The superpower’s dilemma
In December 2016 Donald Trump called Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to discuss “the close economic, political, and security ties that exist between Taiwan and the United States,” as a statement from the White House put it. Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming president of Taiwan earlier this year.
This is a reflection of the history of the US approach to China. After China’s revolution in 1949 Washington supported the nationalist remnant under Chiang Kai-shek after it fled to the island of Taiwan, claiming to be the entire country’s legitimate government.
While much of the world recognised the mainland’s People’s Republic of China, the US only talked to the Republic of China on Taiwan. In 1979 president Jimmy Carter formally shifted diplomatic recognition to the PRC, which also now filled China’s Security Council seat at the United Nations. However, US Congress then passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which institutionalised unofficial relations with Taipei, while acknowledging that there is only one China and top US officials avoided contact with Taiwanese leaders.
In 1997 the return of Hong Kong was a further step in the long struggle of the Chinese people in their liberation from imperialist domination. It was a step towards the reunification of all parts of China which had become separated from China in the colonial era.
During WW2 Taiwan was seized by Japan, but its return has been complicated because the remnants of the reactionary Kuomintang armies retreated to Taiwan and set up their headquarters under the protection of the US.
Such is the stuff of unfinished business.
Hong Kong was not willingly handed back by Britain. If British governments had sincerely repudiated colonialism they could have taken that step a long time before. It was the decline of the British empire and the emergent strength of a liberated socialist China which forced British governments to bow to the inevitable.
Nonetheless, Britain and the US continue to play games with One China. They have not for a moment given up the objective of overthrowing socialism in China and reimposing their modern form of colonialism.
During its imperialist occupation, Hong Kong was always controlled by British-appointed governors. There were no elections for this or any other role. For years after the revolution the US waged the Cold War, blocking China’s application as Most Favoured Nation trade status and blocked its membership not only of bodies such as the World Trade Organisation but also the United Nations.
China has adopted a “one nation, two systems” relationship: the Chinese mainland with a socialist system while Hong Kong retains a capitalist system, a new experience for any nation.
Part of the US spin on China is the DPRK (North Korea), with the US’s empty gesture of “recognition” of China’s key role in relation to one of Washington’s perennial “rogue” states.
From the day of its foundation, the DPRK has not had a moment’s rest from outside interference. Sabotage, invasion, mass destruction, germ warfare, nuclear threat, encirclement and crippling economic blockade have all been used in the US-led attempt to remove this impediment to its regional domination. All of these efforts have failed. Naturally, the major capitalist powers subject such “rogue” states to an unrelenting campaign of vilification in order to enlist public opinion.
The DPRK is not just a thorn in the side of a declining superpower seeking to shore up its position in the Asia Pacific. Its territory, which borders the People’s Republic of China, is eyed off by the US military for the location of its troops and nuclear weapons. China has stressed that “resolving human rights differences should be through constructive dialogue and cooperation based on equality and mutual respect.” That won’t happen unless world opinion insists upon it and demands that the US halts its aggression towards the DPRK and China.