For anyone interested in Taiwan, China is the big, fat dragon in the room.

We caught up with China commentator Gordon Chang right after the protests in Hong Kong two weeks ago. In Hong Kong, pro-democracy students and activists are upset that Beijing severely limited their right to vote for the chief executive in 2017, by only allowing candidates handpicked by China.

But China’s problems are not limited to Hong Kong. In Taiwan, we have witnessed an outpour of anti-China sentiment along with the Sunflower Movement, when students occupied Taiwan’s legislature to protest a trade agreement with China. From Japan, to Southeast Asia, to Australia, and to India, seems like everyone is forced to react to more aggressive Chinese policies. And within China, it has an almost unending list of issues, from rule of law, politics to economic and environmental problems, just simmering under the lid.

Gordon has written a book called The Coming Collapse of China in 2001, and writes for Forbes, World Affairs Journal, and other foreign policy publications. We ask him about geopolitics in Asia, what advice he gives to the next US and Taiwan presidents, and how he responds to criticism that he is a China alarmist. Here is our interview:

  • How do you see Hong Kong’s protest develop? Will China put even more pressure on Hong Kong, or will some sort of compromise be reached?
  • You have been saying that China’s aggressiveness is destabilizing the region, and we may see a “maritime Asia alliance” formed against China, with Japan and India taking the lead. We have seen Japan taking this very seriously, from its Article 9 reinterpretation, to visiting Australia. However, all of these nations, from Japan, Korea, Australia, to ASEAN countries, have economic ties to China. ASEAN in particular seems to be hedging its criticism of China’s South China Sea activities. How does this all play out?
  • Where does the US fit into all this? As the US may still be stuck in the Middle East, shouldn’t the US further avoid any confrontation or provocation with China? What specific policy recommendations would you give to whoever is taking over in 2016?
  • In light of current trends of Chinese aggressiveness and US passiveness, how should Taiwan play its cards? What advice would you give to whoever is taking over in 2016 in Taiwan?
  • You said recently that China’s economy is slowing down, reached the end of its market cycle. What happens next? Especially for many Taiwanese firms who depend on China for business volume?
  • Along with the Sunflower Movement, there was an outburst of anti-China political energy from the young people. How should this raw political energy be channeled?
  • Some people may very well call you a China alarmist, standing opposite people who are considered China apologists, like Eric X Li. What do you have to say to people who see China’s governance system as “efficient” or “the most fitting for Chinese culture”?
  • What would democracy in China look like? What will that transition look like, when the PRC collapses as you predict? How has the answer changed since you first wrote Coming Collapse of China in 2001?

(Feature photo of sunset over Shanghai, by Jakub Hałun on Wikicommons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Ketagalan Project

History and culture are the frames that prescribe how we understand the world around us. Our co-hosts present in-depth interviews on how art, culture, history and politics intertwine throughout time and space to connect us. Find out about the cosmopolitan modern Taipei downtown in the 1920s, regional trade, the future of aboriginal culture and more.