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Beware Xi Jinping’s ‘Hidden Agenda’: Taiwan’s Warning to Albanese

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is being urged to lobby Chinese President Xi Jinping not to invade the self-governing island of Taiwan when he makes a landmark visit to Beijing this year rather than pursue a narrow focus on repairing Australia’s trade relationship with China.

Warning that Beijing uses bilateral meetings to try to “divide and conquer” other nations, Taiwan’s chief representative in Australia pleaded with local officials not to be “lazy” by falling into the trap of uncritically accepting Beijing’s claims about Taiwan’s territorial status.

Veteran diplomat Douglas Hsu, who assumed his role in Canberra last month, said Albanese could help prevent conflict by telling Xi that Australia will not accept any “unilateral change to the status quo by force” in the Taiwan Strait.

“You have to use this kind of opportunity to send the message loud and clear to Xi Jinping himself that we care about peace and stability in the region,” Hsu said in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“I think the message is quite clear: we care about the peace and stability in the region, and any irrational behaviour in the region is not allowed.”

Albanese’s visit, expected in November or December, will be the first trip by an Australian prime minister to China in seven years.

Hsu welcomed the resumption of high-level dialogue between China and Australia, saying he understood Australia’s desire to regain access to the lucrative Chinese market for wine, beef and rock lobster exporters.

But he said Australia’s national interest extended beyond trade and he urged Albanese to look beyond the “rosy pictures” Xi will paint about the China-Australia relationship.

Hsu, who previously served as the director-general of Taiwan’s Department of North American Affairs, said Albanese must carefully consider whether Xi was pursuing a “hidden agenda” by taking Australia out of the diplomatic deep freezer.

“Their strategy is basically divide and conquer,” he said.

“We don’t want to see a very troublesome world, but we have to keep in mind and look at the track record that Beijing has.”

Hsu said it was important for Albanese to raise Taiwan with Xi personally because it was the Chinese president would ultimately decide whether to try to seize the island of almost 24 million people.

“The communist regime is only subject to one person’s will and that is very dangerous,” he said.

After meeting Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali last year, Albanese said he “certainly” raised Taiwan with his Chinese counterpart and that Australia did not want to see any change to the status quo.

Albanese said he raised Taiwan and tensions in the South China Sea during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Jakarta earlier this month.

Taiwan last week said it had detected 68 Chinese warplanes and 10 navy vessels operating around its shores in a single 24-hour stretch in what it said was the latest sign Beijing was escalating its “gray zone” activities around the island.

“You cannot deny that in the past few years, you saw more and more aggressive behaviours from China,” Hsu said.

“That makes countries in the region understand that we have to send a message clear to Beijing: do not do anything irrationally.”

Hsu urged Australia to support Taiwan’s bid to join the sweeping regional free trade pact known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though this would anger Beijing.

“Taiwan is a country that relies on foreign trade so to be able to be included in such a high-standard trade mechanism is truly essential for Taiwan,” he said.

Albanese last year suggested Australia might reject Taiwan’s bid to join the pact because it was not a “recognised” nation state, but he later said Australia was open to supporting Taiwan’s membership.

Taiwan is Australia’s fifth-largest export market, largely thanks to its huge demand for liquefied natural gas.

Hsu said Beijing had misleadingly argued that the international community had accepted its territorial claim over Taiwan by agreeing to a 1971 United Nations resolution recognising the People’s Republic of China as the nation’s sole legitimate representative at the UN.

Hsu said Beijing had also sought to conflate its own “one China principle”, which claims Taiwan is a province of China, with Australia’s “one China policy”, which acknowledges but does not endorse Beijing’s claim to the island.

“We have to be very careful about the narrative out from Beijing, and I encourage all the bureaucrats: don’t be lazy,” Hsu said.

“Dig into what you signed up for … and you will find that you haven’t signed up for anything Beijing says you did. The Australian government has every right to define its own one China policy, instead of listening to other countries’ definitions.

“You have to keep in mind that since the establishment of the PRC, there is not one day, one hour, one minute, one second when the PRC has had jurisdiction over Taiwan.”

Source : SMH