Saturday, July 27, 2019

Rumors Of War: U.S., China Tilting Towards Conflict On Taiwan

US, China tilting towards conflict on Taiwan


China will not hesitate to use force to take over Taiwan if the island formally declares its independence from the mainland, Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said at a news briefing in Beijing on July 24.
“If there are people who dare to split Taiwan from the country, China’s military will be ready to go to war to firmly safeguard national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity,” the defense official said.
To be sure, it was hardly the first time that China has issued such an invasion threat. But Wu’s statement came at a delicate juncture, with Hongkongers demonstrating against what they see as China’s attempts to undermine their city’s special autonomy and what Beijing perceives as other rising threats to its economic and strategic interests.
Beijing’s official policy for the reunification of the “motherland” – one country, two systems – is obviously not working in Hong Kong. Chinese state media, on July 10, went as far as to accuse the US of having a hidden hand in Hong Kong’s escalating protests.
That came two days after the US State Department announced a US$2.2 billion arms sales to Taiwan, a massive deal that aims specifically at neutralizing China’s threat to “re-unite” Taiwan by 2020 and thus has the potential to bring the US and China into near-term open conflict over the island’s future.
Combined with increasing US-China tensions in the South China Sea, where Beijing has established a strong and rising military presence on several disputed features and islands, and the ongoing US-China trade war, great power antagonism is arguably now at its highest level in the region since the last Cold War.

But America and China’s opposed positions on Taiwan have perhaps the greatest potential to tilt towards actual armed conflict. That’s in part because Taiwan is home to 24 million people in a democratic society that does not favor any “reunification” with the mainland.

In line with Washington’s more hawkish policies towards Beijing, US-Taiwan relations are drawing closer and becoming more obvious, despite Washington’s official policy of adherence to Beijing’s “one China” policy, under which Taiwan is not a separate country but rather part of China.

Not surprisingly, China responded angrily to Tsai’s US layovers. “China opposes official exchange between the US and Taiwan,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on July 12. Washington should not allow Tsai to transit and must “stop the official exchange with Taiwan.”

But China is hardly in a position to stop revived and warming US-Taiwan – or for that matter US arms sales to Taiwan. America’s support for the island’s autonomy is grounded in history, law and shared democratic philosophies.

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