In this special report, “China in Focus” sat down with Bradley Thayer, founding member of the Committee on the Present Danger: China. He touched on the significance of Taiwan—not just militarily but also from a civilian perspective—what it means going forward on the geopolitical stage, and ways Beijing may try to subvert Taiwan.

Thayer said that Taiwan is “important, first of all, because it is a democracy. And so what we see in the clash between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China is a clash between a brutal dictatorship in the mainland and a democratic government, a free and democratic government, in Taiwan, which is deserving of support. Traditionally an ally of the United States in the course of the Cold War, the Taiwanese fought with the United States and Vietnam, and in other conflicts that the United States had in the course of the Cold War, and ties, if you will, still remain. And that legacy of support still remains. So, Taiwan is a microcosm. Really, the dispositive issue of the 21st century: is totalitarianism going to win? Or is democracy going to win?”

As to subverting Taiwan from within, Thayer said that “supporters of the mainland or neutral parties or individuals began calling for unification and that opens the door towards Chinese information operations to begin to generate, if you will, international support for the mainland’s attack against Taiwan. So that’s very dangerous. I think we need to recognize that there’s a spectrum of steps that Beijing may take against Taipei.”

As for Taiwan becoming a global issue, Thayer said that “the dispositive question of this century: Is totalitarianism going to be viable? Are we going to live under totalitarian government? Will that be able to set the rules, the norms, the principles of international politics? Or will the Western liberal international order survive? And so the EU is going to have to pick a side. They’re either going to have to come down on China’s side—and there’s that economic argument; Chinese investment penetration of EU societies; political penetration of EU societies—or they’re going to have to come down on the standpoint of their values, their principles, democratic liberal values and principles that the EU possesses. We would hope they will come down on the latter side—with the United States, with Japan, with Australia, with New Zealand, … and India—rather than siding with a regime that supports Muslim concentration camps, which grossly abuses human rights of their Muslim citizens.”

Watch on “China in Focus”