In December 1949, following a brutal civil war in which millions died, the government of the Republic of China retreated to the island of Taiwan. With the support of the Soviet Union, Mao Zedong's Communists had seized control of Beijing and implemented a dictatorship.
To this day, the Communist Party rules over mainland China – and its 1.4 billion inhabitants – while the Republic of China remains consigned to Taiwan. Fast-forward 70 years and Beijing has an economic stranglehold over most of the Western world while Taiwan is ostracised and outcast, nearly to the same extent as North Korea. Taiwan’s requests to join the UN have been repeatedly snubbed. Almost no countries recognise its sovereignty and nationhood, obeying the dogmatic Communist doctrine of the One-China Policy under threats of tariffs and trade restrictions from Beijing.
The 24 million-strong Taiwanese populace – and its democratically-elected government – are excluded from the international community.
China has become so powerful that Europe and the US have for decades collectively turned a blind eye to its flagrant human rights abuses and undue influence in key international institutions like the World Health Organisation, out of fear of economic retribution.
Western economies have become so intimately entangled with Chinese industry – and therefore with the omnipotent Chinese government – that Beijing now feels it can get away with almost anything.
But 2020 marks something of a watershed moment for Chinese relations with the West.
The Chinese Communist Party’s sins have reached a tipping point. China’s outrageous confiscating of power in Hong Kong, combined with its appalling genocide of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and its coverup of vital information relating to the initial coronavirus outbreak – at a cost of tens of thousands of lives – has left Western governments with no choice but to act.
Though they have been tepid so far, responses from the West are beginning to trickle through.
Huawei was swiftly removed from the UK’s 5G network and three million Hong Kong residents who had found themselves under Beijing’s boot were invited to relocate to Britain and offered a path to British citizenship.
But one aspect of China’s recent belligerence – perhaps the most troubling of all – remains largely unaddressed.
In recent days and weeks, China has issued a number of troubling military threats against Taiwan.
It has been making a show of flaunting its military prowess and is even flirting publicly with the idea of invasion.
The Chinese government believes that Taiwan is its sovereign territory. From Beijing’s point of view, China is perfectly within its rights to do whatever it pleases in Taiwan.
In Hong Kong, the Communist government had no hesitation in sending in hordes of riot police to violently subdue peaceful pro-democracy protesters, resulting in innumerable tragedies.
In Taiwan, they won’t be sending in the police. This time, it will be the military.
There is, of course, a necessary trade-off in foreign policy decisions. Sometimes we have to allow other countries to conduct their business in their own way, even if they do so differently to how we would have done it.
But there comes a point when humanity and compassion must supersede political convenience, when it becomes unconstructive – and indeed, destructive – to set a precedent of inaction as rogue governments run rampant. In the case of China, we passed that point a long time ago.
Taiwan is a model democracy. It represents everything that post-Brexit Global Britain should be working alongside and fighting to defend.
As Britain leaves the EU and carves out a new place for itself in the world, we must stand up for human rights and the importance of national sovereignty on the international stage. And that means standing up to China.