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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Recognizing Taiwan to stop China

Recognizing Taiwan to stop China

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After the US, Japan, India and Australia held a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue on March 12, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Japan, South Korea and then India for talks.

On March 18, Blinken and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) and Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) in Anchorage, Alaska.

Although Taiwan is never given a seat at the table on such occasions, Blinken and Austin penned a joint statement, published in the Washington Post on March 15, in which they criticized China for “undercutting democracy in Taiwan.”

Following the so-called “two-plus-two” meeting in Tokyo between Blinken, Austin and their Japanese counterparts, Japanese Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi confirmed that the two sides reached a consensus on the importance of achieving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

In an interview with Reuters in December, Japanese State Minister of Defense Yasuhide Nakayama called Taiwan’s safety a “red line,” and urged then-US president-elect Joe Biden to be “strong” in supporting Taiwan.

During the past two months, Biden administration officials have repeatedly emphasized that Washington’s commitment to Taiwan is “rock solid.”

This shows that Washington and Tokyo are increasingly focused on one thing: how to deal with an escalating crisis over Taiwan.

China is like a massive boulder sitting precariously on top of a hill. People close by and far away can see the boulder. An onlooker, the US, anticipates that the boulder — China — knows that it is not in its best interest to come rolling down the hill. Taiwan, situated at the bottom of the hill, is for the most part confident that the boulder would not come crashing down its head. A larger number of people, further from the hill, are discussing the probability of the boulder falling.

In the end, the boulder does come rolling down, picking up speed as it goes. It does not hesitate and puts all its energy into obliterating its target, believing that the greater the destructive force from flying shrapnel, the better.

Earlier this month, during China’s annual “two sessions” — the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference — Wang put down another marker on Taiwan: China has “no room for compromise” on the Taiwan issue, he said.

On March 9, US Navy Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, described China as the “greatest long-term strategic threat to security in the 21st century.”

“I’m worried that they’re accelerating their ambitions ... to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order,” he said, adding that Beijing could move to take control of Taiwan within a decade, perhaps within the next six years.

Kishi has also said that China is continuing to strengthen its military capabilities, changing the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait in its favor. He added that the imbalance is growing more pronounced as each year passes.

During a US Senate Committee on Armed Services hearing on March 2, former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said the period after next year’s Beijing Winter Games and the Chinese Communist Party congress scheduled for later that year would be of “greatest danger” for Taiwan.

In an article published in The Hill on March 10, Lyle Goldstein, research professor at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, echoed McMaster’s concerns, writing that “all bets are off” after the Winter Games are out of the way.

Biden’s new national security team “needs to put Taiwan first among all its priorities,” Goldstein added.

Sitting here in Taiwan, it feels like the calm before the storm.

How should the US respond to this crisis? Former US ambassador Robert Blackwill and University of Virginia professor of history Philip Zelikow last month co-wrote a policy paper for the US Council on Foreign Relations titled “The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War.”

The authors advocated that to effectively deter an attack by China, Taiwan must seriously prepare to defend itself, with the US’ and Japan’s role limited to providing coordinated military support. Blackwill and Zelikow said that the Biden administration should publicly restate the old dual deterrence formula: no declaration of independence by Taiwan and no use of force by China.

Washington should let Beijing decide whether it wishes to roll the dice and trigger a localized war, be it through a blockade or siege and assault of Taiwan. The US should make it clear that it will assist Taiwan to defend itself in the event of a localized war, but does not envisage fighting a general war with China over Taiwan, the authors wrote.

In reality, Washington is held hostage by its four-decade-old “one China” policy. Having nominally conceded that there is only “one China,” the US is now trapped by this logic. Beijing knows this. If Washington were to intervene, following an attempt by Beijing to militarily annex Taiwan, according to the logic of “one China,” the US would be interfering in China’s internal politics.

China is similarly trapped by its own rhetoric on Taiwan. Its “wolf warrior” diplomats are off the leash and on the warpath — in evidence at the Alaska meeting — and their arrogance has now bound China to a military “solution” on Taiwan.

In 1988, then-president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) “silent revolution” introduced democracy to Taiwan through actions such as freezing the National Assembly — nicknamed the “10,000-year congress” — and implementing direct presidential elections. These measures were viewed positively in Washington. However, in 1999, Lee proposed a “special state-to-state relationship” between Taiwan and China. The following year, then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who openly advocates independence, succeeded Lee. It was not long before Chen was frozen out by both Washington and Beijing. It was made clear from that moment on that the US would not support any move by Taiwan toward formal independence. Furthermore, any change to the so-called “status quo” or any provocation by Taiwan that resulted in a military response from China would render void US military assistance.

In other words, the US is unwilling to provide Taiwan with a cast-iron guarantee of protection, yet demands that Taiwan continually maintain a high level of military spending and warns Taiwanese that they must prepare to defend themselves on their own. All of these demands were made, despite Washington having never provided Taiwanese with a clear commitment as to what and for whom Taiwanese would be fighting for.

As a result of Washington’s refusal to acknowledge that Taiwan is a sovereign nation, Taiwan is constantly faced with threat of military annexation by China — or “unification” to use Beijing’s euphemistic term — and has been lumbered with an identity crisis, division and internal friction. In light of this, what good are empty pledges of the US’ “rock solid” commitment? If Washington expects Taiwan to fulfill the role of a figurehead for democracy in Asia, then surely it should provide Taiwanese with a “rock solid” guarantee.

Speaking during a US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on March 10, Blinken warmly praised Taiwan as a “strong democracy, a very strong technological power, and a country that can contribute to the world.”

The use of the word “country” by a US official is unusual.

Responding to Blinken’s remarks, Hayman Capital Management founder Kyle Bass posted a message on Twitter: “Taiwan is a COUNTRY of 24 million people. Taiwan is NOT china. United States will recognize Taiwan from now-on.”

When a prominent member of Wall Street senses a change in the direction of the wind, it is worth paying attention.

Beijing’s sudden introduction of new national security legislation in Hong Kong last year and its recent declaration that it would alter the voting system with Hong Kong’s legislature demonstrates that Beijing is intent on comprehensively snuffing out the remaining flickers of democracy in the former British colony.

US-led sanctions against Hong Kong and mainland officials will not have any impact on Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). The sanctions will be as ineffectual as attempting to alleviate an itch by scratching the outside of one’s boot, and might well persuade Xi to “deal with” Hong Kong once and for all with a decisive act. As for the rest of the international community’s promises on Hong Kong, they amount to nothing more than sentimental posturing by the West. The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated Western nations, and inflated Xi’s confidence and arrogance to new heights.

The year 2019 marked the 40th anniversary of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act. In an article for the Taipei Times, published ahead of the anniversary on Dec. 11, 2018, US Representative Ted Yoho wrote: “After 40 years, it is time we updated our policy — making it consistent with present-day reality would be a good place to start. Taiwan is a nation, and it is time to embrace and recognize this fact.”

On Feb. 26, US representatives Tom Tiffany and Scott Perry cosponsored Congress House Concurrent Resolution 21, which called on the US government to scrap its “one China” policy, “recognize the legitimacy of the democratically elected national government in Taipei, normalize diplomatic relations between our two nations, appoint a US ambassador to Taiwan, and receive a Taiwanese ambassador to the US.”

Bass’ prediction that the US will recognize Taiwan from now on was not plucked from thin air — he has his ear to the ground.

As regards Hong Kong, Western democracies have criticized China for failing to abide by the commitments it made in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, but Xi seems confident that the West has no ace card up its sleeve.

However, the West does possess a trump card with which to sanction Beijing for reneging on its international commitments, and that is Taiwan.

Recognizing Taiwan’s status as a sovereign and independent state now before it is too late would stop China’s rabid “wolf warriors” in their tracks before they stomp all over the world’s most precarious geopolitical tripwire.

How can the rest of the world strike a counterattack against a boulder in free-fall? By smashing it to smithereens mid-flight to ensure it cannot reach its ultimate and devastating destination.

Translated by Edward Jones

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2021/03/30

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Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) president Mark Kao (高龍榮) on Friday criticized President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for “surreptitiously moving Taiwan towards closer political linkages with China.”

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