China is a bully.
It has bullied its way into international waters in the South China Sea, and it has been bullying Taiwan for decades, positioning more than 1,600 ballistic missiles at the little independent island as a means of intimidation through the threat of a cross-strait assault for Taipei’s daring to choose democracy and free trade over a communist dictatorship.
And the worst part about China’s bullying is that it continues to enlist new allies in its fight to isolate the Republic of China (ROC) through trade and investment incentives.
On Tuesday, June 13, Panama joined China’s gang of intimidators, officially embracing Beijing in a One-China policy that translated into the cutting of diplomatic ties with Taipei.
That leaves only 19 countries and the Vatican in Taiwan’s camp.
And despite Taiwan’s global efforts to win more governments to its side through generous programs of checkbook diplomacy, there is the distinct possibility (or maybe even probability) that other Central American countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua (all of which currently maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan) may soon follow suit.
That would leave the ROC even more isolated, with just a handful of small Caribbean and African nations to call its friends.
And the United States — which likes to pride itself as the great defender of democracy around the globe — is possibly the worst offender when it comes to caving in to China’s gang-mentality ostracization of Taiwan.
Before he took office, U.S. President Donald J. Trump took a protocol-breaking phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
Then-U.S. President Barack Obama was so aghast at the thought of Trump offending Beijing that he felt compelled to officially apologize for the diplomatic gaff twice, as if talking to a democratically elected official constituted a mortal sin for his successor.
Since that time, Trump has been more “discreet” in his dealings with Taiwan, and has tried to chum up with China, mainly because it is the only country that seems to be able to rein in North Korea and its maniac leader, Kim Jong-un.
But the political scapegoat is Taiwan, which despite having been a stalwart of democracy and the rule of law since its founding in 1949 as a response to the oppressive communist regime on the mainland, is still being victimized by an imperious China.
Earlier this year, the U.S.-based nongovernmental research and advocacy organization Freedom House rated Taiwan with a perfect score on political and civil rights, and also ranked that nation among the top most-free countries worldwide and second-most-free country in Asia, right after Japan.
It is time for the international community to stand up to China and defend Taiwan against its insolence and hectoring.
Otherwise, the real victim of China’s bullying may be democracy.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at email@example.com.