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Communist China

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Taiwan Election 2020

“Over the past few years, China’s diplomatic offensives, military coercion, interference and infiltration have continued unabated,” said Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on New Year’s Day, as the January 11th election neared. “China’s objective is clear: to force Taiwan to compromise our sovereignty.” But every leader of her Democratic People’s Party (DPP) has always said that.

“Moreover, at the beginning of last year China’s President Xi Jinping proposed the one country, two systems model for Taiwan,” Tsai continued, as though it were some new horror. But every leader of Communist China since Deng Xiao-ping has promoted the one-country, two-system model. What’s new here?

What’s new is that a year ago Tsai Ing-wen was universally seen as doomed to lose this election, but now she’s expected to win it hands down – and the reason is that Hong Kong, the territory for which the one-country-two-systems formula was originally invented, has been engulfed by chaotic and increasingly violent protests against Beijing for the past seven months.

The protests are driven by the belief of most Hong Kongers that the mainland Chinese regime is cheating on that sacred formula. When Britain returned its Hong Kong colony to Beijing’s rule in 1997, the two parties agreed that, for fifty years, the prosperous city-state could keep its existing more-or-less democratic system, including free speech, independent courts, and the full panoply of human rights.

Taiwan was promised the same terms if only it would ‘reunite with the motherland’. But early last year, only 23 years into the 50-year deal, Beijing forced the Hong Kong government to introduce a law making it possible to extradite Hong Kongers to face trial in mainland courts. And Hong Kong, so peaceful for so long, blew up in Beijing’s face.

Chinese Communist courts have a 99.9% conviction rate and the police have a record of extorting confessions or manufacturing evidence. Hong Kongers saw the new law as a direct assault on their freedoms, and although the proposal was eventually dropped by a frightened HK government, the demonstrations have continued and intensified.

Now the protesters are demanding full democracy. They will never get that in Hong Kong, ‘two systems’ or not, because those ideas might then spread to the rest of China and undermine the Communist monopoly of power. Whereas the people of Taiwan have already had democracy for three decades, and they don’t want to lose it.

China is a monolithic, authoritarian surveillance state of 1.4 billion people, but just 130 km off its east coast 26 million Chinese people live in a society as democratic (and sometimes as turbulent) as Italy or the United States. Moreover, they have three times the per capita income of mainlanders. And the harder Beijing tries to gather Taiwan into the fold, the greater the support for Tsai’s pro-independence DPP.

Exactly one year ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that Beijing “makes no promise to renounce the use of force and reserves the option of taking all necessary means” to achieve unification and implement “one country, two systems” in Taiwan. That was when Tsai began her electoral come-back: from thirty points behind the opposition Nationalist Party (KMT) then to twenty points ahead now.

The KMT was the ruling party that came out of the 1911 revolution that ended several thousand years of imperial rule in China. However, it lost a long civil war against the Communists in 1949, and at least a million of its senior members and its troops withdrew to Taiwan (which they ran as a dictatorship) to plan a comeback.

The KMT insisted it was still the legitimate government of all China, but the comeback never happened. By 1996, after a decade of reforms, it lost Taiwan’s first fully free election to the pro-independence DPP, and the two parties have alternated in power ever since.

The curious thing, however, is that neither party ever really comes down off the fence. The DPP never says outright that it would like to make Taiwan a separate and independent country. And the KMT never says that it would accept reunification under the ‘one-country, two-systems’ formula, just that it would like closer relations with the mainland.

That’s because the electorate would never vote for reunification with a Communist-ruled China, but Beijing would invade rather than allow Taiwan to declare independence. A recent opinion poll showed that 85% of all Taiwanese voters support either the status quo or a declaration of independence, while only 6% want reunification with China

There are other, mostly domestic issues in Taiwan politics, which is why the KMT sometimes wins, but whenever the main question is reunification with China the DPP wins easily. That’s why Tsai Ing-wen will win the election next Saturday: nobody in Taiwan can ignore what is happening in Hong Kong.
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To shorten to 700 words, omit paragraphs 10 and 11. (“The KMT…since”)

Communist Takeover in Nepal

The Communists are taking over in Nepal, and nobody cares. Thirty years ago it would have caused a grave international crisis; fifty years ago there would even have been talk of foreign military intervention. Today – nothing. Outside Nepal, it has barely made the news at all.

In the grand old Marxist tradition, Nepal’s Communists have split and split again over fine points of doctrine and strategy. Recently, however, the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) managed to form an electoral alliance that swept the recent national elections, the first since 1999.

Various Communist leaders have held office in the revolving-door coalitions, none lasting much more than a year, that have governed Nepal since it began its democratic transition a dozen years ago, but you couldn’t truthfully have said that ‘the Communists are in power.’

Now you really can say it. The CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) ran a single joint candidate in every constituency in Nepal, and won two-thirds of the seats (174 out of 275). The two parties are pledged to unite within six months, and they will form a government without non-Communist members that will rule Nepal, if all goes well, for the next five years.

They are real Communists, too, unlike the namby-pamby ‘Eurocommunists’ who sought popular support in Western Europe by disavowing violent revolution in the final decade before the collapse of Communist power in Eastern Europe in 1989-91. Nepal’s Communists fought a ten-year ‘revolutionary’ guerilla war that killed 17,000 people before a ceasefire was signed in 2006 and the democratic transition began.

Nepal is not some tiny, irrelevant backwater. It is a country with more people than Australia (although much less land or money), and it takes up half of the Himalayan border between China and India. In the self-serving definition of the world’s think-tanks and ‘strategic studies institutes’, it is important strategic territory. Yet Washington doesn’t really care that the Communists are taking over, and neither does Moscow.

New Delhi and Beijing care a little bit, because of their inevitable rivalry as Asia’s and the world’s two biggest countries (1.3 billion people each). Both see their relations with Nepal as a zero-sum game, and India’s traditionally dominant influence there (all Nepalis live on the Indian side of the Himalayas) is threatened by the presumed preference of Nepalese Communists for fellow Communists in China.

But the lights are not burning late either in South Block or in Chaoyang. The fact of the matter is that Communists coming to power in Nepal in 2018 makes no more difference to the rest of the world than Communists coming to power in South Vietnam did in 1975.

Well, you knew where I was going with this, didn’t you? South Vietnam had about the same number of people in 1975 as Nepal does now, and it was just as ‘strategic’ – which is to say, not very strategic at all.

When the Communists won in the South and reunified Vietnam, it may even have changed the lives of most South Vietnamese for the better, although that depends on what you mean by ‘better’. It certainly didn’t change anybody’s domestic policies elsewhere in Southeast Asia, or change the calculations of the major powers in any way.

You can’t even blame the Cambodian genocide on the Communist victory in South Vietnam. Cambodia, like Vietnam, was likely to end up under Communist rule anyway, because it had also been part of French Indo-China and it was the Communists who led the anti-colonial resistance.

But it was Henry Kissinger’s savage and illegal bombing campaign in Cambodia, not the war in Vietnam, that turned the Khmer Rouge into genocidal monsters. And it was the Vietnamese Communists who finally invaded Cambodia in 1978 and put an end to the genocide.

The whole Vietnam War, which killed 55,000 American soldiers and about three million Vietnamese, was founded on the delusion that there was a monolithic Communist bloc that threatened ‘freedom’ all over the world. (‘If we lose in Vietnam, California will be next’.)

Certainly there were Communist fanatics who dreamed of spreading their ideology (which prioritised equality over freedom) all over the world, but the reality was geopolitics as usual. The Soviet Union and Communist China fought a border war in 1969 to demonstrate that fact, and for slow learners Communist China and Communist Vietnam fought their own border war in 1979 to drive the lesson home.

Now, mercifully, the ‘domino theory’ is dead (or at least dormant), and the arrival of Communists in power in Nepal through entirely legal and democratic means is causing no panic whatever. Whether their new government will serve the Nepalese well remains to be seen, but Nepal’s Communists are publicly committed to respecting the rules of parliamentary democracy, and a majority of Nepalese clearly believe them.
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To shorten to 700 words, omit paragraphs 11 and 12. (“You…genocide”)