This article originally appeared at Anti-Media.
Next Wednesday, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will begin. The week-long event, during which President Xi Jinping will further cement his control of the government, comes at a pivotal time for the Asian superpower.
Countries in the region — and, indeed, much of the rest of the world — are increasingly looking to China for guidance. For years, in fact, the media has painted the image of China overtaking the United States as the dominant force on the planet.
As Anti-Media has previously observed, evidence suggests that under a freshly anointed Xi, a post-Congress China may be ready to fully embrace this role of world leader. An article from its state-run Xinhua News Agency last week, titled “China offers wisdom in global governance,” speaks directly to this shifting geopolitical tide.
But Anti-Media has also explored China’s glaring problem in the midst of all its power projection. As the country seeks to present a strong, unified front to the international community during the Congress — the “One China” it very much wants to be recognized — Hong Kong and Taiwan continue to push for independence.
On Tuesday, the president of Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway province, used a speech at the capital city of Taipei to, as Reuters wrote, “warn that the self-ruled island would not bow to pressure” from Beijing.
“Today, on our National Day, we should remember that democracy and freedom are rights that only came following the joint efforts of all Taiwanese people,” said President Tsai Ing-wen. “As a result, the government must make the utmost effort to safeguard Taiwan’s values of democracy and freedom, as well as our way of life.”
In the speech, which focused on her ideas for building a better Taiwan, Tsai says her administration is dedicated to improving the Taiwanese military. In doing so, the delicate line the leader must walk, even while holding her ground on the issue of self-determination, is clear to see:
“Although we are strengthening our military capabilities, we do not seek war. We remain committed to maintaining peace and stability both in the Taiwan Strait and across the region. Meanwhile, we will continue to safeguard Taiwan’s freedom, democracy, and way of life, as well as ensure the Taiwanese people’s right to decide our own future.”
Tsai went on to say that Taipei and Beijing have thus far been able to “maintain the basic stability of cross-strait relations” and that she hopes both sides can be “pragmatic and realistic” in future exchanges.
A large chunk of Tsai’s speech, however, was focused on how Taiwan is working to get as far out of China’s sphere of influence as possible — precisely what China doesn’t want. Specifically, Tsai discussed the New Southbound Policy (NSP), described by Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) on Wednesday:
“The NSP seeks to increase cooperation with Southeast Asian and South Asian countries, as well as New Zealand and Australia, as a means of reducing Taiwan’s trade and investment reliance on China.”
CNA was reporting on the fact that President Tsai just pledged to establish a $3.5 billion fund to assist countries involved in the NSP project. In her Tuesday speech, Tsai said flatly that the purpose of the NSP is to help Taiwan achieve a “more advantageous position in international society.”
It will be interesting, to say the least, to see what happens following the Party Congress. If a more forceful China decides to flex a little muscle, the stubbornly independent Taiwan could make for a very convenient target.