The World Today for February 08, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

Chocolate, Beer and Sovereignty

TAIWAN

Lala Sin has shied away from speaking Mandarin Chinese around her three children. Instead, the resident of Taiwan has been speaking Taiwanese Hokkien, or Taigi, a division of a language that is common in southeastern China and among the Chinese diaspora throughout Asia. Her linguistic choice is unapologetically political.

“Speaking our mother language is the most effective vaccine” against Chinese claims on Taiwanese sovereignty, Sin told the Wall Street Journal.

Sin spoke as China’s ambassador to the US, for example, recently warned that military conflict between Chinese and American forces in the Pacific could occur if the US continued to grow diplomatically closer to Taiwan, National Public Radio reported. Fueling those concerns, undoubtedly, was talk of a potential trade pact between the US and Taiwan, as the Financial Times detailed.

As the Associated Press explained, when the Communists took over the Chinese government in the 1940s, the toppled Nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan and established a government in the capital of Taipei. Today, just over a dozen countries recognize Taiwanese independence. Taiwan, meeting with a high-level delegation from Somalia’s breakaway Somaliland region this week, is courting more.

The issue plays out worldwide. When China blocked trade with Lithuania after the latter country allowed Taiwan to open an embassy in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, Taiwanese consumers rushed to stores to purchase Lithuanian chocolate, beer and kvass, a fermented drink, to show support for their European friend, the Washington Post reported.

Still, Lithuania faced a backlash so strong – it says that China downgraded their diplomatic relationship and blocked its goods from entering China – that it forced the European Union last week to launch a complaint against China at the World Trade Organization over the trade disruption, CNN noted.

Meanwhile, many fear the possibility of a conflict that will involve more than sweets.

Taiwan recently held drills to demonstrate how its military could intercept Chinese warplanes that might support an invasion, Reuters wrote. The Taiwanese navy has similarly showcased its new vessels to deter Chinese aggression, added Radio Free Asia. “We want the People’s Liberation Army to think twice before it acts,” said Taiwanese Army Colonel Sun Li-fang. American military commanders have warned that China could invade Taiwan before 2025, noted Foreign Affairs.

China, meanwhile, has supported Russia in the current standoff with the US and Europe over Ukraine and against any expansion of NATO, wrote Nikkei Asia. The new besties met last week and reaffirmed their commitments to each other and against a world dominated by the United States, the New York Times wrote. Chinese leaders assert their right to Taiwan while Russia claims that Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, could become a staging ground for Western aggression in the future.

Still, occasionally, the two sides make concessions. Taiwanese officials have allowed Taiwanese athletes to compete in the Olympics in Beijing under the banner of “Chinese Taipei,” reversing an earlier decision to sit out the games.

Maybe they wanted to make a peaceful gesture to the mainland. Or maybe they just wanted a chance to beat the pants off their rivals.

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