As military tensions run high once again between China and Taiwan, The Conversation Weekly podcast talks to two experts about China’s longer-term strategy – and what that means for Taiwan. And we hear about North Americans who pretend to have Indigenous identity.
In mid-October, the US and Canada each sent a warship through the Taiwan Strait – the body of water around 180km wide that separates Taiwan from mainland China. The Chinese military condemned the move, saying Canada and the US were “seriously jeopardising peace and stability”. This followed a ramping up of Chinese military pressure on Taiwan, which the People’s Republic of China views as a breakaway Chinese province. Over four days in early October, a record number of Chinese war planes flew into Taiwan’s air defence zone.
What’s the mood in Taiwan? “People are calm,” Wen-Ti Sung, sessional lecturer in Taiwan Studies at the Australian National University, who is currently in the capital, Taipei, tells our colleague Justin Bergman. Sung explains this is just the latest in a long line of military posturing by China towards Taiwan.
He puts the calmness down to “alarm fatigue”, likening the situation to the Aesop’s fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. If China says it’s going to take over Taiwan with force once, “you take it seriously”, says Sung. “Do it twice, you take it seriously. By the hundredth time, at some point, you have to look at things other than words to judge their intention.” He explains how the Taiwanese people and their political leaders view the situation and what might happen next.
On Beijing’s part, the flexing of military muscle is part of a longer-term strategy, according to Olivia Cheung, a research fellow at the SOAS China Institute at SOAS University of London. She says China’s plan is to keep up the intimidation for so long, and with such intensity, that it will “cause your enemies to fear and cause them to react in an irrational way that would maximise your advantage”.
Chinese president Xi Jinping’s strategy towards taking back Taiwan is closely wedded to a “China dream” policy of national rejuvenation. President Xi has set a timeline to achieve the China dream by 2049, but Cheung says he wants “significant, obvious progress” towards national rejuvenation by 2035. She explains how China plans to achieve that – but the big variable is how the rest of the world, particularly the US, will react.
In the second part of this episode, we’re joined by Vinita Srivastava, host of Don’t Call Me Resilient, a podcast about race from The Conversation in Canada. We feature part of a recent episode they ran on the phenomenon of white – or mostly white – people in North America who pretend to be Indigenous. She discusses this issue, known as race-shifting, or stolen identities, with two Indigenous scholars: Veldon Coburn, assistant professor in the Institute of Indigenous Research and Studies at the University of Ottawa and Celeste Pedri-Spade an associate professor in Indigenous Studies at Queen’s University. You can listen to the full episode here.
Plus, Luthfi Dzulfikar, education and young people’s editor at The Conversation in Jakarta, gives us some recommended reads from Indonesia.
This episode of The Conversation Weekly was produced by Mend Mariwany and Gemma Ware, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl and music in the Don’t Call Me Resilient section is by Jahmal Padmore. You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also sign up to The Conversation’s free daily email here.