The island nation of Fiji lies off the east coast of Australia nearly 5,000 miles from China and Taiwan. Earlier this month a beach resort in Fiji’s capital of Suva became the scene of a fistfight between two “diplomats” from China and Taiwanese officials. Here’s what happened:
China has led a concerted effort in recent years to undercut Taiwan’s influence on the global stage, including in the Pacific. As part of that campaign, Beijing has poached several allies of Taiwan in the region, despite objections from the United States and other governments.
Those tensions spilled over at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Oct. 8, when Taiwan hosted a reception to celebrate its national day before an audience of Fijian officials, scholars and nonprofit workers. (Fiji does not have official relations with Taipei.)
According to Taiwan’s foreign ministry, a pair of Chinese diplomats showed up at the reception uninvited and sought to photograph guests. Beijing has deployed such tactics — turning up at events, taking photographs of people — in recent years to intimidate its rivals and those who support them.
When Taiwanese officials tried to block the Chinese diplomats, the visitors turned violent, according to the ministry. They beat a Taiwanese official so severely that the official was hospitalized, the ministry said.
This is what China refers to as “wolf warrior” diplomacy, based on a 2015 Chinese action film called Wolf Warrior which is sort of a Chinese version of Rambo. In this case, they send spies to the event to openly take pictures of everyone who is there, probably trying to intimidate them. When they are asked to leave, they start throwing punches.
China of course tells a different story. Chinese spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “On that very evening, the staff of the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji spoke and acted provocatively against the Chinese Embassy staff who were carrying out their official duties in the public area of the same hotel where the ‘event’ was held.” What exactly were the “official duties” of Chinese spies on foreign territory at a party they weren’t invited to? Zhao didn’t really explain. China also claimed to be offended by a cake that appeared at the party which was intended to look like a flag, possibly a Taiwanese flag.
If none of this makes sense to you, well, China doesn’t care. That’s how “wolf warrior” diplomacy works, i.e. China does what it wants and doesn’t really bother trying to make it seem reasonable. They’re Rambo, at least in their own minds.
What’s concerning about this is that China really does seem to be gearing up for possible action against Taiwan. The South China Morning Post reported yesterday:
Beijing is stepping up the militarisation of its southeast coast as it prepares for a possible invasion of Taiwan, military observers and sources have said.
The People’s Liberation Army has been upgrading its missile bases, and one Beijing-based military source said it has deployed its most advanced hypersonic missile the DF-17 to the area…
Beijing has sought to keep up the pressure on Taiwan with a series of exercises around the island, including a large-scale invasion drill last weekend and multiple air sorties that saw almost 40 fighters crossing the median line in the Taiwan Strait in a single day last month.
There’s not much reason to doubt that Bejing plans to do the same thing to Taiwan that it did to Hong Kong this summer, i.e. establish complete political and social control. They may be just waiting for the right moment. Given that the U.S. is the main thing holding them at bay and that we are about to be occupied with an election whose outcome could drag on for days or weeks, China’s moment could be coming soon.