Per the 1972 Joint communiqué establishing official relations with the People’s Republic of ChinaAustralia “recognizes the Government of [PRC] as the sole legal government of China”, but “only recognizes the position of the Chinese government that Taiwan is a province of the PRC”.
Accordingly, Australia has never supported the Chinese government’s position that Taiwan is part of the PRC. Like Australia, many other countries around the world recognize the PRC government but also refuse to adopt Beijing’s view that Taiwan is part of China.
The ambassador’s misrepresentation may seem like an obscure affair of diplomatic phraseology. But the grim reality is that if these Chinese government deceptions prevail, Taiwan’s liberal democracy and the rights and freedoms of its 24 million people could suffer monstrous consequences.
China wants to make its control of Taiwan a fait accompli by convincing the world to accept its view that the island is rightly a province of the PRC and should be so in practice. In order to implement its preferred view of Taiwan, China also wants the world’s relations with the island to conform to the terms of the Chinese Communist Party.
China wants Taiwan expelled from international organizations. She does not want to involve the Taiwanese economy in multilateral free trade agreements. She wants lawmakers from around the world to stay away from Taipei. And she wants governments to end key aspects of their unofficial engagement with Taiwan, including restricting their economic cooperation with the island.
The ambassador’s comment is therefore not just a simple statement of the Chinese government’s position on Taiwan, it is part of a determined global effort to shape the world’s understanding of Taiwan and limit disputes over the island.
But Australia need not stand idly by as China seeks to isolate Taiwan and persuade the world to accept its eventual authoritarian rule over the island. The Albanian government should lead by example and deepen its ties with Taiwan.
Australia was set to resume free trade deal negotiations with Taiwan, which Canberra broke up under pressure from Beijing during the Turnbull administration. Canberra should also support Taipei’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
As Taiwan is a reliable trading partner and one of Australia’s top ten export destinations, these measures would bring tangible economic benefits to our exporters. The Australian public and the wider world would see that deepening ties with Taiwan in economic and other areas is perfectly compatible with upholding a one-China policy.
The Chinese government would object to such moves. However, Beijing is unlikely to cut off trade and diplomatic taps with Canberra again as they are enthusiastic about restoring ties with Australia.
China has already launched its campaign to annex Taiwan. But the battle for Taiwan will not be fought with bullets and bombs just yet. China is waging war on Taiwan’s de facto independence with words like the Chinese ambassador’s opinion piece.
Regardless of nuclear submarines, Australia and its allies and partners will not be able to protect Taiwan if China leads the world to believe that the countries are already committed to Beijing’s position that the island is simply a province of the PRC is.
Australians should remain vigilant to this type of disinformation from the Chinese government. The dissemination of these untruths threatens the survival of one of the world’s great liberal democracies.
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