By Robert Macklin
One of the joys of our little Tuross bolthole is that while all the world might be going to pot, this little piece of paradise will remain untouched, an island of calm in a troubled sea.
However, in the last week we’ve been reminded of that other, more harsh and angry world outside as each day an RAAF fighter plane screams up and down the coast at fairly low altitude and from the big Naval Base at Jervis Bay; and the headlines in the paper cry ‘war drums’ over the Chinese determination to return Taiwan to the Motherland.
Theoretically, this shouldn’t be a problem. Our Government’s official policy is that of ‘One China’ that incorporates the province of Taiwan. Indeed, in my 2017 book, Dragon and Kangaroo – Australia and China’s shared history, I documented the rambunctious past of Taiwan from its role as a sanctuary for the fleeing Ming dynasty princes when the invading Manchus overwhelmed them and established the Qing Dynasty in 1644.
Then in 1895 when China lost a war to Japan over the colonisation of Korea, the reparations included China passing Taiwan to the Japanese. Japan held it until they lost World War II and when Chiang Kai-shek lost the subsequent civil war, he followed the Ming princes to refuge in Taiwan. Now China wants it back and officially that’s fine with us.
Ah, if it were all that simple!
Trouble is, in the 76 years since 1945 America has embraced world leadership with all the religious ardour of an evangelical Pentecostal; and China is under the control of a new dynasty of godless communists with emperor Xi Jinping determined to return Taiwan to the fold. And most of the Taiwanese population much prefer the status quo.
Assisted by Covid-19, Xi has already engulfed Hong Kong without much protest from the US. And he’s militarised a base in the South China Sea that would make life difficult for a US naval force to defend the island. Moreover President Joe Biden is much more concerned with rebuilding America than fighting a war with China over the disputed province.
However, according to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman – who has great sources in the White House and Pentagon - there’s another reason to resist a Beijing takeover. Taiwan, it seems, is leading the world – with America – in developing the microchips that hold the key to future domination of our cyberworld. China itself is 10 years behind – but if they took over Taiwan, suddenly they’d be at the forefront of the battle for world leadership.
So, what of Australia?
Well, under the government of Scott Morrison, godless communism is anathema. Indeed, he recently spoke of ‘the evil one’ stalking the world from a Pentecostal pulpit. And it was he, you’ll remember, whose public demand for an inquiry into the real source of Covid-19 started China on a trade war against Australian wine, barley and other exports that keep us internationally solvent. So inflammatory had his colleagues become that even John Howard had to step in with pointed advice to tone down the rhetoric.
How will it all pan out? My guess is that with a wise man in the White House, sanity will prevail. After a big diplomatic kerfuffle, a peace plan will guide an eventual incorporation of the province. Xi will pass like all his forebears; the Chinese people will demand freedom; a new dynasty will arise and that fighter plane will wave its wings of happiness as it zooms up the coast.