On September 16, the Chinese government suddenly announced its candidacy for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But such a step was absurd from the start.
For example, the TPP’s SOE clause prohibits member countries from providing assistance to domestic SOEs. However, China has never stopped providing aid and has even stepped up efforts to take advantage of state-owned enterprises as part of a plan to make them “stronger and bigger” under the Xi administration. .
For a new candidate country to join the TPP, an agreement must be reached by all member countries. But China has been causing trade friction with member countries since last year, including imposing aggressive sanctions on Australia. It will be extremely difficult for China to get Australia’s consent in future negotiations to join the TPP, but these obstacles were created by none other than the Xi administration itself.
In this way, it’s clear why China’s candidacy was a botched move.
Factors that pushed China to take the plunge likely include the difficulties caused by the European Parliament’s decision to freeze ratification of the EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement. Another factor is the formation of the Quad, an alliance between Japan, the United States, Australia and India to counter China. And the emergence of a new partnership between the United States, Britain and Australia to contain China, AUKUS, would also figure in China’s reasons.
In other words, China has played the “TPP membership” card in a last measure of panic to emerge from its encirclement in the Indo-Pacific.
Ironically, this interim measure caused an unfortunate event for China. On September 22, prompted by China’s candidacy, Taiwan also formally applied to join the TPP.
The race to join the TPP began, and it was evident at the start line that Taiwan had the advantage.
Taiwan has a full market economy, does not have to worry about state-owned enterprises, generally enjoys good relations with TPP member countries, and does not experience trade frictions. The fact that Japan, TPP chairman this year, was the first to welcome Taiwan’s candidacy is another positive wind in its favor.
In the near future, Taiwan will likely join the TPP first in a big blow to China.
Not only will this destroy the reputation of the Xi administration, but it will also cause an even bigger problem for China. If Taiwan first becomes a member, China will find itself in the miserable position of having to crave Taiwan’s consent to join the TPP.
For Taiwan, joining the TPP will mean strengthening its international presence, and becoming a member of a free trade bloc representing major Pacific countries will make it difficult for the Xi administration to wage war in an attempt to annex Taiwan. Any reckless military action against Taiwan would provoke a fierce reaction from the regional international community, to the detriment of all member countries and the destruction of the free trade area.
In short, by applying for the TPP with a view to breaking out of its encirclement, China has unwittingly placed itself in an even more delicate situation by pushing Taiwan to apply for the TPP.
Recently, everything the Xi administration does seems to have turned against it, both domestically and externally.
As for the free world, including Japan, welcoming Taiwan as a member of the TPP will be the best way to maintain long-term peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Read more English translations from Seki Hei’s China Watch column, here.
(Read it Sankei Shimbun column in japanese on this link.)
Author: Seki Hei