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Asia's Game of Thrones
China Getting Tougher on Taiwan

The politicians in Taiwan’s new ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party, have a history of talking tough about the People’s Republic of China. With those statements surely in mind, Beijing has been detaining and deporting Taiwanese nationals ahead of the presidential transition on May 20. Reuters:

Confessions by two more Taiwanese telecoms fraud suspects, from among dozens deported from Kenya to China last month, were aired by Chinese state television on Monday, appearing to back China’s contention that such crimes are lightly dealt with in Taiwan.

The case, and subsequent deportations of Taiwanese from Malaysia for similar suspected crimes, has infuriated Taiwan and soured ties that were already strained by the election in January of a pro-independence party in Taipei.

Taiwan has said China effectively kidnapped its nationals. China says they are criminals wanted for serious crimes in China and that it has every right to try them, accusing Taiwan of turning a blind eye to crime and politicizing the issue.

The DPP condemned the deportations last week:

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in a statement said China’s “unilateral and tough action” in the latest deportation was “completely unhelpful to bilateral relations”.

“Any of our nationals who commit crime abroad should be escorted back to Taiwan and face trial here,” it said.

Taiwan’s government considers itself the true sovereign authority of China, having never submitted to communist rule. As a result, it has never formally declared independence from the mainland. Although she’s more hawkish in many ways than her predecessor, incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen has been careful not to rock the boat too much. Both sides basically agree they don’t like each other or recognize each other’s legitimacy, and neither does anything which might start a war. But members of Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party want to declare independence from Beijing, a move which would likely throw relations between Taipei and the mainland into complete turmoil.

How these dynamics play out and how Tsai copes with them will be a big story to watch in 2016. The Asia Pacific region is already rife with conflict, between North Korea, the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and several other points of tension—all of which could turn into international crises in a heartbeat. Unusually strained relations between Taiwan and China only make everything more complicated and dangerous.

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