The annexation of Hong Kong is de facto accomplished, after the new National Security Law came into force, and the mainland security forces have started moving into the island territory. Even as we speak, many Hong Kongers, especially the leaders of the anti-Beijing protests, are starting to slowly trickle out of Hong Kong, and many are looking to Taiwan as their next destination. Unfortunately, Taiwan would also be Beijing’s next target.
That dissident leaders should look to Taiwan as their next logical step makes a lot of sense. Hong Kong and Taiwan share bonds of culture and language, and the protest leaders will especially share Taiwan’s desire for democratic self-government and independence from Beijing. But for the political refugees from Hong Kong, this may well turn out to be a case of jumping out of the frying pan and straight into the fire.
For Beijing, especially for Han nationalists like Xi, the annexation of Taiwan would be the culmination of their dreams of “national unification.” Taiwan may have a long and ambivalent history with Chinese hegemony, more akin to Tibet than with the Han heartlands that form the core of Chinese national identity, but for Beijing, finally subduing Taiwan would carry an enormous amount of symbolism. Taiwan represents the last burning ember of the Chinese Civil War between the Republic of Taiwan and the communist People’s Republic from seventy years ago, and a constant reminder of unfinished business and a failure to achieve “final victory” in the Civil War by the Chinese Communist Party.
Of course, there are economic and strategic reasons why China will want to assert sovereign ownership over the island of Taiwan, but fundamentally, this is about the history, and what people like Xi see as the destiny of China under communist rule. This is important to appreciate in order to understand the kinds of costs Beijing is willing to pay in order to impose its will over Taiwan in the same way that it did over Hong Kong. [FULL STORY]