Pundits looking at the near future for this world’s principal threat of global destruction have started to focus on Taiwan.
In a way, this reorientation away from the brutal thuggery of the Lenin-Stalin-Putin century is a bit of a relief. This Russian oligarchic dictatorship form of communism was not unexpected given its pre-revolutionary feudal societal structure. Russia isn’t going anywhere. Putin’s military and diplomatic Syrian misadventure has confirmed its blundering destructiveness. The Soviet empire will not be reconstituted.
Now it is Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party – a rising pugnacious imperialistic oligarchic tyranny in search of wealth and power. We face another century of attempts to destroy our western-style civilization.
So let us begin where the point of the sword is poking us. First – the big lie that Taiwan is fundamentally Chinese. It is not. The island was initially populated by nomadic indigenous tribes of Indo-Malayan lineage, physically akin to the people who populated the Philippines and Indonesia. Portuguese (who named the island Formosa) and Spanish traders were the first to establish permanent settlements there in the 16th century. In 1683, the Manchus, who defeated the Ming dynasty, expelled the Dutch and Portuguese and took over the island as part of their Beijing-based Forbidden City imperial domain. Then, during the Franco-Chinese war of 1884 to 85, Japan invaded and occupied Formosa, changing its name to Taiwan. They developed its economy and established a military base that eventually served as a springboard to invading China during the Second World War.
At the end of the Second World War, Taiwan was ceded to China as part of war reparations. It was here that the Chinese Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek retreated from the Chinese Communist army, establishing a Nationalist government at Taipei in 1949. Taiwan was renamed Formosa and administered titularly as a province of China. But its currency was changed from a Chinese national currency to the Taiwan dollar with links to the U.S. dollar. Initially, President Harry Truman withheld aid to the Nationalists until the Korean conflict when he ordered the U.S. navy to prevent a Communist Party attack on the island. During the 1950s and '60s Formosa was almost entirely dependent on the U.S. for its economic and military functioning. This included the development of a western style form of rules of law, private property ownership, markets and political structure
Then mainland China returned. In 1979, a U.S.-P.R.C. Joint Communiqué switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, stating there is but one China, reinstituting the island’s formal name to Taiwan and declaring it part of China. The rest of us ‘westerners’ fell in line. That should have closed the deal on Taiwan. However, the communiqué also stated that the U.S. would maintain cultural, commercial and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan. That included a $300-million military sale of U.S. armaments to Taiwan in 2020.
The matter at hand is to what extent will other western democracies support the U.S. in preventing the Chinese Communist government from militarily blockading or invading Taiwan. China is in its right to continue to prevent Taiwan being a member of any international body such as WHO but it has recently overplayed its hand with its neighbours in its despotic dealings with Hong Kong.
Unhappily, Xi Jinping’s armed forces juggernaut is itching to show off its stuff and he has revealed a Trumpian belligerence. Let us hope that China will not trigger a 1950s Korean-type conflict. It could go nuclear if Kim Jong-un decides to jump in.