Posts Tagged ‘Taiwan’

The sleeping dragon awakens

August 5, 2022

The Chinese government, in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, has scheduled military drills that effectively blockade the island.  The drills are in effect a blockade of the island a demonstration of China’s potential power to impose a blockade; some shipping is being allowed through.  No ship’s captain wants to enter an area where naval forces are firing live ammunition. 

China also cut off sales to Taiwan of construction-grade sand, essential for concrete, and stopped imports of fish and fruit products from Taiwan.

And it announced that the timetable for unification of Taiwan with the mainland will be speeded up.

The Chinese actions are a signal to the authorities on Taiwan that they are at the mercy of the Chinese government, and that China doesn’t have to invade with troops to exert its power.

What is the United States going to do about it?  President Biden said a U.S. naval task force, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, will remain in the area longer than planned, but what of it?  Does anybody think he would be reckless enough to order the  U.S. Navy to enter the area where the Chinese are conducting military exercises?

The status quo was acceptable to everyone.  The Chinese government claimed sovereignty over the island, and nobody directly denied it.  At the same time the Chinese on the island enjoyed self-government, without Beijing’s interference.  All that was required for this situation to continue was silence on the part of all concerned.

Now this has changed.  The government in Beijing might have tolerated home rule in Taiwan indefinitely.  It will never accept even the remote possibility of Taiwan becoming a base from which the United States or other foreign power could launch attacks on China, as the Japanese did during World War Two.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Chinese reaction was due to Pelosi’s statements alone.  It followed a number of statements and actions by U.S. officials and politicians that ramped up tensions.  Pelosi’s visit was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

There was a time when the United States had such overwhelming military superiority that American leaders could say and do whatever they liked without concern about what leaders of other nations thought or would do.  That time is gone.

Bear in mind that while the U.S. military sought full spectrum dominance everywhere in everything, the Chinese military has been working on the one very specific problem of how to counter U.S. power in the China seas.  (And the Russian military has spent at least 15 years working on the one very specific problem of how to counter U.S. power in Eastern Europe).

President Theodore Roosevelt liked to quote the alleged African proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  The most dangerous thing that an individual person or a national leader can do is to make idle threats.  That’s what our leaders have fallen into the habit of doing.

LINKS

Endgame Taiwan: US Plans Further China Eyepoking with Planned Military Transit of the Taiwan Strait by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.  A good assessment of the overall situation, with important background information.

‘Taiwan lockdown’ drills stun secessionists, external forces as precision strike, area denial capabilities proved by the staff of Global Times.  A Chinese report on Chinese power.

Biden will keep aircraft carrier in the South China Sea, but postpones missile test by Christina Wilkie for MSNBC.

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Nancy Pelosi promises U.S. support for Taiwan

August 2, 2022

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan, an article was published under her byline in The Washington Post.  She wrote that the U.S. must “stand by” Taiwan, “America stands with Taiwan,” “We cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan,” “we never give in to autocrats” and “the freedoms of Taiwan … must be respected.”

What does this mean?  Is she saying the United States would go to war with China to protect Taiwan’s independence?  If so, by what authority does she make that promise?

Or is she saying that the United States would stand by Taiwan in the same way it is standing by Ukraine?  Is she saying the U.S. is willing to fight to the last Taiwanese?   If I were a Chinese person living on Taiwan, I would find her language disturbingly vague.

I have sympathy and admiration for the Chinese on Taiwan.  They are one of the world’s most successful societies.  They are an asset and example to the world, in terms of democracy, individual freedom and material progress.

So far the Chinese government in Beijing have been willing to tolerate their self-rule so long as they are peaceful and don’t demand recognition as an independent country.

But I don’t think President Xi would tolerate a Taiwan that was the spearhead of a NATO-type anti-Chinese alliance, any more than Vladimir Putin was willing to tolerate a Ukraine in that rule.

Is the United States willing to go to war for Taiwan?  No.  Could the USA win a proxy war with China, fighting to the last Taiwanese?  No.  Could the USA actually win a war with China, using its own forces?  Doubtful.

China is a threat to U.S. economic and military supremacy, but the reason it is a threat is that it is overtaking the USA economically, technologically and, yes, militarily.  If we Americans want to have a strong and prosperous nation, we need to regroup and rebuild our strength at home, not provoke crises.

[Added 08/03/2022]  Some think President Xi has lost face because of his relatively weak response.  But that is assuming that his response has to be immediate.  President Putin waited eight years before responding to the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014.  

It is true that, in Rep. Pelosi’s case, her visit is a symbolic action that does not, in and of itself, change anything.  But I do think that Xi, like Putin, has lost hope of improving relations with the United States.

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The case for letting sleeping dogs lie

August 2, 2022

Al Jazeera posted a good video explaining the background of the U.S.-China conflict over Taiwan. It’s a good argument for letting sleeping dogs lie.

The Chinese government says Taiwan is part of China. The U.S. government hasn’t said whether it is or isn’t, but says it is opposed to China using force to establish control of Taiwan.

The people in Taiwan have created one of the world’s better societies. They are free and democratic. They have progressively improved their material standard of living. They are leaders in high-tech industry, and supply advanced computer chips to both China and the USA.

Taiwan would be a great potential asset to China, but it would not be an asset that if there was a ruinous war that left China ruling a rebellious, conquered population. But China might invade if it thought that Taiwan was going to be incorporated into a U.S.-led anti-Chinese alliance.

If the U.S. government tries to do that, or gives the Chinese government the impression it is doing that, there is a real danger of war.

I think there are factions in the U.S. government that would welcome a war. But I do not think that it is given that the U.S. would win such a war. The U.S. military, including the Navy, is in decline. It can’t even keep ships from colliding with each other. The Chinese, on the other hand, have spent more than a decade figuring out how to defend the U.S. in their territorial waters.

The Taiwanese have not challenged the status quo.  If we Americans care about the well-being of the people of Taiwan, it should respect their wishes.  Let’s not create a crisis where none exists.  Let sleeping dogs lie.

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Let’s hope Nancy Pelosi doesn’t touch off a war

August 1, 2022

Nancy Pelosi is headed for Taiwan, and may arrive there tomorrow, despite Chinese objections and undefined threats of retaliation if she does.

Many in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, say she should ignore the warnings.  The Chinese don’t get to determine where the U.S. Speaker of the House can travel, they say.

But the Chinese government says that Taiwan is part of China, and the U.S. government has never explicitly denied this. This is a red line for China.  For them, saying the Chinese government has no say over who visits Taiwan is like saying the U.S. government has no say over who visits Puerto Rico or Hawaii.

President Xi Jinping told President Biden on Thursday that, for China, this is a red line that must not be crossed. The Global Times, a semi-official Chinese newspaper, wrote this:

“Don’t say we didn’t warn you!” – a phrase that was used by the People’s Daily in 1962 before China was forced to fight the border war with India and ahead of the 1979 China-Vietnam War, was frequently mentioned during a forum held Friday by a high-level Chinese think tank, as analysts warned that open military options and comprehensive countermeasures ranging from the economy to diplomacy from China await if US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gambles with a visit to the Taiwan island during her Asia tour.

On Thursday night, Chinese President Xi Jinping held a phone conversation with US President Joe Biden, during which he once again warned the US about the seriousness and significance of the Taiwan question and said, “Public opinion cannot be defied. Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this.”

In the recent week, in response to Pelosi’s potential visit to the island of Taiwan, a string of warnings have also been made by different ministries and departments of China. On Friday, the Institute of Taiwan Studies in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences – the highest-level think tank – held a forum with analysts and discussed the damage of Pelosi’s possible Taiwan island visit to the China-US relations, cross-Straits stability and regional and global peace, and China’s countermeasures.

Sending fighter jets to intercept Pelosi’s plane, declaring air and maritime zones around the island of Taiwan as restriction zones for military exercises … China’s responses will be systematical and not limited to small scale given the severity of Pelosi’s move and the damage to the political trust of China-US relations, Yang Mingjie, head of the Institute of Taiwan Studies in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. [snip]

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The USA, China and the coronavirus pandemic

March 14, 2020

We Americans have long liked to think of our ideals of freedom and democracy as models for the world.  But China, whose leaders reject those ideals, seems to be doing a better job that we are of protecting its citizens and the world from COVID-19.

Advocates of democracy claim that our system is better because it provides a reality check.  When the government fails to do its job, the loyal opposition and free press are there to point it out.

Click to enlarge

China’s initial response to the coronavirus showed the truth of this.  The first physicians to detect the coronavirus were threatened by police for spreading false rumors.

But once China’s rulers realized the truth, they drew upon the strength of a totalitarian system, which is to be able to focus all a nation’s resources on a single objective.

By the way, I greatly admire the courageous Chinese doctors and nurses who risked their lives to stop the spread of the disease,  Not only the Chinese, but the whole world, owe them a debt.

The Chinese appear to have succeeded in stopping the spread of the disease in a relatively short time.  The number of cases in Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, seems to be leveling off at about 70,000.  This is cases, not fatalities.  Hubei has a population of 58 million, almost as great at italy, with 60 million.

Dan Wang, an American living in Beijing, reported on the effectiveness of quarantine measures there.

Click to enlarge. Source: Forbes

The problem with the Chinese system of government is: How can we be sure?  In any large, hierarchical organization, whether corporate, military or something else, those in the lower ranks will tell those in the lower ranks what they want to hear, and those in the higher ranks will tell those in the lower ranks what they want them to believe.

I think there will be a natural tendency of those on the lower levels of the Chinese hierarchy to report everything is under control, whether or not it is.  I know a college professor with a great many Chinese students.  She tells me they are all cynical about reports of success in China, and whether all Chinese cities will get the same protection as Beijing.

Under Deng Xiaopeng, there was enough of a limited free press and civil society to point out the problems.  Will this be true of Xi Jinping?

Based on what little I know, I think the Chinese have responded magnificently and the world owes them a debt.  But if the opposite were true, it would be a long time before I had any way to know it.

Here in the United States, we have Donald Trump, a totally incompetent, but democratically-elected leader who denies reality as blatantly and obviously as any Communist ruler of old.

The saving grace of our system is that his failure to lead is not hidden.  it is obvious to anyone who has eyes to see and a willingness to face facts.

And the other saving grace is that we the people can take constructive action without waiting for orders from the federal government.  State and local governments, universities, research centers, commercial corporations and civic groups are all taking corrective action.

Still, we should ask ourselves.  How is it that we are so completely unprepared?  Why do we have so few hospital beds?  Why is it that China and other countries are able to test for COVID-19 on a large scale and we are not?

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How Apple undermined the US economy

May 8, 2015

I’ve always bought Ford and General Motors cars, partly because I wanted to support jobs for my fellow Americans.

As Abraham Lincoln reportedly put it, “When I buy a shirt from England, I get a shirt and England gets a dollar.  But when I buy a shirt from America, I get a shirt and America gets a dollar.”

At the same time, I’ve always bought Apple computer products, and, in so doing, I may have done more to undermine the U.S. economy than I did when I bought a Ford Escort or a GM Saturn.

9554-1329-applecash-140611-lI read an article yesterday on a blog called Moneyball Economics about how Apple offshored the American smartphone industry to South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China.

This is a big thing.  The writer, Andrew Zatlin, pointed out that the United States imported nearly $100 billion worth of smartphones each year, half of them Apple iPphones.  Smartphones are the third largest U.S. import, behind oil and automobiles.

He said it is like a Marshall Plan for these three countries.  The iPhone industry creates a million jobs in eastern Asia and provides valuable technological knowledge that makes those countries more competitive in the world.   They aren’t all Apple smartphones, but Apple has half the market and sets the pace.

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