What do China’s actions in Hong Kong spell for Taiwan?

EVENT TRANSCRIPT: What do China’s actions in Hong Kong spell for Taiwan?

DATE: 10am, 29 September 2021

VENUE: Online

SPEAKERS: Dr I-Chung Lai, Xiani Perez-Cheng, Alexander Gorlach, Samuel Armstrong

EVENT MODERATOR: Samuel Armstrong


Samuel Armstrong  00:07

Well, good morning, good evening, good afternoon, depending on where in the world you are, I know we’re bridging a series of timezones here. As I mentioned, we’re delighted to be having a discussion about what the China’s actions in Hong Kong spell for Taiwan, I can’t remember a period in the world in which basic assumptions of international law the rules based order have been more and more challenged by authoritarian states, globally, but the China and by which I mean his leadership, the Chinese Communist Party specifically. Now joining us to discuss this today at the Henry Jackson society are a stellar panel. First up, we will have up Dr. Lai. Dr. Lai is  a visiting researcher at Cornell, he’s executive director to the mission the United States and the Democratic Progressive Party. He’s also president of the prospect foundation occur a Taiwanese think tank and political foundation. We’re also joined by Dr. Alexander Gorlach. Alexander is a linguist. He’s a theologian. He’s an author, I think he’s, he’s the very definition of modern day polymath. What he can’t do I looking back at his back catalogue, I don’t know. And I will introduce his two latest books at the end, both of which I think, feed into this very topic. And then we also have joining us Xiani Perez-Cheng, who is at the Institute for statecraft and she’s formally at the University of Salamanca. And there she attracted what I think is the the highest honor of all for anybody working in in this field, which is the direct and focused ire of the local Chinese Embassy, who objected to her work in, in recognizing basic facts that I think many of us here would share about Taiwan is right to existences right to live a peaceful and an orderly nation status as an independent Island State. But perhaps I could kick us off with Dr. Lai. Dr. Lai, maybe you could start by addressing this topic of what you think China’s actions in Hong Kong what they mean for. For Taiwan?


Dr I-Chung Lai  02:46

Yeah, thank you. I think the thanks for inviting me to join this webinar, business conversations. The people here in Taiwan, we watch the development in Hong Kong very closely. And 20 years, the Chinese Communist Party’s action on Hong Kong has a tremendous implication for Taiwan. I think the first the first, first one everyone noticed in Taiwan is that with the outright objection of the International commitment, China has a seal in his was the United Kingdom united in 1984. Which means that right now, it seems that China, but everything goes, then a lot of the past assumption about the the Chinese policy on Taiwan, like there’s a certain limit that the China will not cross unless they’re pushed off. And then the or the issue about the peaceful invocation would not be there. I think right now that it seems that the Chinese, no one really knows what the so called the Chinese button nine is, and how does that mean that they will be the so called cross the Chinese, the threshold, and we said, recent development across the Taiwan straits, that according to our Minister of National Defense, that the Chinese fighter jets actually cross the midline and demonstrates for a number this year alone for for a number record about like a closing 250 times. And the they have a more and more sophisticated military assets deployed, whether they directly cross or even near the total water of Taiwan. Those are the records high and we never seen that before from year 2016 all the way to years. 19. So the the issue is that it the the Chinese action on Hong Kong actually ended up with a great deal of uncertainty about the across rate stabilities and the issue about the status This actually means that many of the past modus operandi, that seems does not no one really knows what Chinese is thinking about. And the only thing that China would like to push forward on probably only did a total surrender of Taiwan, that is, at least among the many people in Taiwan they thought about and an add on to the the newer development. That is the Chinese Ministry of National Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they announced the they will not recognize the mainland Taiwan straits. And then later on the I think about October 8, another episode about the Chinese diplomats in foreign countries actually pushed and beaten and our foreign service officers in that respective countries. And later on the Chinese mofa even announced that they would not recognize the the Taiwan diplomat and so that the the physical assault is not actually a diplomatic incident, so to speak. So with the, with the the newer developments associated with the the passage of the national security law in Hong Kong, and actually the one on Taiwan is that the more and more aggressive and some of the even result of physical violence and on actions on Taiwan, then that is an add up to the huge uncertainty here about our prediction and our working assumption about the stability.


Samuel Armstrong  06:46

Thank you very much. Dr. Lai. Xiani, perhaps I can come to you if if I may. Do you think it’s a it’s a coincidence that we see an increase in China’s rhetoric on Hong Kong its actions in in Fiji and elsewhere around and the sort of scale of harassment around the world? I think it’s a coincidence that that comes so soon after its actions in in Hong Kong.


Xiani Perez-Cheng  07:19

Um, the way I said I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think it’s we are seeing more of an encroachment of, of China in an encroachment and regional encroachment of China, in in in Asia. And it just started in Hong Kong and well, for Taiwan, a Taiwanese, the for China, Taiwan is like the jewel of the crown from China’s perspective. And because they also have they have the Chinese in Chinese constitution that Taiwan must be reunited must be retaken. So for them is in the the war in the US in the constitution is that the reuniting of the Taiwan and the mainland, is a sacred accomplishment for all the the Chinese people. So it’s more like for for China’s regimes more like religious, religious, even a religious dogma. So I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I don’t think it’s a coincidence because it’s been in for Taiwan perspective is been in the longtime goal for China. And I think it’s right now is aligning for China is a strategy that is aligning considering the current world situation that we’ve been suffering for pandemics. And most of the democracies around the world. We’ve been suffering for eight and we are not capable of managing is us successfully reported for from China. And right now, I think that China is taking advantage of these narrative.


Samuel Armstrong  09:50

Very interesting. Indeed. Alexander, perhaps I can turn to you now and pick up on that. We’ve seen a tie Have more global uncertainty than ever before. China rather than calming that down, it appears at least to an external observer to be to be fueling that, I wonder is as well as touching on what you think it means for Taiwan? What do you think these recent actions his recent escalation means for the world at large? Where is this all going for us?


Alexander Gorlach  10:30

I feel like at first for Taiwan, it’s, it’s, it’s on the center stage of global politics. Now, there has been a very forward op-ed the other day, saying that if there were ever a territory in the world, a piece of land that the United States and the People’s Republic of China would go to war over that will be Taiwan, because there is a guarantee of security for Taiwan, who for whatever, exactly, in the end, it might mean, there is no clarity about the extent of this guarantee as the the alliance between Taiwan and America was forged at a time when the People’s Republic was indeed much weaker than Taiwan in military and economic census and turps so but however, now is on the center stage. And that also means for Taiwan’s foreign policy and diplomacy in to act accordingly, I feel during the pandemic, Taiwan did a lot to live up to this new standard of being at the center stage of politics. However, I I’d say there is a there needs to be a growing house a growing aspiration and a growing recognition on both ends the free world and  Taiwan, that we indeed form a an alliance, a league of democracies in which we are bound and held together by friendship, and this friendship rests on the common notion of human rights. And what we see in shinjang, in Inner Mongolia, in Hong Kong, and also towards Taiwan, clearly indicates that China’s politics, Chinese ideology is diverting largely from the international consensus of civilized nations. What happens to change into the Muslims in Xinjiang is an it’s not an outward disgrace. And it’s also like it caused the international community to, to counter China’s actions. And it’s like not, because it’s not to be taken lightly. And as a chairman, I know exactly that rounding up a minority on based on their religion or their ethnicity might very quickly lead into a genocide. And there are several definitions of genocide and the cultural genocide we have been seeing in Tibet already, is now being repeated in Xinjiang. And there is no reason to believe that it’s not been repeated in Inner Mongolia. And it’s, in fact, all. Sometimes it’s, it sounds too easy to blame this on one person. But Xi Jinping is the personification of this term in politics in China, and he’s not alone. And that we have this in Russia and in, in Turkey in other parts of the world, Brazil to a certain extent to where the strong men policies lead to new ethno nationalism. And that’s that’s what happened, what’s happening in in China at the moment, Taiwan seems to be exempt to a certain extent, because the people coming from the mainland in 1947, and nine, were also Han Chinese. So the narrative here is not an ethnic one. It’s more like the crown jewel kind of thing to what was just mentioned before, who’s to say like, we want Taiwan back, and we want to sub to Taiwan. This might not be in the form reasons of ethnicity. But another one, as I mentioned, that we are in a league of democracies bound by friendship based on human rights. It’s clearly the most troubling for Xi Jinping that while he is traveling the world and saying, you know, democracy, that’s something for you guys in the West because of whatever playdough and Christianity and all these kinds of things, but we in the east, we can’t do it simply. We agree, we aim for socialism with Chinese characteristics. But then there is 23 million Taiwanese, excuse me 23 million Taiwanese offshore of the mainland of China exercising a vital liberal democracy, having Free Press and showing like public discourses, elections, all these kinds of things, which of course, has to travel Mr. Xi, because they just live, but the whole of China could be one day, and I met them a while ago chose the food the foreign minister of Taiwan. And I said to him, so in your constitution, it’s still like the aim of the reunification with the mainland. So how are we gonna? How is this going to happen? And who said to me like when China is a democracy, and that was powerful, because that is like bold, but bold in a very good way. We have to see like, Mr. Xi once taught the People’s Republic to be more like a grand North Korea. But that’s not going to happen. The Chinese are traveling everywhere in the world, they have communities everywhere in the world. And education is highly regarded. So people study abroad. So there is always an influx of Western ideas. And there’s always an influx of alternatives. So you cannot like look up and round up like 1.4 billion people. I mean, this is the bed mister she’s on now she’s saying like by surveillance measures, we, we ensure that this rain this realm is not going to fall apart like other Chinese empires have before. But But I want to say by this is that like, of course, there is a big chance that China will overthrow the Chinese people might overthrow this sort of dictatorship by one party just because they did that in the past too. And the example of Taiwan is so shining in that sense that of course, It’s troublesome for Beijing, to let the Taiwanese just do what they want. This is the good always say like, Oh, look, I mean, this is like the tiny island, we don’t care. But they do, because it’s a major ideological threat to Xi’s narrative that he tries to deploy all over the world.


Samuel Armstrong  16:03

Well, thank you so much for that, Alexander. That was that was it truly was brilliant. I wonder if I can come back to you Dr. Lai, if I if I might, and pick up on this point of a league of democracies bound by common friendship and common values, and particularly human rights. And I thought it was very striking that this is global campaign at the moment about save Hong Kong youths, all of whom fled Hong Kong, they’re all democracy activists, as far as everyone’s aware that there were peaceful activists, I knew one of them. I knew him to be an exceptional young man of great character, immense peace. But they were fleeing from Hong Kong, to Taiwan. And I wonder if there is, if there is something striking in that is, is, is Taiwan the sort of last refuge of hope? Is it? Is it the last remaining candle a flicker of, of hope for democracy in China?  Does Taiwan take on renewed importance for the world because of that? Does the world have to up its support for Taiwan to keep that flame alive?


Dr I-Chung Lai  17:24

No, I think the this is a very interesting and very vital questions and also linked with the holly Alex just said earlier. When we talk about the Chinese, the feeling, and especially Frankie Jinping, he wanted to push for a new form of international order, based on what the Chinese perception regarding the how the world should, should be like, so that she didn’t mean the year 2018 push forward in the United Nation, about the common human communities, the sort of thing in which he prioritize the development over the human rights and freedom. And, interestingly enough for Xi Jinping to be able to really push forward to be the champion of the so called the new international concept with new international order. He needs to sort of re reunite all the he called the Chinese all together in one happy family community as a base to push forward for that concept. And Hong Kong and Taiwan are sort of the outliers. Hong Kong has been westernized for about over like 140, some years, and Taiwan has been in a functional democracy for a good number of several decades. And so that, for both of them, that unification with Hong Kong, or they have more control over Hong Kong, and the unification of Taiwan, on take a higher emergency, because those two societies are countries that have been flying away. And they are standing in contrast directly to challenge as she did his notion about the common human destiny karma human community that he wants to push forward and a priority and price. This is why Chinese could contribute to this whole world. So that I believe when there are a lot of political analysis regarding why right now the China want to push forward about the new national security law and the why China right now is actually up the ante in terms of the military harassment against Taiwan. But I think the underneath the issue about how the Taiwan in Hong Kong to a certain extent, challenge or show the differences that the Chinese community could actually have a different expectations. That’s the end As a direct challenge to us, you mean domestically, and that he needs to eliminate both of them so that he first go after Hong Kong. And then he has a high higher intensities to try to coerce Taiwan braintower into, into such an orbit. So, so going, so if we wrap the episode together, right now, the issue about Taiwan take the very interesting term that is, as the competition, the so called new Cold War between the China and probably democracy takes on more of the ideological struggles, the more the higher priority. And more important for Taiwan is to Chinese, they want it to absorb Taiwan in in order to, to prevent the kind of alternative existence for the so called greater Chinese communities that the Xi Jinping feel that this is such a threat to his own legitimacy.


Samuel Armstrong  21:05

Yes, I wonder if I can, if I can turn to Xiani in a second and ask about these greater Chinese communities that Xi Jinping seizes. I’m struck by China’s actions over the weekend. For those that don’t know. A group of Chinese diplomats assaulted a group of Taiwanese diplomats, because China doesn’t recognize them. But nevertheless, diplomats in Fiji and having been caught out having you know, been widely condemned, the response to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in in Beijing was to boast to thrive to enjoy it. We’ve seen over a long time a, a phenomenon in in the west of Hong Kong students facing or feeling in any event at scrutiny by their Chinese classmates, that they are perhaps being monitored or watched. Are we likely to see an increase in harassment of Taiwanese students of of those in the west on university campuses that, that speak out about Taiwan in a way that is not necessarily as friendly to Beijing as it would like?


Xiani Perez-Cheng  22:27

Well, it started from this Fiji incident. Actually, I think this is very illustrative of how China is operating in this said call wolf diplomacy. And because it’s the way I understand that the the incident went is that the Taiwanese representatives in Fiji, they try to well, they organised a celebration for the double 10 in a hotel. And they, of course, in the in that hotel, they they have the ROC flag, an event on our ROCA theme cake. And the thing that strikes me that is during the press conference of the support person for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in in China the day that they underlined the say that at that hotel, there was an illegal flag. And that illegal flag was sported in the cake. The interviews that they were offended by the cake is kind of a bit this, this pettiness, this kind of pettiness from the from China is it’s like the hilarious I mean, here. We see it isn’t. Okay. The focus point is they were offended by a cake. And we can see, okay, we laugh at the incident, but we can see that the seriousness is behind it. And Is that a yes. I think that this say China’s aggressive diplomacy is going around the globe. And it also predates on the weakness of each country’s so and I think that China This propaganda adapts to each country very well. For example, in in a Spain’s situations, because Spanish also have a territorial issues that Catalonia, like durotar in any way back then in the time we say, Northern Africa. And I think, from my perspective, I think it China predates on these situations and adopts a propaganda for each country’s situations. And it’s up to us in to us in democratic countries to stand up to China’s say in it. Again, I’m, I’m pointing out Spain’s situation is particularly to Catalonia. And I think that when China tries to point out that Taiwan problem is a territorial issue concerning just domestic problems like that a Catalonia issue. I think we have to fight this kind of narrative, this kind of narrative because, ah, is completely different is because different steps in point, the strain is a democratic country. China is not Spain does have a constitutional arrangement for each regions. China does not China actually the same as Dr. Lai pointed, it seems that for China, the only way for is to claim past what they what they perceive or China’s perceive as a front territorial affirmance like China cannot walk go forward. Okay. Not modernize it. Don’t they don’t reclaim chat. He didn’t reclaim Taiwan. He didn’t grow a controller Hong Kong, are the data on exercise their power in the South China Sea? So it seems like we have to question this. Why does China really needs for them for go forward, to claim the whole China Sea to control a Hong Kong and to invade Taiwan. Why they do need this to go for war, or to develop themselves? Because from my point of view, this kind of narrative from China is a sign of weakness.


Samuel Armstrong  28:16

It’s it’s a good point well made I can I just say at this point in the audience. Today’s event is hosted in association with Taiwanese representative office in London. We’re delighted for their support and to work with them. In respect for the government of the Republic of Taiwan government’s rules, we’re using teams today rather than zoom. And what that means is we won’t be able to haste questions in our normal way, because of limitations with this system. So instead of submitting them through the q&a section as you wouldn’t zoom, can I ask that if anybody would like to ask a question that they email me, and I will read them out to our panelists. If you do have a question, please just do send me an email. I haven’t got a monopoly on on good conversation topics. Obviously, this doesn’t apply if you’re watching back later on. But for those either watching on the live streams on teams, please do send me a question and I’d be delighted to read it out. But I wonder if I can turn now to Alexander. In the Cold War, and I’m not suggesting that we are back as we were then on a new version or anything else necessarily, but there there was a theory of what was known as domino theory, the idea that communism was spreading across the world and if one country initially Korea, later on Vietnam, parts of Latin America, parts of Africa was a food to communism as the enemy was then the others would necessarily follow. And there was an idea of perception in western foreign policy thought that what you needed was a sort of fire break or a circuit break. For those who are familiar with lockdown talks today, we’re talking a lot about those again. And that is what you that is what you need it just dominates theory still hold? Is it? Is it still a helpful idea? Is it does it apply with China in the same way? And if and if it does, what should the response of this brotherhood of of free and open democracies, this league of this league of democracies, this friendship and respect to the human rights, which are their response to that be?


Alexander Gorlach  30:51

Thank you, Sam. I, so even though it sounds like a little out of touch, too, to talk about the conflict nowadays in cold war terminology, there is of course, a, the world is twofold. Again, like Francis Fukuyama idea that we all might be going into a pride future of liberal democracy. It’s not entirely wrong, but it’s also like not entirely true as we do, in fact, see that the enemies of this liberal order for each have their own reasons, try to review then it will eventually lead to declare themselves look into Singapore. It’s an ally of Taiwan and they do military exercises together. There is a strong Chinese I mean, there is a Chinese ethnic Chinese community pick one in, in, in Singapore, but them and she said like Dr. Lai mentioned, about like the Chinese family all over the world. And once Chinese always Chinese, by the way, something what add one in Turkey and put in Russia does does to not acknowledging citizenship as the key indicator for who someone is, it’s more race and religion. So she does the same like all the other autocrats. Of course, this was like, received with, with horror in Singapore, what that would mean if like, all ethnic Chinese and Singapore would rise to be rather Chinese than Singaporean. So meaning like that a country like Singapore has to take a stance, it’s not a democracy, but it’s also not as bad as China. So in the end, it will be like, okay, who are we going to be? Do we want to be like on the villain side of the of history with China, where we’ll be modernized. And Singapore now see is also like, I mean, the as I wouldn’t say search, but there is like a civil society there is LGBTQ rights groups, there is like groups that try to improve the conditions of guest workers in Singapore. And if you have the strong sense that the Singaporean government or by not being a democratic one realizes that if you want to be like part of the free world of the decent world, and want to be like engaging in business with this world, you need to be like changing that doesn’t mean we will be seeing like a fully fledged democracy with a multi party or whatever, in Singapore anytime soon. But Singapore is that small that it has like the capacity to improve step by step gradually and become a more inherent member of the free world. And that’s something that even though I’m not going like this dichotomy of, of the Cold War, you will be seeing the countries in the Middle will have to take will have to take a stance.


Samuel Armstrong  33:32

Very well put. Dr. Lai, I wonder if, if I if I might put up a counterfactual point or or sort of a curveball question, if I manage that, since President Obama announced his pivot to Asia, and since the Five Eyes in particular has been looking at this issue afresh, there is this there is an idea, a notion that principally at the moment, China’s military aggression is, is is naval in orientation in theater. It involves sections in the South China Sea, that’s there’s obviously some aviation but it’s principally around areas of sea. Now, that to me, as someone who’s used to looking at the European Theater reminds me very closely of what in the UK we call operation calibrates or the enhanced forward presence of the NATO sends its troops out to the Baltic states and to Eastern Europe, in part because it is it is seen as a disincentive for Russia to ever engage in aggression out there because in so doing, what they would be doing is they’re putting themselves into direct conflict with the West risking rate escalation. Now, I put it to you, I don’t necessarily hold This view myself, but I think it’s important we discuss it, I put it to you that what China’s actions in Hong Kong show is that it is not a rational actor in the same way as either the Soviet Union was, or necessarily that modern Russian Federation is that it is quite happy to not wholesale but insofar as it can upset the applecart and therefore it It carries an additional level of risk for the west to engage so strongly in the South China Sea and elsewhere because of China’s ability and President Xi’s seeming willingness to act emotionally rather than rationally.


Dr I-Chung Lai  35:45

Yeah, I think definitely on the way that China has behaved the especially their aggressive probing, and and the initiative of several provocative actions brings to the question whether the traditional sense of the deterrence really works, again this Chinese behavior and especially we added to another dimension about the personality that is Xi Jinping, probably he is one of the the representative of the political leader in his generation, which means, which is a cultural revolutionaries, the the 10 years before that, and the other 10 years after him, we do not see the Chinese leader possess that kind of characters. But the cultural warriors, whether that is in a city being ordered earlier in abortion, like they all represent, or they all appears to possess the similar characteristics in making the decisions. But nonetheless, I still argue that the the military presence actually can help to dissuade and at least help the force the Chinese leadership to really ponder the cost and compare the cost about the actions. If if that we do not have that kind of break, then the according to the occurrence of behavior patterns, the China is just keep pushing and pushing until that Sunday that you just cannot stand. And either you had to fight it all back. And that at that time, that all hell break loose, or you just have to surrender, and the China will just take another territory from it. So that I suppose to argue that despite this, the so called naval aggression, and the China seems to abandon upset the whole applecart and there’s a there are a lot of emotions, running through the leadership equation and making the decisions, but the the outer forces to form a break to force the leadership to consider about the costs, cost benefit analysis, as well as the calculation for them to have the moment to really ponder about the consequences of their actions that is still very important is that just about China, it has also helped to reassure the country in this regions, that they are able to have the opportunity to work together to counter this challenge. And without those actions, the country here probably they will have to be left on their own, but with the outside presence, and those countries in this area will be able to have the opportunity to really form a inter inter operable partnership to meet this challenge collectively.


Samuel Armstrong  39:10

That’s a good point on the benefits actually of the the forward deployment of naval assets in particular to the region I know the UK has been working very closely with Australia, it sees a good opportunity for from more inter-operability for sharing platforms indeed actually saving money in the long term by being able to sell fleets that you’re developing for domestic use to your allies. shedding I wonder if you have any thoughts on this on this point, just before I I turn to turn to questions, can we can we rely on the CCP to be rational actors to do cost benefit analysis or analyses or or not?


Xiani Perez-Cheng  39:56

I’m actually I said doctor, I pointed that The buchner time with who Jintao and gentlemen? There’s no, there was not this aggressive kind of diplomacy of the there was no this kind of aggressive behavior from from the CCP. And I’m questioning is, is this situations doing? Well, or is it is this a combination that China has, for the past decade, China has been a improving as an international actor, and most of the world is dependent on China, regardless of trade, specifically on trade economy, and in the world, when China launched this, a new Belt and Road initiative. And China has been, has been no fast tracking their power, the carnal power of to engage the to engage the world. And I’m wondering, because I’m wondering how objective is this? From? Do we really, really depend on China? Or is this kind of China’s same narrative that we be in to some point we’ve been seduce for we’ve been seduced by this, say, this China rant narrative. And almost in the end, I think in certain countries, they’ve been even forced to swallow these same new narrative. So I think we have two democracies, not only Western democracy, because because it seems that that is that China’s had won against the West, but we must not forget that in Asia in the east, there are also democracies. We have India, we have South Korea, we have Taiwan Of course, we have a Japan in we have a New Zealand with Australia. And do we as democracies have to how much do we have to rely on this say China narrative or it is possible for us to ah, like we are saying like, disentangle Yeah, not only from this narrative, but also try to decouple the right now we are trying to decouple from from from from China. And we have to consider this. This new this new alternative, if it’s possible is feasible for us.


Alexander Gorlach  43:27

Can I quickly jump in there has been the German Bertelsmann foundation just came out with a paper and they work on Economics and Trade regarding China, and they said, like our trade with non democracies, is and the narrative would be 3040 50% like with China, especially from Germany as an explanation, but it’s 15%. So it’s talking 15% of our of our trade goes to China, it’s not at all of it is like we all dependent on China, we have this 15% and that’s what we’re talking about just throwing in that number quickly.


Samuel Armstrong  44:02

Yes, at least brilliantly on to our first question, which I was going to touch on anyway, which is from London. And he says, “given China’s economic stranglehold as the world’s monopolistic supplier of manufactured goods and prominent trade partner, do you see any prospects the democratic world will stand up to China’s territorial ambitions and misadventures?” And it strikes me that it relates very closely to some of the our work that we’ve done on strategic import dependency, in which the remarkable thing is that there is almost there is great trade dependency on China, but there is almost an inverse relationship. And I’ve tried to plot it on a line between the number of times a country’s minister has criticized China directly in Parliament and their trade dependency. Australia is the most trade dependent of the Five Eyes on China yet it is the most vocal, followed by the New Zealand, which is an outlier. And then the US. Within Europe, France and Germany, both of whom have struck very closely to China are by far the least dependence nations in terms of manufacturing supplies on China get find themselves cowed. The UK, which has been comparatively more vocal is depending on how you measure it, either that the most of the second most dependent nation on China within the European scenario, why is that?


Alexander Gorlach  45:37

So I mean, there is a, there’s a misconception here. And I mean this in all, in a positive, most positive way, I can say that if you do trade, both sides have something from it, both sides gain something from it. So China also gained something from trading with us. And also being in the World Trade Organization also means like they having access to and we should be which we don’t having access they on equal terms. So when I lived in Taiwan, in Hong Kong, there was this article, I think, The Guardian, which is like talking about pianos in China. So because education is so highly value, people learn the violin and pianos but then like, they can’t build pianos yet by themselves to import them from Japan and Germany. So I’m not saying that China shouldn’t have or doesn’t have, by all means, like, in some future the capability of building pianos by themselves, but for now, they need our pianos. So and that’s something and we need stuff from China. So it’s like, this is what we deal with trade. The point now here, what’s changed in trade agreements is that we take an account that has conditions so when I was in Colombia and Chile, we talked about one belt one road, and then I said, well, we couldn’t do anything with the Chinese because they were like wanting to build our harbor. But then we said, okay, we have our workers here said, no, no, we bring our own, of course, they bring their own and they like treated like shit, and they have no like workers rights. And of course, then you can build like a harbor very cheaply. But that’s not how we do it, but under our standards in the trade agreements nowadays, and more and more so and the European Union in particular will bring in like these factors, which have been considered soft factors in the in the past, but environmentalism, workers rights, these are all like important issues that are like an equally important and entrenched in a in a trade agreement. So in the past, we might have thought, as long as like the conduct between countries is on a rational basis. We can, like downplay some political issues. But we now see that’s not feasible anymore in Germany now with Russia, like NordStream two is another pipeline, a gas pipeline coming into Germany, but now they’re putting even like being more villainous, and like poisoning Mr. Lavanya, who is now in Germany recovering the German government has been like taking a new standard from from Apple, it’s not known to be like very vocal when it comes to National Human Rights, but I mean, to to articulate new ideas, innovative ideas for foreign diplomacy, but we felt he and Germany, Russia has been crossing a threshold, which is now not we cannot just pretend it never happened. So now not into this pipeline is under renewed scrutiny and might not even happen. So I think there is a basic misconception here that is then also, like, highlighted by this 15%, that we all together have our trade with China.


Samuel Armstrong  48:27

Thank you very much for that. Alexander. We’ve got an excellent question here from Jonathan Campbell James, who I think I’m correct in saying has a naval background. But forgive me if I’m, if I’m wrong here. But he asks that if the CCP were to execute an operation, and steal the Pratas islands, which for those who don’t know, it’s it’s a small archipelago of volcanic islands that are administered and governed by Taiwan, in the Taiwan straits. How could the free world come to Taiwan’s aid? How would Taiwan like to be assisted in these circumstances? What can we actually do here? Dr. Lai, I wonder if I could come to you.


Dr I-Chung Lai  49:14

Yes, I think the right now the Chinese ccps and military activities, we do notice that like 90% that concentrate on around the area of Pratas whether we saw that as a pattern of the fighter jets penetrations, too to the to the to the area in the area, or basically their ship sailing directly through across the Pratas, separating Pratas from Taiwan. So yes, right now the Pratas situation is precarious. And I’m not saying it’s great pensions but definitely erased a lot of concern. But it also means that the since the protest is located At a juncture or the tower straight passes straight, as well as the entrance point to the South China Sea. So the process apparently to China is a very strategic important positions that they want, if they should they wanted to go out of the first island chain, the they run out, they see it seems to me that they are relying on the past  through the Pratas straight, and they control other Pratas as that is the first priority for them is today wanting to challenge really form a capability to have effectively defense against the incoming foreign military presence such as the United States. And but right now, I will say that the Pratas legal status is unquestionably Taiwan’s. But even in 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, the Pratas is considered to be part of Taiwan. So there’s no question about it. And then the invasion or the takeaway of the Prata, that means a full out war on Taiwan. So there’s no question about it, and we’re going to treat it as such. And that will basically trigger in our view, whether the the US will come in or the our allies or partners would like to assist us, because the Pratas to us, that not only legally is part of Taiwan, but it also means that China will be able to have free rein in an out of the straight, which will compose another very important or very threatening military  today establish in the east side of Taiwan, then the Taiwan will be effective, the corner or the circled. That is not good to us. But this is how the importance about the processes. And the I will say that people should not take light upon about the invasion or takeaway of the Pratas, because it is actually could trigger the old war not only been in town in China, but also been in China and probably some other part of the world.


Samuel Armstrong  52:33

So doctor life if I might this strikes me as the crucial question as to how confidence is our fault foreign policy thinkers, defense thinkers in Taiwan that the American government’s which plays a crucial role in guaranteeing the security of Taiwan would consider an action in the Pratas islands to trigger it. And should we as law should people who are campaigning in the tight in the China space who are concerned about this issue? Should we ask our politicians much more direct questions about the about the Pratas island? Should we should we be demanding specific assurances from them in this space?


Dr I-Chung Lai  53:25

Well, I think generally we have good confidence about the United States, in terms of the invasion of Taiwan scenarios, and about the military assistance from them , of course, whether in work in what form that is, that I will just leave that to the experts. But we have a good confidence about the US will come to the aid of Taiwan, should the Taiwan straight contingency happen. So the issue is not just about what the US come to Taiwan, for this tiny island apparatus is rather the way the United States come to Taiwan eight, seeing the issue about the the contingency that was threatened. The the the US sustaining the military presence here and its capabilities. So I think the right now the strategic dialogue between Taiwan and United States, all levels are especially around the parameters in my view, that probably is also going on. And I’m not going to probably speculate how much of the US will actually come to Taiwan for some specific scenarios. But generally, I will say that the the confidence about the United States or the assistant Taiwan is good.


Samuel Armstrong  54:53

Thank you very much for that. We’ve run out of time, but if I might, I will ask a hypothetical a speculative a forward looking question to all of my panelists and ask for an answer in a sort of sentence or less, which is, in 30 years time is this, what seems to be a burgeoning conflict between China and the Western world develops, how will historians look back on China’s actions in Hong Kong this year? How important will they be? Are they going to form a kind of Berlin style significance? and North Korean War style significance? Are we going to look this back at the sort of triggering of the conflicts that that that went on for some time to come? Will this be the step change moment? Alexander, perhaps I can start with you.


Alexander Gorlach  56:01

Yeah, well, I feel like in 30 years time, I’m I’m almost confident we will see a democratic China. I mean, there is like the crucial phase now is until 2023, when Xi Jinping is officially made like Emperor for life. And this Emperor, if that’s gonna happen, the whole meritocratic system of the Communist Party in China will crumble, it’s gonna be like a banana republic, because whatever you might tell about it. Now, as long as you were like working in the countryside, and made it from the lowest tiers, to the highest in the party, whatever, there was always a promise for you, as a young Chinese to, you know, to make it in the country. And also now this notion here rests on like the success of surveillance technologies. And so we also are also not very sure to see whether or not that’s going to happen. So once this will be shattered the Chinese stream in from within the country, and as we talked earlier, already, like an NBA player is tweeting something, and the whole whole of China is like getting nervous about it and ranting about it globally, that’s not sovereignty. That’s not like being coolness that’s just like, already, like full of paranoia. So I feel like there there will, there is a good chance that this ideological like realm that Xi Jinping has erected is gonna crumble in a given time. But we have to, of course, survive the next the next few years and not in devolves into a war scenario.


Samuel Armstrong  57:26

There’s an optimistic note from Alexander, Xiani what’s your take?


Xiani Perez-Cheng  57:32

I’m afraid I cannot be optimistic as Alex. If I had to predict how the what is happening right now in Hong Kong is going to be talked about in 30 years. It’s going to depends on how the whole geopolitics is going to a both from now to this 30 years, because we’ve been going by two gentlemen, we thought at that point, we thought that gentleman was going to be a game changer. And he didn’t. And and we have I think that we have allowed China and a even forgive China for past a pastor abrasions. Because we all thought that we are going to we have this integration policy that we are going to engage China in with we’re going to engage China in the International Monetary found in the World Bank, in the WTO. And we’re going to go forward with engaging China in economics, and we’re going to try to get China into the fall of international community. And we hope that the engaging China will open China to liberalizing and aging towards democracy, and this has not been the case. Yes. And, and we we are seeing that right now. So I think that the changing point is right now that are we still going to a for war with this engaging China policy. And I’m not advocating for out confronting the China but calling out to China and in say in calling out to China and say, okay, you’re now you’re now a power, a global power. And you have responsibilities. How are we going to engage China from now? Is what God is going to define the next 30 or 50, or the next half century?


Samuel Armstrong  1:00:30

Yes, Shadi. Thank you for that. I’ve got to turn to Dr. line now to slide a sentence or less, if possible. What’s your take? How symbolic or how important will the the transactions in Hong Kong this year be seen as?


Dr I-Chung Lai  1:00:46

I think, definitely, you will resemble a wonder historical and episodic moments, whether that’s like a Berlin or the North Korea invasion on South Korea, that kind of things, we had to wait to see because that means that it is such as Berlin or the North house and North invasion, a South Korean War scenario, which means that there will be sustained the deceleration or the sustained the Cobra like a confrontation between those two camps and the sustain the China Hong Kong will be under the the authoritarian Chinese rule for a certain period of time, which subjectively I president would not like to see. But on the other hand, I think people are sort of the one thing we did didn’t really mention about Hong Kong is about the actual in the last 50 years, how Hong Kong play a central role in terms of the regional integration in in this area. And And right now, for Hong Kong, that’ll probably will be gone, and then associated with it, that the the regional integration, my view, I think the likelihood will be much dimmer. And that will brings on all the more the likelihood about the political as well as security and economic separation or two of those two blocks. And on, which to me, it seems that the release scenarios probably 30 years from now, we’re going to see it, but I hope that we don’t have to wait for 30 years and probably 10 years and the things water not just like Alex said that China will be will move toward a more positive and a brighter future for all of us.


Samuel Armstrong  1:02:28

Well, thank you very much. All that remains for me to say is thank you very much to our speakers, and to our partners to Tony’s representative office in hosting today’s event. Your speakers were Alexandre Gorlach, Dr. I-Chung Lai and Xiani Perez-Chang. They’ve all been brilliant. Thank you very much. Dr. Gorlach has got two excellent books out at the moment, both of which I commend to you. They’re both available on Amazon, I commend them face to you, they’re a good read. But my German, as my old teacher will tell you is less than sufficient to read a book of that length. But on the basis of the one that I have read, I commend them both to you. And thank you very much indeed. And we look forward to hosting you very soon indeed for another Henry Jackson Society event as we continue to face down the world in in troublesome and in unprecedented and complicated times, indeed. So thank you very much. Good morning from London and we hope to see you very soon indeed.



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