and Japan. In a 2021 speech in Beijing on the occasion of the centennial of the founding of the CCP, President Xi warned that anyone who tried to oppose China — the implications that Xi meant “over Taiwan” were unmistakable — would get their “heads bashed in bloody.” The man sounds dead serious.
Yes, no doubt Xi wants to “retake” Taiwan. The irony of Xi’s Ahab Quest is that Taiwan has never been a part of China. “China” today is a recapitulation of the old Qing Empire (which, to add irony to irony, was not Chinese but Manchurian). Tibet, East Turkestan, Mongolia, and Manchuria are in no historical sense remotely “Chinese.” Ditto for Taiwan, in which Qing officialdom evinced only desultory interest until 1854, when American Commodore Matthew C. Perry, fresh from his gunboat-treaty journey to Japan, showed interest of his own.
Not at all worth fighting a war with Western barbarians over a barbarian island, the Qing officials concluded. “Taiwan?” the Qing bureaucrats told Perry. “Wild tribes live there. We have no control over those people.”
The Qing disavowed Taiwan, and so Perry concluded a treaty with a Taiwanese aboriginal chief instead of with Beijing. But the remolding of CCP-style “history” has now reached a fever pitch, and so the documented history of Taiwan has been thrown by the wayside.
On October 20, as the Congress was in full swing, I spoke to Seki Hei, a naturalized Japanese citizen who left China after the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Seki now analyzes Chinese politics for the Japanese national daily Sankei Shimbun.
Seki made it clear that Taiwan was the crux of the deal which was struck to allow Xi Jinping a third term as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and President of the People’s Republic of China.
“There are quite a few people inside the CCP who are against Xi Jinping,” Seki said. “Xi won over those opposing voices and secured support for his third term by promising, among other things, to solve the Taiwan problem. Unification with Taiwan was the fundamental justification which Xi offered for the need to extend his rule for another term.
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