Keep an Eye on Taiwan

from The Atlantic

Taiwan is one of those flash points that has never flashed. The dispute over the island’s fate has had the potential to erupt into conflict between China and the United States for decades. But the feared Chinese invasion has never come. The situation has remained deadlocked for so long that Taiwan’s quandary often drifts into the background of Asian affairs, overshadowed by seemingly more-pressing concerns, such as North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and inflamed tensions between India and Pakistan in Kashmir.

Not now. With an erratic President Donald Trump distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as his own ill health, and already disengaged from Asian affairs, concerns have been mounting about America’s commitment to defending the region. China, by contrast, is becoming more assertive, having achieved a clampdown in Hong Kong—where it put a far-reaching and restrictive national-security law in place—with few, if any, tangible repercussions from the international community. As a result, some Taiwan watchers, and the island’s leaders themselves, are worried that the risks of war breaking out over control of the island are rising, either caused accidentally, or even purposely launched by Beijing.

“It is becoming more alarming,” Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, told me. He said he was “very concerned” that Beijing would use its long-standing claim to Taiwan as “a very good excuse … to launch an attack.” Warning lights are flashing in Washington, D.C., too: Senator Josh Hawley and Representative Mike Gallagher each introduced legislation in recent months to bolster Washington’s (rather ambiguous) defense commitment to Taiwan. “No longer can anyone harbor the illusion that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) would unify peacefully with Taiwan,” Gallagher noted in a statement.

More here.

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11 Comments

  1. Having an eye on foreign policy is certainly a hard thing to prioritize these days. Not only does the United States have a controversial major deciding election for the Presidency coming up in the next few weeks, the mere existence of the COVID-19 virus has thrust an outlook on America that we should be more concerned with our own problems than the world at large. This may have been a sizable sentiment even before the pandemic, but current conditions have exasperated these opinions into being more accepted. With these new blind eyes turned inward, the problems that are still existing outward fester and plot. The article I read in The Atlantic, the one I am commenting on, had brought up these types of observations simply because I am one of those people who lately has been so absorbed in internal problems that I have been ignoring international ones. In the case of China, I used to be up in arms over the constant stream of distressing info that one would hear about them, but after the initial uproar over the Wuhan laboratory, I really did not hear much more about them. And as for the Taiwan situation, aside from China freaking out whenever someone internationally even mentions Taiwan, there has not really been much actual warfare and conquest by the Chinese recently to conquer this tiny piece of land. But the more I looked into it, the more I saw the sneaky behavior of China slip through the wall of a COVID-19 concerned news cycle. The recent live fire exercises conducted by the Chinese military simulating action against Taiwan is one such event that should get more recognition by citizens the world over, but due to COVID-19 being such a bigger issue comparatively to some people the matter has gone largely unchallenged by the international community. The rise of China as a country accustomed to lack of challenge is truly the largest possible instigator of world wide strife in recent history. The idea of a world with respect and diligence to protect each other from injustice is challenged whenever such an injustice goes unchallenged. The negligence of any real change to this new China status quo can only be rectified by an united front, most hopefully one from other countries than the United States as well. But for this to gain any real headway, the United States has to start this. Under Trump, the China relationship has crumbled at a speed unseen before. But whether or not this will prove beneficial to the people of Taiwan remains to be seen.

  2. I admittedly do not know much about Taiwan’s history with China, although I am watching the situation with Hong Kong closely. This article reminded me of the book I am yet to read, “China’s 100 Year Marathon.” All about China’s plan to take over America as a global superpower. One key takeaway from the article for me as the election draws closer is the effects that Trump’s lackluster, haphazard leadership has on international relations. By being so irresponsible, we damage not only America but our international allies as well. It is funny that the man who talks down China nonstop could leave a door open for them to increase international power. In Hong Kong, protestors cried for American support, yet it never came. A similar situation could arise in Taiwan if we are not careful. This is also an excellent example of a problem that Trump is not paying attention to and refusing to take the advice of his advisors.
    On the Chinese side, Xi seems like a dangerous character, “This is the scenario we have all been worrying about for decades,” Shelley Rigger, a longtime Taiwan watcher at Davidson College, told me, “a Chinese leader who depends on showing strength somewhere.” A lion backed into a corner with one of the world’s most powerful armies by his side does not paint an optimistic image. The article also mentions a potentially more tactical plan from Xi to subvert confidence in the Taiwanese government and use that to gain power. “If you put all this together, we see that the authoritarian government of China is trying to expand its global influence,” if Taiwan is only the first move in a larger game of international chess, I wonder what the next play would be. Where would America and the international community draw the line, and will it be too late? We should be wary of adopting a standard of appeasement, the likes of which we saw with Adolf Hitler when British prime minister Neville Chamberlain claimed there would be “Peace for our time,” shortly after surrendering a part of Czechoslovakia to Germany, and shortly before the beginning of WWII.
    Should this election favor Joe Biden, I wonder how he would do in high stakes negotiations. He would be the oldest elected President in history, and his long and complicated past could make him susceptible to manipulation from old business partners. For the most part, those are all conspiracy theories, but they certainly beg the question. If Kamala Harris would become President, how would she handle the deals? She has made pushes for human rights in other nations. When running for President, she made the statement, “Under my administration, we will cooperate with China on global issues like climate change, but we won’t allow human rights abuses to go unchecked. The United States must reclaim our moral authority and work with like-minded nations to stand up forcefully for human rights in China and around the world.” Forcefully is the keyword there.

  3. I believe that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is extremely unlikely because the US’s immense military presence in East Asia, with over 80,000 troops in Japan and South Korea and aircraft carriers in nearby waters, would make any war incredibly costly, assuming that the US responds to an invasion with its military. Also, the US and China are both armed with nuclear warheads, bringing back the Mutual Assured Destruction theory/phenomena.
    Instead, China is more likely to use nonviolent methods in its attempt to undermine any autonomy or sovereignty of the small island nation, similar to their Hong Kong intrusion with a crime bill. Whether that be propaganda, disinformation, influencing local politicians, or a combination of those.
    Besides Chinese President Xi’s incentives to secure political power, there are other benefits China can reap by having power in Taiwan. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is central to its foreign policy and seeks to build both trade relationships and routes. By bringing Taiwan under its Umbrella, China would have territorial claims to the Taiwan Strait, where a massive shipping route exists, delivering energy, food, and materials from Europe and the Middle East to Japan and South Korea. It’s almost as important as the Persian Gulf itself and part of the reason why China claims control over the South China Sea.
    To preserve American power in the region, we need to demonstrate that a relationship with us would provide the Taiwanese with a stronger economy, more protection, and ensure that their rights are not infringed. That will mean that we would establish formal relationships with them, which China will not take lightly. Remember how China responded when Trump accepted a phone call from Taiwan’s government after he got elected? But as I explained above, I do not think China would retaliate with its military.

  4. A Chinese offensive on Taiwan is unlikely in my opinion. The US has strategical forces set there for military purposes and China is most likely unwilling to risk all out war for Taiwan. The United States has approximately 80,000 troops stationed in the East in countries such as Japan and South Korea. The issue with Taiwan is certain countries fail to recognize it as its own nation. President Trump upon inauguration received a call from the leader of Taiwan which sparked political outrage as China does not recognize Taiwan as its own independent nation. The situation in Taiwan is similar to the Hong Kong incidents which plagued the people of Hong Kong for decades as it was an English colony and was part of the English Empire for some time and the Chinese government wanted to annex the region and city to its state. President Xi will most likely use non offensive methods to annex Taiwan completely most likely resulting in a financial strain on Taiwans economy. China has been constructing a major trade belt through the continent as a way to have easier trade with Europe. Taiwan would be a major bonus for the Chinese government as it has major ports which would make shipping much more affordable for the country. To keep an American presence in this region, the President needs to make sure to tread carefully but have a firm grip on the island, as China will take advantage of weak leadership and completely annex the island into the Chinese state. We need to demonstrate a positive relationship with the Taiwanese government as that is pivotal to keeping good relations in Taiwan.

  5. Taiwan has been a center of attention to the United States and China. China feels that they have a tie to Taiwan, but Taiwan feels that they are their own nation. In the article it talks about how China may launch an attack against Taiwan and will use their claim to the area as an excuse. The United States is alarmed by this because they are protecting Taiwan’s freedom. This could get really ugly and like any other rational person, I do not support war. Fox Business reports that the United States attempting to sell advanced weaponry to Taiwan and that if this occurs, China will retaliate. Fox Business has not specified what this retaliation would be, but this does not sound good. This issue goes back to 1949 when the Communists defeated the Republic of China and the Republic fled to Taiwan. The Communist China believes they have hold of Taiwan and the United States feels that they should protect Taiwan’s freedom. I have not heard much about this dispute as of late because many events have been overshadowed due to COVID-19. The United States and China obviously do not have the best relationship, and this can be seen through President Trump referring to COVID-19 as the China violence. The article points out that China was conducting military drills. This goes to show the lack of respect China has for Taiwan’s boundaries. China is catching up to the United States and may surpass them as the number one world power. With this approaching quickly, this could lead, like the article pointed out, to a shift in powers in Asia. The post-World War II peace treaties can only hold China off for so long. Eventually, they will want to reassert themselves. This raises a whole new question of what the United States can do to keep hold of this. I think that solution would have to start with a new education system and a stronger emphasis on the integration of technology into the work force. The United States has caught a break with COVID-19 hitting China’s economy really hard and this has led to their leader, who, seemingly, is more like a king right now, catching flack for the situation. All in all, this is a really rough situation that has the possibility to get even worse with our current leader. Hopefully, this is nothing more than a slight flare up in a long time standoff.

    https://www.foxbusiness.com/economy/china-vows-retaliation-us-proceeds-taiwan-arms-sale

  6. There has been a decade long battle between the United States and China over the fate of Taiwan and the invasion of the CCP. The island of Taiwan’s leaders, including Joseph Wu are worried about Beijing purposely launching a war to control their island. His fear is that Beijing “would use their long-standing claim to Taiwan as a very good excuse… to launch an attack.” While the United States is preoccupied with the Corona virus pandemic, it appears that they are disengaged from foreign affairs while by contrast, China is more assertive. To demonstrate their boldness, China has put in place far reaching restrictive national security laws upon Hong Kong and received little repercussions from the international communities. Moreover, legislation has been introduced recently by U.S. Senator Josh Hawley and Representative Mike Gallagher to bolster the United States’ commitment to Taiwan. The prospect of war over the Taiwan region has been increasing recently on both land and sea with the Chinese military conducting exercises and drills that were extremely close to Taiwan. Furthermore, “Beijing made clear it denied the existence of an unofficial boundary in the Taiwan Strait that has ensured a degree of stability along the heavily fortified waterway.” In fact, China’s defense ministry went as far as warning Taiwan that “those that play with fire are bound to get burned.” A long-time expert of Taiwan, Richard Bush stated President Xi’s long-term strategy is to intimidate and undermine confidence in the government of Taiwan, not war. China’s assertiveness has highlighted the uncertainty and global security by shifting powers in America. In the past, pacific Asian affairs were somewhat predictable after WWII when a system of alliances was formed and supported by consistent foreign policy principles. American military presence has always solidified U.S. power in the region and offered stability for Asian nations. China, however, has been challenging and contesting Americans in Asian by attempting to become the regions dominant power. Worth noting, President Xi Jingping has accumulated more power than any other leader since Mao and has been a staunch defender of China’s national interests. However, the corona virus pandemic has left China in its worst economic downturn, and targeting Taiwan can be an easy way for President Xi to gain confidence at home by showing strength.

  7. As mentioned in the article, Taiwan is a Cold War relic, but I think that it is not so much of a relic, but rather a remnant that is symbolic of the conflict between the Chinese communist party and democratic ideals that is represented by the United States. And I agree that the Chinese invasion into Taiwan will not happen because it is seemingly impractical from any perspective, it will only bring negative and unnecessary attention to China, making it a target of the Union. However, a political invasion is plausible. Hong Kong, for instance, some members of the Legislative council of Hong Kong are appointed or influenced by the Chinese government, discretely or publicly. Who is to say that this is not foreshadowing of the Chinese government influencing Taiwan’s politics. Although Taiwan does have the credibility of being the most successful Chinese democratic society, it still could not escape political corruption, with five politicians recently charged with bribery causing heavy criticism on its lobbying laws, which is evidential to me that their democracy is not well protected.
    I do also agree with the article’s argument of Taiwan being crucial for the future of international trading and world order. Despite its limited international presence it is difficult to overstate Taiwan’s strategic importance to both the United States and an increasingly assertive China. The island’s location, economy, and security are all essential to American interests, and if Taiwan were to become part of China, as Beijing has insisted it must, China would instantly become a Pacific power, control some of the world’s most cutting-edge technologies, and have the ability to choke off oil shipments to Japan and South Korea—leverage it could use to demand the closure of U.S. military bases in both countries. In effect, Beijing would likely be able to achieve its goal of forcing the U.S. out of Asia. It is no surprise, then, that Taiwan is one of the rare issues today with the bipartisan agreement—Congress has been regularly passing pro-Taiwan legislation with unanimous support throughout the Donald Trump era.

  8. American involvement in the Pacific and eastern Asian has been unstable for decades. Whether peacetime or during war, there has not been many chances true peace is available—there is usually at least one side that is not happy. Taiwan is a peculiar situation in that there is independence recognized by most except the country it got away from. This in itself is not a rare occurrence by any means, but when they must rely on a world power that no longer has control over itself, that is peculiar. Debatably, America has not had its act together for some time, all the while losing credibility and footholds it once had all around the world. Since Taiwan was once under United States support, it is questionable as to whether it still is, as the author Michael Schuman mentions.
    The Trump administration has done things that shifted power domestically, as well as abroad; the Taiwan debacle does not seem to be in America’s control anymore. Schuman also mentioned the United States sending the Secretary of Health and Human Services over to Taiwan, but as such under the Trump administration, it seems to simply be a public statement of power over the region. The question as to whether America truly does have power over the region cannot be answered solely by this action, but with proper communication. As briefly brought to light, it is interesting to think how the Biden administration would treat the situation, if voted president of the United States. Only time will tell if the Taiwan debacle will cease, but I think for the betterment of humanity, it should.

  9. The conflict between the United States and China leaves Taiwan in the middle of a maelstrom of turmoil. Taiwan has considered itself to be its own independent nation, however, the Chinese government believes that Taiwan is only a further extension of itself. President Xi Jinping is trying to annex Taiwan back into the grasp of China to further the efficiency of the Chinese economy and potentially force out any United States presence in the East. This action consequentially secures China’s position as the most prominent country in the East. How President Xi goes about doing so is another question. Using military force to enact an annexation is unlikely, considering that such an action will involve the United States military, causing numerous incidents of bloodshed and death. Rather, President Xi will more likely use an indirect method of influence, such as placing restricting laws that extend into Taiwanese territory, or by infiltrating the Taiwanese democracy through the employment of corrupt politicians.

    The people of Taiwan had once favored reunifying with China at an earlier point in time. Currently, however, views have shifted to favor Taiwanese independence and democracy; reunifying with China is no longer a goal for the government of Taiwan. Understandably, the Taiwanese government would not favor being a part of the Chinese government, considering the authoritarian rule that Xi Jinping has over the country; no one has consolidated such a great amount of power for themselves since the reign of Mao Zedong himself, among some of the most terrifying government figures that gained power during the twentieth century.

    The United States should establish formal relationships with the Taiwanese government. This action will not be taken lightly by the Chinese, but it is necessary to keep United States presence in the East. The United States needs to demonstrate the ability to provide the Taiwanese government with military protection, help them with economic growth, and assist in retaining their rights and democracy.

  10. When thinking of Asian countries and how they run there land the first communists’ country we think of is North Korea. This has to do with there ability to have a nuclear bomb over our heads and the threat is used towards the United States. Looking at another communist country that is about to start a war is Taiwan. Taiwan does not get recognized as much due to the low severity the United States puts on them. We as a nation do not see them as a threat so we did not know about what was going to happen soon in their country. When reading the article, it opened my eyes on how the communist country is about to start a war from within. The leadership has enough fire power to hold there own against the citizens, but the citizens are voicing their concern for help. In my opinion I believe that the United States needs to help the citizens of Taiwan because we have the fire power and the strength to help them fight against there leader. Yes, this is not our war, but there is a time in which people need help that we should go and help them. China is also breathing down Taiwan’s neck on showing there “training” close by. To anyone they would take this as a threat in which it should be because for obvious reasons China is a lot bigger than Taiwan. In the article though they are saying that China is waiting out the government in Taiwan to make their strike. I do not believe that this is land related but more towards the two governments not agreeing with one another and wanting to put pressure on one another’s back. But this is where the citizens of both do not have a say because they are both communist ran and if they do not follow the rules they will be killed. In a way it is killed or be killed, and you have to take your chances with the latter. Overall, I believe that Taiwan needs help and needs other countries to come and back them up. We never know when the time will come that we might need this favor back, so there needs to be push from the United States.

  11. A Chinese invasion on Taiwan is very unlikely in my opinion. The United States has strong forces in their military and China knows that. I do not think that China is willing to risk all of their military to fight a war with Taiwan. The United States has many military enforcement in the east countries approximately 80,000 military troopers. Do United States President Trump gain a call from the leader of Taiwan which made an outrage from China because Taiwan is part of China and is their own independent nation and to see that the United States president contacted Taiwan over China made China very unhappy. China has many trade routes that connect to the US and make it an easier way to trade for many countries such as the US and Europe. I want benefits from China’s government because it makes shipping more affordable but since Taiwan chooses to be an independent country, they don’t receive those benefits. China will determine to take over weaker places to benefit themselves. But seeing as how China used tiny tactics in previous war engagements from history I do not think that China will go against Taiwan in a warly Manor.

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