The Guardian • Issue #1983

Taiwan is a tinderbox, and the West is attempting to light the fuse

Taiwan island, internationally recognised as a province of China, has again become a key focal point in Washington’s ongoing hybrid war against Beijing. Tensions are ramping up with a range of measures taken in recent weeks by the US and their allies, as well as separatist forces that have been emboldened by these ongoing provocations against China’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, a compliant Western media continues to manufacture the consent of their populations for a hot war against China, which, if carried out, could quickly result in a nuclear exchange between the two superpowers.


It was recently reported in the Wall Street Journal that two dozen members of US special operations and support troops were “secretly operating in Taiwan to train military forces there,” in a clear violation of China’s sovereignty. Whilst this kind of activity has occurred previously behind the scenes, US media has never been so brazen as to declare this publicly. This is a tactic by Washington to get on Beijing’s nerves and is in line with their ongoing playbook to try and cause a fissure that could lead to the Balkanisation of China, to do whatever it takes to stop China’s peaceful rise that threatens US global hegemony. Neither the Pentagon nor the Whitehouse have confirmed or denied the reports.


Taiwan’s regional leader Tsai Ing-wen recently gave a speech on the 110th anniversary of the 1911 revolution, which saw the end of two millennia of Chinese dynastic imperial rule and the beginning of China’s first republic. In her speech titled “Forming a democratic alliance and collecting friends from all over the world,” Tsai pushed for other liberal democratic nations to come to Taiwan’s defence in the separatists push for Taiwan to become an independent nation. However, utilising this milestone to push for independence ignores the reality that the day itself is an explicitly “Chinese” national day. The official name of the authority on Taiwan is the “Republic of China,” and it continues to claim all of China in contest with the “People’s Republic of China” which has been the authority on the mainland since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. To continue to push claims that Taiwan is a legitimate separate nation – when that position is not even a majority position amongst the compatriots on Taiwan – is a gross distortion of history.


Whilst cross-strait relations have undergone various levels of tensions over the past seven decades, the most recent round of provocations began when Lithuania undermined the internationally recognised “One-China” principle by opening a representative office under the name of “Taiwan” in September, a move designed to provoke Beijing as it attempts to open the path towards Taiwan independence. Beijing responded by recalling its ambassador to the small European country and asked them to do the same. Beijing has consistently reaffirmed that its territorial sovereignty over all of China is a red line that must not be crossed and could be the trigger to a military effort towards reunification, as opposed to peaceful means that would benefit the majority.


Former Australian Prime Minster Tony Abbott recently made a speech on the island of Taiwan, telling Taiwanese separatists that “the best way to avoid the war that no one wants is to be prepared to fight it,” encouraging Taiwan to turn itself into “an eastern Israel capable of inflicting massive and asymmetric damage on any invader.” He also said that “to the extent that there’s a Biden doctrine, post-Afghanistan, it’s that America helps those who help themselves. And, why not? Because no one could be expected to fight harder for Taiwan than you would be prepared to fight for yourselves.”

What is Abbott’s real message here? Clearly working on behalf of Washington interests, he is asking Taiwanese separatists to stand-up and fight a war they could not possibly win, and that neither the US nor their allies would come to fight with them, but in pushing for the impossible goal of independence that would only lead to a military defeat, they would be serving Washington’s interests in further damaging Beijing’s reputation internationally as well as creating further justification for ongoing sales by US and other Western weapons manufacturers. Hardly an inspiring call to arms, and something no doubt that most Taiwanese compatriots would be able to see straight though for what it was: a call to martyrdom for the benefit of US imperialism.


Beijing has recently been accused of ratcheting up tensions with authorities on Taiwan, after flying several military aircraft into what some western politicians claim to be Taiwanese airspace – which had occurred in response to US navy ships encroaching further towards the region. But missing from this analysis is that the so-called Taiwanese airspace – officially the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) – is not the internationally recognised airspace of Taiwan, but simply an unofficial zone drawn up by the United States, that also happens to cover large parts of the mainland, that add up more than three times the size of Taiwan island itself.


Australia’s public broadcaster – ABC – have been the leading force, perhaps even ahead of the Murdoch press, in creating a false narrative around the Taiwan question in their efforts to dehumanise Chinese people as they manufacture the Australian public’s consent towards a war with Beijing. Joseph Wu, an active secessionist in Taiwan was recently interviewed by the public broadcaster, in which he publicly asked Canberra for military and political support for the island’s possible military engagement with the Chinese mainland. The ABC is not alone however, with the “China Threat Theory” being pushed heavily by all mainstream broadcasters and publications, public and private. Channel Nine’s Sixty Minutes program recently ran an hour-long special hyping up this theory, utilising broad anti-China voices within the community to promote their propaganda – including a representative from ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute), that is now primarily funded by US weapons manufactures. The Australian media, along with several federal politicians, are continuing to play a very dangerous game in their efforts to reinforce US hegemony.


With so many negative indicators on the potential build-up to war on the question of Taiwan, there have also been some positive movements that could lead towards a reduction in hostilities. A recent phone call between Presidents Xi and Biden has led to the release of political prisoner Meng Wenzhou from Canada, which in turn has seen Beijing agree to an in-person summit between Beijing and Washington before the end of this year. Whilst too much optimism shouldn’t be drawn from this upcoming meeting until it has taken place, the fact that the two sides have agreed to come together for talks is positive considering other events taking place.


The last thing Beijing wants is for a military conflict to erupt over the issue of Taiwan. Doing so would not only lead to inevitable casualties, but also has the potential to harm China’s credibility among the community of nations. The peaceful reunification of Taiwan to the mainland is by far the preferred method, and in doing so would lead to a similar arrangement that has been in place in Hong Kong and Macau since the late ’90s – a One Country, Two Systems approach that recognises the substantial differences in the developmental pathways that the two regions have been on and allows for a gradual harmonisation of governance policies over the longer term.

Taiwanese secessionists should heed the call of their mainland – and in many cases Taiwanese – compatriots, that any efforts to seek independence will only lead to unnecessary military conflict that could only ever serve US imperial ambitions.

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