Friday, April 20, 2018

The Taiwan Question

The diplomatic thaw between the United States and North Korea has been wondrous to behold. No one imagined it possible. Everyone assumed that the Trump administration would muck it up and cause a nuclear holocaust.

We do not know how it is going to turn out, but we do see clear signs of progress. Clearly, something is going on and things are moving in a positive direction.

By my reading, the thaw has been orchestrated by Chinese President Xi Jinping… undoubtedly in coordination with the Trump administration. When Kim Jong-un traveled to Beijing, to be greeted as a dignified head of state, the message was clear. Xi was pulling the strings and was giving so much face to Kim that the latter could confidently negotiate away his insurance policy… his nuclear weapons.

If we want to speculate—and what purpose is a blog if not to allow us some wild speculation—we should ask what Xi received in return for his changed attitude toward the Korean peninsula. Clearly, he received something in return. He received something from President Trump, something that was in China’s national interest.

If you ask that question, and everyone seems to be avoiding it, even though it is unavoidable, the answer that pops immediately into mind is: Taiwan.

I suspect, without any evidence, that Trump offered Xi an assurance about Taiwan. The Chinese believe that Taiwan is part of China, roughly as they believed that Hong Kong was part of China.  I don’t that that Trump can or would hand Taiwan over to China, but other options are available. Clearly, the Taiwan issue is in the forefront of the Chinese politics. Xi did not intervene in North Korea because he's a nice guy or for the fun of it.

This, from the Singapore Straits Times, yesterday:

Chinese aircraft have again flown around self-ruled Taiwan in what China's air force yesterday called a "sacred mission", as Taiwan denounced its big neighbour over what it called a policy of military intimidation.

H-6K bombers, Su-30 and J-11 fighters and reconnaissance aircraft took part in a patrol around Taiwan, air force spokesman Shen Jinke told the official Xinhua news agency yesterday.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said the air force fly-by served as a warning against those pushing for Taiwanese independence.

China has ramped up military exercises around Taiwan in the past year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around it.

"The motherland is in our hearts, and the jewelled island is in the bosom of the motherland," H-6K captain Zhai Peisong was quoted as saying in a statement on the Chinese airforce's microblog yesterday.

"Defending the beautiful rivers and mountains of the motherland is the sacred mission of air force pilots."

Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory, is one of China's most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint.

More recently, China has been incensed by Taiwan Premier William Lai's comments that it deemed were in support of Taiwan independence, though Taipei says Mr Lai's position remains that the status quo between Taiwan and the mainland should be maintained.

One suspects that Xi Jinping’s cooperative attitude toward North Korea will ensure that the status quo between Taiwan and the mainland will be maintained and that Taiwan will not be announcing its independence any time soon.

At the least, I recommend that we keep an eye on events-- or, non-events-- in Taiwan.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

I suspect (HOPE) that Mr. Trump will tell the Reds to leave Taiwan alone.