If any one international dispute has the potential of sparking a military conflict between the People’s Republic of China and the United States, it is the Taiwan question.
In recent months, Beijing has outwardly demonstrated how important reunification is for the Chinese government. The mainland has refused to discount using forceful methods in its efforts to reunify with the island, leaving the likelihood of an armed conflict on the table. In addition, China’s military has begun penetrating Taiwan’s air defenses at the highest rate in over two decades.
Meanwhile — thousands of miles away — the new Washington consensus now ascertains that American interests must fixate on establishing official relations with the island nation. Established under President Donald Trump and built upon by President Joe Biden, the inner-beltway bipartisan consensus has solidified.
At Biden’s inauguration, Taiwan’s top envoy made its first appearance since 1979, and in later months, American and Taiwanese diplomats in France exchanged public displays of engagement and interaction — both of which signal a major shift in American foreign policy.
The current decision to posture in favor of Taiwanese independence advocates against the very backbone — the secret sauce, if you will — of Biden’s international agenda: the preservation and expansion of the rules-based order.
To advance his current Taiwan policy, the president must endeavor to unravel approximately 50 years of agreed-upon international rules and precedent.
In 1979, the United States made a significant change to how it diplomatically recognized China. Under the U.S.-P.R.C. Joint Communique, the United States pivoted from recognizing Taipei to Beijing, acknowledging that the People’s Republic of China was the nation’s sole legal authority, instead of the Republic of China.
Under this scheme, the United States, ultimately, placated Beijing and pretended to adhere to its “one-China policy,” which professed that Taiwan was an inalienable territory of the Beijing regime and any attempt to indicate otherwise would be considered an act of aggression against Beijing.
The shift in policy, irrespective of its role in departing from American norms and beliefs, allowed the United States to make formal agreements with the communist nation and continue its efforts to economically liberalize Beijing.
To this day, the United States government officially “does not support Taiwan independence.” However, “maintaining strong, unofficial relations with Taiwan is a major U.S. goal,” according to the State Department.
This policy of “strategic ambiguity” has given Washington the flexibility to play both sides.
When Maoists chased their counterparts out of the mainland at the end of the Chinese Civil War and attempted to seize control of the islands via land and air assault, the United States sent in the Navy’s Seventh Fleet to protect the Straits of Taiwan. Topically, the American government supports Taiwan with lip service, supplies it with arms and munitions and conducts shared military exercises in its regional waters.
The unofficial “one China” fancy has given Beijing the hopes that peaceful reunification may still be possible. But the United States has seemingly taken that off the table.
In this case, which is more adamant about their interests — China or the United States? If China is prepared to go to war over reunification, should the United States also be?
Moreover, why are America’s allies in the Indo-Pacific, which stand in close proximity to Taiwan, resigned from this conversation?
This is not war with the Taliban or al-Qaida. This would be war with another nuclear super-power, which according to The New York Times, is prepared to go to war over something as significant as a territory vital to its supposed national interests.
Irrespective of whether this miscalculation is rooted in ignorance or folly, these policies could have disastrous implications for not only American interests, but also American lives.
Are we prepared to trade San Diego for Taipei?
It would be imprudent and foolish to defend Taiwan with military force. How, and why, is it in the interests of the American taxpayer and people to defend Taiwan’s independence and sovereignty?
“When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”
The most sufficient, as well as historically proven, means to install peaceful and diplomatic relations with belligerent states is economic diplomacy. When it is nonoptimal to go to war, one will search for other means to accomplish their goals.
Provided that Chinese President Xi Jinping is not attempting to recraft a Chinese vision of Lebensraum, soft-power diplomacy may prove to dissuade Beijing from any forceful takeover of Taiwan. Nonetheless, Washington should recognize that the needs and interests of over 300 million Americans are also at stake.
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