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Politics & Security

[Bookmark] Unifying Taiwan Begins with the Senkakus

The Chinese Communist Party has spent decades inciting anti-Japan sentiment, and rumors indicate this will be its new banner of righteousness to take Taiwan.

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Provoked by the dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku islands, demonstrators surround the Consul General of Japan chanting anti-Japan slogans (September 16, 2012, photo by Masumi Kawasaki, Sankei)

Bookmark is a JAPAN Forward feature that gives you long reads for the weekend. Each edition introduces one overarching thought that branches off to other themes. Our hope is for readers to find new depths and perspectives to explore and consider.

Since the explosive top-secret recording of the war mobilization meeting of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Guangdong Province was exposed, more related events, circumstantial evidence, and allegations keep popping up. Among them, the most intriguing is the claim that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “unification” with Taiwan will begin with the Senkaku Islands (Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture in Japan).

The rough plot, presented by Lu De in his show on May 27 (Lu De is the same analyst who released the original Chinese version of the leaked audio of the Guangdong mobilization meeting), goes as follows.

Japan Coast Guard monitors China Coast Guard vessel near Senkaku Islands, Ishigaki, Okinawa. (January 2022)

First, the CCP will create friction with Japan around the Senkaku Islands, thereby forcing Japan to fight back.

Then, in the name of fighting “Japanese Neo-Militarism,” the CCP, in cooperation with the Kuomintang in Taiwan, will unite Asian countries that have old scores to settle with Japan from World War II. This will be called the “Third Cooperation between the Communist Party and Kuomintang” and the “United Front of the Kuomintang and Communist Party against Japanese Militarism.”

The term “united front” refers to temporary cooperation between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party. The First United Front was when the Kuomintang and the CCP teamed up to defeat warlords in the 1920s. The Second United Front was a Kuomintang-CCP truce to allow for combined action against the Empire of Japan.

Cornering President Tsai Ing-wen

By framing its attack as a “united front” against Japanese “neo-militarism,” the CCP will put Tsai Ing-wen, the current president of Taiwan, in a very awkward and difficult situation. If President Tsai refuses to fight against Japan, then the CCP will paint her as a traitor. If she fights against Japan, however, then she has to work with the CCP.

Recall that the end result of the united front strategies during the twentieth century was the victory of the CCP in mainland China.

If the CCP is successful in portraying Tsai Ing-wen as a traitor, then the Kuomintang in Taiwan — under the influence of its former chairperson Hung Hsiu-chu, who has already been comprised by the CCP — can work with the CCP’s forces inside Taiwan to overthrow Tsai Ing-wen’s government. Conversely, if Tsai Ing-wen is forced to work with the CCP, then the unification of Taiwan with the mainland is virtually a fait accompli.

Reaping the Bitter Harvest of the ‘Hate Japan Campaign’

Although at this stage there is no way to verify whether the above is the CCP’s plot, the following facts and points tell us that we should not dismiss it as a mere hypothesis.

The CCP has spent decades inciting anti-Japan sentimentality in China. Sometimes nationalism is the only effective weapon for the CCP when it needs to deal with any crisis, and anti-Japanism is the tried-and-true method by which the CCP stirs up anger and nationalistic emotions.

For example, in 2012, mass anti-Japan protests broke out in more than one hundred cities in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan because of the escalation of the Senkaku Islands dispute between China and Japan. In Xi’an City in mainland China, over 100,000 participated in the mass protest.

Protesters in other cities burned Japanese related items, smashed Japanese-made cars, and stormed Japanese enterprises, restaurants, and shops in China.

In Kunming City in southwest China’s Yunnan province, one protester held up a sign which read, “ “Kill all the Japanese Invaders, Flood Tokyo with Blood.” (杀光倭寇,血洗东京).

In a tightly controlled country like the People’s Republic of China, it is hard to imagine that such large-scale protests would have happened without incitement and support from the CCP, which exercises dictatorial control over the entire nation.

The anti-Japan propaganda from the PRC continues. In July of 2021, a Chinese military channel created a 5-minute video vowing to “nuke Japan,” and another 9-minute video threatening to “eliminate Japan.” The first video received over 2.37 million views, 11 thousand comments, and 88 thousand likes in just one day. (I have translated two excerpts of the videos into English and did a show to discuss these videos.)

Anti-Japan Education from Childhood

As a matter of fact, the anti-Japan indoctrination starts from kindergarten.

For example, in 2021, a kindergarten in Shanghai requested kids to “cosplay” an anti-Japan movie to kill the Japanese as their homework. 

Most recently, on May 26, 2022, in a “cultural performance” hosted by the education bureau in Bozhou City in Anhui Province of China, an anti-Japan drama was included in the program. The performance, put on by children, was held at Hanlin Elementary School to “happily welcome the 20th Nation Congress” of the CCP. 

This kind of propaganda is called “walking the first step of my life well,” and the children learning to hate Japan are indoctrinated under the slogan: “I am here to make China strong and contribute to the rejuvenation of China.”

After decades of “Hate Japan” indoctrination, it is very easy to imagine that the banner of “Fighting against Japanese Neo-Militarism” will be so much more appealing to people both in China and Taiwan. After all, Japan did invade China, and the Chinese government has been reminding the Chinese people every year how many had died during the Japanese invasion.

Chinese President Xi Jinping. (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Completing the Communist Infiltration of Taiwan

Second, the CCP has been working on the infiltration of Taiwan for many, many years. Many media outlets in Taiwan have become “red” media already, and that is an open secret.

According to Wang Liqiang, or William Wang, a former CCP spy who defected to Australia in 2019, the CCP meddled in the Taiwan election to get Han Kuo-yu, the candidate of the Kuomintang party, elected in Taiwan’s presidential election in 2020.

Because of the CCP’s successful public opinion campaigns in and against Taiwan, especially campaigns on Taiwan’s social media, Han Kuo-yu became very, very popular, and many people thought he would win the election. If it had not been for the CCP’s crackdown on Hong Kong in 2019 that awakened the Taiwanese public, Han Kuo-yu might very well have won the 2020 election.

If that had happened, then, given that Han’s campaign was funded by the CCP, and that his election was the result of the CCP’s operations in Taiwan, the CCP’s dream of unifying Taiwan might have already been realized.

So, in a sense, the Hong Kong people’s massive but tragic fight and sacrifice in 2019 may have saved Taiwan, even if that fight could not save Hong Kong itself. A photo of a young Hong Kong woman holding a sign in a subway station in Taiwan once drew wide attention and made many people cry. The sign says, “I am from Hong Kong. Please cherish your votes. We can only show you once.”

So, Taiwan had a narrow “escape” in 2020, because of the Hong Kong people’s fight and sacrifice.

But will Taiwan be able to fend off another round of more rampant onslaughts against Taiwan under the “righteous banner” of “all Chinese should be united and fight against Japanese Neo-Militarism”? 

That remains a big question mark.

If Subversion Fails, Then Invade Taiwan

According to Lu De, if the subversion from within Taiwan doesn’t work out, then the CCP still has the choice to invade Taiwan with force.

However,  the “strategic decisive victory” mentioned many times in the top-secret war mobilization meeting in Guangzhou on May 14, 2022 doesn’t mean the conquest of Taiwan only. 

The CCP, with Russia as its secret military ally, aims to change the current world order. This means driving the United States back to the eastern half of the Pacific Ocean, or at least to the east of the Solomon Islands, so that the CCP can continue to have access to materials and technologies that are essential to its supply chain.

Another interesting “discovery” is that an official letter from the Southern War Zone of the PLA shows that a school in Zhanjiang City in Guangdong Province was required to establish an internet self-media and publish opinion detachment. 

The red-letter-titled document was issued to Nanhai School in Zhanjiang City by the Political Work Department of the Southern War Zone of the PLA of China on May 12, 2022.

The letter says: “According to the Central Military Commission’s requirement about expanding the Taiwan-related staffing quotas, it is decided that an Internet self-media and public opinion detachment, staffed by 45 people, be established. Please actively cooperate with this operation.”

The leaked audio file from the May 14 meeting shows that “public opinion propaganda” is also part of the overall mobilization plan.

‘Once In a State of War’

It was mentioned in the May 14 meeting that “the South China Sea area command post is formed by elite forces of the command. It will be sent to the Zhanjiang area in due course, and focus on the prewar preparation in the South China Sea area, as well as organizational planning and command and control.”

In the top-secret meeting, Wang Shouxin, Political Commissar of Guangdong Military Region, also stressed the importance of public opinion. Commissar Wang said: 

Look at the recent several regional wars, especially the Russian-Ukrainian conflict war situation. If you look at the big picture, the United States and the West will try everything to slander us, smear us, in an attempt to confuse right and wrong, to shake our will to win a just and decisive battle. We must give full play to public opinion, legal struggle, psychological war, and militia teams to strengthen the guidance of public opinion and psychological protection, and cohesion of patriotic support for the positive energy of the military front.

On May 24, a Chinese-language article was published in the Military section of Sohu, one of China’s largest web portals. The title of the article is, “Once in a state of War, What Should the General Public Do?”

The article begins: 

After decades of hard work, China’s national defense force has become stronger and stronger… and China has been free of war for quite a long time. But the international situation is changing, the world situation may not always be good. There are still some countries in the world that are looking at us with great hostility. Confrontation and conflict may break out.

So this paragraph is very much like preparing the Chinese people’s minds for the upcoming war, or, a “conflict” in the Senkaku Islands.

Mobilizing Civilian Ships for War

Another “coincidence” worth noting is that, starting from March 1 of 2022, recruitment posters have been put up in subway trains in Guangzhou. Youths are interviewed in a propaganda video to express how excited they are after seeing those posters, how they long to join the army and fight for their motherland. 

A soldier also appears in the video saying how wonderful it is to serve in the army. Images in this video also show large-scale recruitment activities being held in a university in Shantou City in Guangdong Province.

Mobilizing and retrofitting civilian ships into combat ones is part of the war mobilization tasks given to Guangdong Province. As to how to retrofit the ships, there are already good examples.

For example, this video shows that Chang Da Long, a 20,000-ton RoRo (“roll on, roll off”) ship, can be turned into an amphibious combat ship in just two days. The Chang Da Long has 8 layers of vehicle decks as well as a helicopter landing platform, and can handle a one-time cross-sea delivery of two full-sized mechanized infantry battalions.

This video mentions that the Chang Da Long can load Hongqi-17 field air defense systems. It loaded 5 cannons, 5 amphibious vehicles, and a lot of individual equipment in an exercise in 2017.

This Chinese language article in 2020 used the following title to describe the retrofitting of the Chang Da Long: “This Scene Is Amazing! Civilian Ship Changes Into Amphibious Giant Ship in Seconds! Its Strategic Significance Is Extremely Huge.”

This Chinese language article in 2018 is entitled, “China’s 20,000-ton Giant Ship Has Hidden Mystery. In War Time It Can Deliver 2 Machine Infantry Battalion Across The Sea.”

Where Will the Battle Begin?

In March of this year, JAPAN Forward published this article “Assessing the Taiwan Threat: What if China Strikes the Senkakus First?”

“One of Japan’s grand strategy scholars,” the JAPAN Forward article notes, also “thinks that a Chinese attack on the Senkaku Islands is more likely than a direct attack on Taiwan.”

The argument this scholar used is premised on “the weakness displayed by the administration of US President Joe Biden and the major NATO countries.” This analysis might have some merit from the United States or Japan side.

But there is a different rationale to consider as well. From the CCP’s point of view, as Taiwan has also claimed sovereignty over the Senkakus Islands, Beijing has a very good reason to believe that “Fighting against Japanese Neo-Militarism” is the best choice to “unify” Taiwan.

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Author: Jennifer Zeng