Rumblings Off The Taiwan Strait

An article by Jim Yardley and Thom Shanker first published in the NY Times this past Friday, now available at The IHT Online, tells of China's slow military buildup in preparation for a potential invasion of Taiwan. What may have been out of reach a decade ago when Bill Clinton responded to China's firing of missiles over the Taiwan Strait is becoming more and more of a possibility. The recent anti-secession law passed by China is the latest in a series of moves that point in the same direction. It's a sad twist of life that the mad leader of a socialist hellhole is protected because he may have nukes while a small democracy with a thriving economy and one of the highest standards of living in the world sits vulnerable to an attack by a nation with one of the worst human rights records in the world.

I don't know if and how the US should respond. But the blogosphere can play a part, even if it's a small one. As the recent coverage of the Lebanon protests showed the power of blogosphere in portraying the anti-Syrian side as more Western and modern than its opposition, the blogosphere should similarly stay on top of the China-Taiwan story. Televised media will only pick up the story late in the proceedings. Blogs can cover the earlier, smaller events that would otherwise go unnoticed. Every action by the Chinese government needs to be detailed. Every word uttered by Chinese leaders should to be scrutinized. Ramifications of mass boycotts of the 2008 Beijing Olympics need to be explored. Every protest in Taiwan needs to be covered in living color. It may not have the same power as submarines and fighter jets, but the growing worldwide popularity of blogs can be useful in shining a harsh light on the Chinese government.

Update: Jim Henley thoroughly mangles the message of my post beyond recognition. If you had asked 100 people who read the above post - "Does Jonathan Wilde want to save Taiwan by posting photogenic protest pictures?" I seriously doubt anyone would say, "Yes!", except of course, the often bewildering accusation-making Henley.

(If anyone does have Taiwanese cheesecake on their harddrive, feel free to email me some.)

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"It’s a sad twist of life

"It’s a sad twist of life that the mad leader of a socialist hellhole is protected because he may have nukes while a small democracy with a thriving economy and one of the highest standards of living in the world sits vulnerable to an attack by a nation with one of the worst human rights records in the world."

You're very nearly signing from my hymnbook here Jon, but you're not quite connecting all the dots. Start with North Korea and work back from there. How is Kim Jong Il's regime able to stay afloat? NK is basically a Chinese client state. If China shuts off the energy and supply spigots, Kim would crumble real fast. Now put that at the back of your brain for a minute and switch gears to Taiwan.

Despite all the rhetoric, I don't believe that there's enough political will on the mainland for an actual invasion of Taiwan. But even if there were, it would not even be possible for another 10 years, at the absolute minimum. Currently, trade between Taiwan and the mainland is greater than it's ever been (AFAIK) and can only be expected to increase over the next decade. Does anyone really believe that come 10 years from now, anyone will be game for a costly invasion? I don't.

In the mean time, all it would take to satisfy the PRC on this score would be to strike the same deal with Taiwan as they did with Hong Kong. "One country, two systems." Remember back when Hong Kong was given back to China? Remember how everyone was worried that Hong Kong would end up getting screwed? Then remember how Hong Kong ended up changing China much more than the other way 'round? Yeah. This is exactly what would happen if Taiwan were to rejoin the mainland tomorrow.

Instead of recognizing this, the US remains stuck with its Asia policy shackled to the whims of Taiwan's government. Who wants to ignite a war over Taiwan's name change? Not me.

Now switch gears back to North Korea. What can the US offer China in exchange for them committing to getting rid of Kim? It can twist Taiwan's arm as hard as it can to go along with a "one China, two systems" deal, and the US can also immediately offer to divert the funds currently going into the missile defense sheild into a reconstruction fund for NK after Kim is gone. (Also, offering to twist Iraq's arm into giving China oil contracts may sweeten the pot further, since they're going to be getting a lot more energy-hungry over the next decade.) The PRC would probably jump at that offer.

And voila, two birds with one stone. Not only is a tense situation in the Taiwan straits resolved, but Kim goes bye-bye to boot. South Korea and Taiwan will have to get dragged along kicking and screaming, but fuck 'em. It'll likely be better for everyone in the long run this way.

Maybe I'm just being overly optimistic here, but I don't see why this would be impossible.

The US position is that if

The US position is that if China invades Taiwan we will help. If Taiwan declares independence and then China invades, the jury is still out. The aim is to keep Taiwan from declaring independence. The Chinese do not want to do this now because it will destroy their growing economy and make them a pariah on the world front. In addition, they aren't ready militarily to safely invade, whether the US joins in or not. But they will be. They only need to be strong enough to make us weak in the knees, not defeat us. They won't wait forever.

The real question isn't

The real question isn't whether or not the situation there is acceptable at an individual human level. Obviously it's not, no one in their right mind would argue it was. Rather, is it so vital to us that it be corrected that american lives & tax dollars should be sacrificed by force to make that happen?

I feel for their predicament and if I had the resources to help them I probably would. But the point of our government is to defend us, not anyone else, so they're pretty much out of the equation.

I personally think Taiwan is

I personally think Taiwan is none of our business, and find it funny that we’re so waffle-prone on whether China is an enemy or a trading partner.

I'm always struck by how easily people dismiss events in other parts of the world as "none of our business". I am lucky to be living in America, which while suffering under an overbearing US government burdened with special interest politics, is in a different category than China, where there are people are punished for what they say and what religion they practice, where prisoners are tortured, citizens are arbitrarily arrested, women are forced into prostitution, and contraception is forcibly administered. As a human being, it is very much my business what other human beings are going through in the rest of the world.

Even if it does not matter to you, it matters very much to me that the people of Taiwan do not have to live under the Chinese government. It matters to me that people in Zimbabwe and North Korea live under tyrants.

A free society being taken

A free society being taken over, forcibly, by a state that sees people as tools to be used or thrown away at its will, is most definitely our business.

I personally think Taiwan is

I personally think Taiwan is none of our business, and find it funny that we're so waffle-prone on whether China is an enemy or a trading partner.

If the crustier elements amoung the World's Policemen group that devises US strategy are correct and Taiwan is actually important, then China would be defined as "against" us. So, slide Taiwan some nukes, problem solved....right?

"A free society being taken

"A free society being taken over, forcibly, by a state that sees people as tools to be used or thrown away at its will, is most definitely our business."

It's none of my business, unless I make it so, or unless you make it so against my will. But once you do that, I put you in the same camp as those who forcibly take over free societies, which, to me, means you would be for what you are against.

I would be against the US intervening in a dispute between China and Taiwan. The US never seems to have the best interests of the US citizens in mind when it does such things, and even if they did, the Law of Unintended Consequences would rear its ugly head in the worst way. Ideally, the US government would not have the ability to intervene, let alone the will. But it does, so all I can hope for is that the competing interests of our rulers prevents such intervention.


The best reason for

The best reason for supporting Taiwan if China invades: We said we would.

Being a dependable ally makes this country stronger.


DeadHorseBeater, I agree

I agree with you, but I don't think the situation will boil over unless Taiwan declared independence. This brinkmanship by the Chinese, IMHO, is mainly done to make sure that Taiwan doesn't do that.

I'm still not sure Taiwan won't do it, but I would be incredibly surprised if China attacked them without them doing so.

I think it would be a

I think it would be a mistake to look at China and Taiwan's motives too much through the lens of 'national interest' where national interest is taken to be security from attack and economic prosperity.
"National honor" plays a large role, especially as (now that the title of Communist is a farce) nationalism+economic growth are the sole bases of popularity for the ruling party. Many times, nations will act to protect their national honor (or political/emotional needs) even at severe risk to their more material interests.
The statement that one nation or the other would hugely damage their national interests by going to war or by refusing to appease aggression is probably true. Yet we see nations going to war anyway, yes?

Folks, Sorry about the

Sorry about the comment spam, but the permalink for the above trackback should be this post.

My apologies. A long day of air travel turns ones brain to mush.

Let's take a look at this rationally. China has no motive, and no benefit to be gained, from invading Taiwan. The only time where this would change is if Taiwan outright declared independence, and then China would be forced, by the unwritten rules of...

Rumblings Off The Taiwan

Rumblings Off The Taiwan Strait
Like we've never heard this:...

While I agree with most of

While I agree with most of Matt's comments above about the current state of affairs, in that China has neither the will nor a true motive to invade Taiwan, short of Taiwan actually outright declaring independence. China is dramatically liberalizing their economic and social practices, which is only going to go further. Once the current old farts die off and are replaced with younger leaders, I think the Chinese communist experiment will be over, for the same reason Russia's is over. It just doesn't work, and you can't hold 1.2 billion people under your thumb when they get a taste for freedom and a wonderful medium like the internet to communicate and organize.

But I think the prognosis that a little arm-twisting and deal-making will bring us Kim Jong Il is a little more optimistic than I'm willing to cede. Frankly, I think that Taiwan and China will eventually meet a system where they go Hong Kong style of reunification, or China will liberalize enough that they can do full reunification. But I don't think Taiwan is ready to acquiesce to that yet, even with American arm-twisting. And China is only saber-rattling now to keep Taiwan from doing the stupid thing and declaring independence, which is something that a large number of their own population doesn't even want.

I think the best answer here is to do nothing, and let nature take its course. Don't soften our rhetoric that we'll stand up for Taiwan, because that's an added hedge against Chinese action, but keep the diplomatic "one China" policy that we've had for a long time. This one is going to diffuse on its own, IMHO.