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The dawn of pax-Sino: From cataclysms to cosmopolitanism

The dawn of pax-Sino: From cataclysms to cosmopolitanism

As a country united under one rule due to the success of the Maoist communists, China would have its share of internal issues—as is the wont of every nation-state in a trajectory to independence—during and the post-Mao era. Within the aforementioned timeline dissenting political matters would disrupt a smooth transition of China becoming a prominent and established power. For all intent and purposes, some happenings would severely retard the ability of the CCP to grow the country and whilst the disputes are too numerous to mention suffice to state that the following domestic difficulties had to be surmounted by the CCP: the Hundred Flowers Campaign (1956),[1] the Gang of Four debacle (1965),[2] and more recently the Tiananmen Square incident (1989).[3] This is to name only several major events that created significant domestic turmoil and whilst the aforementioned events comprise a several decade-long process of happenstance it is important to mention China at this stage was a largely politically, economically, and militarily-isolated nation-state and therefore, the political machinations did not extend beyond its borders.

By the time of the last major disturbance—the Tiananmen Square incident—the demographic of China had changed considerably and subsequently, had evolved in all three of the above-mentioned categories. Although Chinese society was in a transitional state—from that of an agrarian to a more urban-centred society or at the very least, it was the nascent stages of this transformation. The rancour for change it can be safely argued, came from the educated middle-class students and whilst it was summarily crushed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the major underlying structural problem for the National People’s Congress (NPC)—the ruling body of the CCP— remained omnipresent: poverty. The major underlying issue for the CCP was a significant portion of the Chinese population had not been extricated from endemic poverty which denied a transition to a more dynamic and thus, successful nation-state. It was well understood within the upper-echelons of the NPC that China could not gain new ‘political ground’ domestically or internationally, while such a large portion of the population languished in said circumstance. Measures to temper the intractability of the problem however, were being considered by the CCP during the Deng Xiao Ping era (1978 – 1994) and regardless of the domestic upheavals new and different policies were implemented. These policies, it was hoped, would incrementally improve the outcome of the Chinese people and gradually shift their ingrained poverty-paradigm to one of prosperity overall; create financial independence for many Chinese; and develop prosperity overall.

Whilst the political suasions of the Deng era are far too numerous to mention here it is suffice to state that after the ‘disastrous excesses of the Cultural Revolution [of the Mao (1948 – 1976) era] Deng restored China to domestic stability and economic growth.’[4] Deng envisaged a China that would be regionally and internationally cosmopolitan, stable, and he sought to do this through the mechanism of keeping ‘military spending low and concentrate on peaceful economic developments.’[5] Deng also embarked upon an international drive to bring China out of its self-imposed isolationism and domestically, would continue with reforms, gradually opening trading markets in the countryside, followed by the cities. He continued government planning and state enterprises, opened more markets as he felt the political situation permitted and opened doors to foreign study.[6] As the reforms progressed and the population became familiar with the new policies, Deng would evolve policies to being iconoclastic to the old ways, and more far reaching in terms overall prosperity. Deng’s policy of ‘One country, Two systems’ (1C2S)[7] was essentially, leveraged and then imposed upon the Chinese people by the NPC as a grand plan. This was done in order to bring about liberating and positive domestic change and it was summarily (and incrementally) applied to the populace. Ostensibly, the paradigm Deng introduced was one of the CCP releasing its ‘iron grip’ of direct-economic restrictions domestically and crucially, internationally. Whilst the ‘1C’ component of the plan was that communism as the sole political structure would remain omnipresent and unchanged part of the system of government; and governance. Communism as an ideology would remain and retain political control of the populace and there would be no deviation from this pre-set political norm. The ‘2S’ component would loosen the ties of economic strictures and create the possibility of genuine fiscal prosperity and commensurate with the fiscal structural change was the substitution of the classic CCP line of calling for ‘protracted class struggle,’[8] to one of implementing an efficiency programme: the ‘‘ ‘Four Modernisations’ of industry, agriculture, defence, and science and technology.”[9] This programme it is safe to argue would begin and then go on to produce rapid change in the subsequent months and years that a nation-state would require in its trajectory to prosperity. With 1C2S reforms in place the population would begin to develop in a way which had not previously been experienced.

From the mid-1990s the CCP began their structural changes in earnest, and the Chinese people began to experience a phenomenal macro-change in their fiscal, economic, technological, military, and cosmopolitan-footprint. The aforementioned changes implemented by Deng and his political allies—in particular, Zhou Enlai and Hua Guofeng—had swept in a new era for China. The significant changes had by the mid-1990s produced a deeper malaise by the CCP toward Taiwan. A more robust CCP’s vigorous retrocession of its lands that had been for many reasons usurped by others—‘Hong Kong (1997);[10] and Macao [Macau] (1999)’[11] would, it can be safely argued embolden its goals and aims. The retrocession of Hong Kong and Macau would drive a continuum that would initiate a new set of politico- and strategic-awareness’s; and generate new challenges in the region and internationally. Thus, it would shift Taiwan from being a static, rhetoric-based, historical claim which was previously a somewhat peripheral issue associated with Chinese ‘irredentism,’[12] to a central component of the CCP’s regional ambitions.

The above factors acknowledged, it is now appropriate to shift the focus of this thesis in order to understand what transpired in the world from the mid-1970s. A phenomenon began to gain momentum and it was one which had offered Taiwan prosperity, gave it power and triggered its initial trajectory of success—as it had others in the A-P. The phenomenon would persist and eventually offer China a newfound dynamic and allow it to become a robust regional and international actor; and allow it to reiterate its claims. The claims would encompass the Taiwan Strait[13] and would be backed by preponderance and more importantly through the process of the Deng era and the ongoing machinations of the post-Deng era the phenomenon would dictate the way in which preponderance was pursued and it can now be explored in order to consider future ramifications for Taiwan. The phenomenon would come to be known as ‘globalisation.’

Globalisation and its impacts and ramifications: A brief deliberation

Having positioned China and Taiwan as being robust countries—one being a legitimate nation-state and the other being a self-proclaimed independent country—there is a need to link the endeavours of both. The above-mentioned rapidity the heretofore never-experienced concept and reality, one that prompted a newfound determination by both belligerents: ‘globalisation.’[14] Taiwan has been through a high degree of industrialisation and mechanisation. It has a definitive military presence in terms of capabilities; of having been and continuously developing meaningful diplomatic positions and ties; and is able to uphold domestic governance which afforded the continuum of prosperity, cosmopolitanism and the mechanisms of positive diplomatic and societal implications. In simpler terms Taiwan has essentially excelled at being a prosperous, free market, liberal-democratic cosmopolitan country. China it is fair to argue, and as has been stipulated is the newcomer to the cosmopolitanism that Taiwan has been able to access since the 1970s. Notwithstanding the comparative ‘late start’ China remains a communist country, has a (fiscal) capitalist-driven domestic base, has exponentially extended its political and strategic stretch regionally and globally and has reinforced its irredentist policies. China’s proficiencies alluded to offer a perspective on government, governance and the corresponding forthrightness that evolved throughout the later-twentieth century; and remains as a continuum in the twenty-first century. It is here that another critical input into globalisation can now be given prominence and clarity: influence through power.

From the first late-twentieth to contemporary times a parallel can be drawn in terms of what globalisation will bring to the A-P region and the newfound ‘place’ Taiwan will hold as China rises and why Taiwan will be at the centre of actions within the A-P as globalisation increases. Whilst the critical time that will come for Taiwan will be specified in the ‘Conclusion’ chapter the important issue at this point is to clarify the role of globalisation and to understand politico- and preponderance-ramifications. As stipulated, and for many reasons Taiwan and its embracing of change coupled to globalisation triggered its prosperity as a technologically-developed country. To be sure, globalisation would be played out within the A-P by the ‘Asian tigers’[15]: Hong Kong: Singapore; South Korea; and Taiwan. It can be further argued that Taiwan entered the newfound era of non-Western dominance in the industrial sphere with the intent of domestic prosperity as well as utilising the geopolitical exposure to dislodge China’s irredentist claims. This paradigm would bode well for Taiwan as its GDP increased and its concomitant abilities to finance a strong defence force summarily improved, as did its regional, and international geo-political profiles.

Whilst the ‘Asian tigers’ represent a positive economic element for countries including Taiwan there is a need to observe the phenomenon of globalisation in action in a negative sense, in order for a balance to be comprehended; and to observe how the knock-on effects can create unforeseen problems. The reason for this is to bring to the fore that any developments of the already tenuous and fractious Taiwan – China relationship deteriorates further, a conflict will be fought in the A-P region although in a concomitant globalised media environment. The news press media and interventions such as television and in contemporary times, Google, Twitter and YouTube is to name only several platforms that are exemplars of rapid information dispersal. The attempt that is being made here is to recognise that from the latter-twentieth century, from geo-political and geo-strategic perspectives became so integrated into societies that cathartic awareness of events was created and they impacted on societies that were directly and indirectly involved. The twenty-first century will not be inoculated from this environment and the concomitant realities therein.

Notwithstanding the acknowledgement of information dispersal and its knock-on effect it is what happened to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in the late 1980s when the intermingling of globalisation; fighting in a long and burdensome conflict; and domestic politics came together is what is of interest here. As war with the Taliban evolved into a slog-of-attrition in which many Soviet troops were being killed and maimed and as the reports of the war filtered back to Soviet society by 1986 it began to have a major impact on domestic politics and became a unifying symbol for groups against rule from Moscow.[16] This state-of affairs and the Afghanistan war would be pivotal in the disintegration of the Soviet Union several years later.[17] The USSR essentially entered into a war of which the events impacted on it in a much more rapid and cataclysmic way than the world had experienced in previous times. Whilst this happened when globalisation was in its nascent phase it nonetheless, offers an example of the extremes associated with war in a globalised world, the iconoclastic components that are generated, and is a salient reminder of the costs of a war-of-attrition. The combined political domestic implications and transactions the war projected into the public sphere also showed what a persistent and focused enemy is able to absorb, and the political, strategic and tactical ramifications it generates. This is something that the CCP would be acutely aware of having watched the USSR disintegrate due to the mishandling of a war and why a war with Taiwan, handled ineptly could produce a downfall of the NPC. Whilst the phenomena existed in the later-twentieth century, it would be a continuum and effected international politics heretofore never experienced. The need to mention this phenomenon is attributed to the iconoclastic components within the happening and the fact that prior to the late-twentieth there had been no similar event that would generate such drastic change in countries, especially in such a chronologically short time—approximately 10 years from entering a war in Central Asia to the implosion of the USSR. Anecdotal information therefore, reflects the spread of globalisation—which had once been so beneficial for Taiwan—would begin to diminish its prospects as the ‘knock-on’ effects of the phenomenon came into play. China would embrace the opportunism that globalisation offered and whilst the implosion of the USSR reflected the cathartic elements of the phenomenon. China however, would not approach situations with the same modus operandi.

Continued tomorrow … Taiwan and China: The way it might have been

Previous instalment … Taiwan ROC: A forthright political and economic actor


[1] See: ‘Hundred Flowers Campaign.’ Encyclopædia Britannica …

[2] ‘Gang of Four.’ Encyclopædia Britannica.

[3] Adam Lusher. ‘At least 10,000 people died in the Tiananmen Square massacre, secret British cable from the time alleged.’ The Independent. 23 Dec, 2017.

[4] ‘Deng Xiaoping. Chinese Leader.’ Encyclopædia Britannica. The Editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

[5] Ezra Vogel. ‘China under Deng Xiaoping’s Leadership.’ EastAsiaForum. 27 Sept, 2011.

[6] EastAsiaForum,

[7] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, People’s Republic of China.

[8] Katherine Keyser. ‘Three Chinese Leaders. Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping.’ Asia for Educators. Columbia University, 2009.

[9]Three Chinese Leaders. Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping.’

[10] ‘Hong Kong’s handover: how the UK returned it to China.’ BBCNews.29 Jun, 2017.

[11] Shaocheng Tang. ‘EU’S Taiwan policy in the light of its China policy.’ Asia Europe Journal. Stuttgart: Springer-Verlag, 2003, 511.

[12] ‘Irredentism,’ or ‘irredentist policies’ comprise, ‘a party in any country advocating the acquisition of some region included in another country by reason of cultural, historical, ethnic, racial, or other ties.’ See: ‘irredentism,’ Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition,. HarperCollins Publishers. 2018.

[13] The ‘Taiwan Strait’ has also been historically referred to as the ‘Formosa Strait,’ and comprises the body of water between Taiwan and Fujian Province, China, joining the East and South China seas; and is 161 kilometres wide. See: Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins Publishers. For ease of understanding this thesis will adhere to the common usage of ‘Taiwan Strait,’ and when dealing with political, economic. and strategic-determinants, will revert to the term ‘cross-Strait.’

[14] Whilst globalization as a concept does have numerous nuanced elements for the purpose of this study the following definition will apply: ‘[T]he inexorable integration of markets, nation-states, and technologies to a degree never witnessed before, in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before … the spread of free-market capitalism to virtually every country in the world.‘ See: Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, New York: Picador, 1999, 7- 8. Emphasis added. And further to the aforementioned, ‘Globalisation describes a process by which national and regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through the global network of trade, communication, immigration and transportation. In the more recent past, globalisation was often primarily focused on the economic side of the world, such as trade, foreign direct investment and international capital flows, more recently the term has been expanded to include a broader range of area and activities such as culture, media, technology, socio-cultural, political and even biological factors, e.g. climate change. See: ‘Definition of Globalisation.’ Financial Times,

[15] For a concise examination of the ‘Asian Tigers’ see: ‘Asian Tigers’ Choices: An Overview.’ Hwee Chow. Asian Development Bank Institute. Aug, 2010.

[16] Rafael Reuveny and Aseem Prakash. ‘The Afghanistan war and the breakdown of the Soviet Union.’ Review of International Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, 698.

[17] ‘The Afghanistan war and the breakdown of the Soviet Union,’ 696.

Strobe Driver completed his PhD in war studies in 2011 and since then has written extensively on war, terrorism, Asia-Pacific security, the ‘rise of China,’ and issues within Australian domestic politics. Strobe is a recipient of Taiwan Fellowship 2018, MOFA, Taiwan, ROC, and is an adjunct researcher at Federation University.


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