In Taiwan a stealthy confidence emerges
In the face of China's invasion threat Taiwanese leaders prepare for the worst while recognizing fragility in Beijing
A few days before flying to Taiwan for a reporting trip I visited the nation’s top representative in Ottawa, Dr. Harry Tseng.
In his office, I sat with a cup of tea on a brown leather couch, a sweeping view of Parliament Hill behind us, while Tseng introduced a theme that I heard repeatedly in discussions with senior officials in Taipei, last week.
“It is such an intriguing period — we are seeing a sea change,” Tseng told me. “We see today enough problems for Xi Jinping, but it will only get worse.”
Tseng studies the Chinese Communist Party and its United Front Work Department, and can expertly analyze Beijing’s mysterious political elite.
He also understands markets and China’s economic trajectory, and probably could have made some world leaders and hedge fund managers look very smart last year, if they had the chance to listen to him.
When I approached Tseng last fall to get some insight for my upcoming series on China’s election interference in Canada, the world was nervously digesting Beijing’s furious response to Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit.
Tseng wasn’t overly impressed by China’s military theatre.
He hinted to me about Taiwan’s intelligence capabilities, said President Xi’s regime was weaker than it seemed, and insisted that China’s economy was in the early innings of a crash that would accelerate.
In other words, he was hugely bearish on Xi Jinping’s hardline authoritarianism.
I found that his colleagues in Taipei also believe Xi’s leadership is actually hurting China and helping Taiwan’s cause internationally.
This makes them the intellectual opposites of many in Ottawa, such as Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and former Chinese ambassador and McKinsey director Dominic Barton, who in 2016, gushed that he was a “bull on China” and said: “At the risk of taking the Kool-Aid too much, I think Xi Jinping is someone … looking at his legacy, if you will … a 30-year horizon.”