Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

December 10, 2006

Taiwan vs. China — Possible Outcomes

by Brad Warbiany

I want to state, first, that this is an expression of what I would think may likely happen, not necessarily what I’d like to see happen. I’d like to see a fully independent Taiwan, living in peace with their neighbors on the mainland. Of course, I’d also like to see the end of the drug war, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to walk in front of a cop smoking a joint while selling shrooms to anyone that wants them. Principles sometimes compete with each other, and sometimes pragmatism make the costs of living up to those principles too heavy to bear. So take it for what it’s worth.

For the purposes of argument, let’s stipulate that tomorrow Taiwan formally issues a declaration of independence from China. There are three scenarios I see occurring, and the most likely two are bad (all below the fold):

1: China Accepts Taiwanese Independence
Probability: Unlikely

I say unlikely for several reasons. Historically, declarations of independence typically start wars. It occurred when the US declared independence from Britian, and when the Confederates tried to secede from the US. After Texas seceded from Mexico (which Mexico did not accept), it started a war with the US. Around the world in recent times, the secession of parts of Yugoslavia began a war that hurt all parties (resulting in the end of Yugoslavia as a state), and current efforts by Chechnya to secede has resulted in their varying-intensity war with Russia.

A Taiwanese declaration of independence would be especially difficult for China to accept, as it would make it easier for other Chinese provinces to break away. For China to let Taiwan officially break off would be a show of weakness to other sections of their state, and would result in further internal dissent. Besides, after years of claiming Taiwan an official part of China, it would almost be required from the standpoint of national pride that they invade Taiwan in response.

Of course, the question would arise in the minds of the Chinese as to what America’s response would be. Here you need to understand one bit about government, particularly one-party government where dissent is violently put down: they’ll arrive at whatever answer they seek. By that I mean that the hawkish factions of their government will be looking for excuses why America won’t intervene. At the moment, they’ve got several. We currently have an unpopular President leading an unpopular war, and a populace that doesn’t want to stick our noses in another part of the world. The Chinese, rightly or wrongly, would most likely interpret this to mean that they could take Taiwan without any opposition from us. Further, America could issue strong words to the extent that we would not accept an invasion, but China (again due to national pride) is unlikely to accept our words as anything more than saber-rattling. and would be almost called to defy them.

Given these constraints, I find it very unlikely that a Declaration of Independence would result in anything but war.

2: China invades Taiwan, and America stays out of it.
Possibility: Fairly likely

Again, we currently have an unpopular President waging an unpopular war in a remote part of the world, and a populace that looks as it as largely unnecessary from the standpoint of national security. Whether or not it’s the right thing to do, Bush would have an uphill battle convincing the American people that we should go in and make this fight.

It will be even more uphill than some of the conflicts we entered during the cold war. In those conflicts, we were never really fighting the Soviets face to face. Either we were supporting the local armies fighting the Soviets, or they were supporting the local armies fighting us. Occasionally, neither state was directly involved, but was sending weaponry in for one of the combatants. If this were to happen, and we took Taiwan’s side, it would be direct war between us and China, not indirect war. That is something that will be hard to sell to the American people.

Given the nature of international politics, if we don’t enter the fight, nobody else will. The rest of the UN has shown the ability to put money over idealism, and China is a far more lucrative friend than enemy. If America doesn’t step up to help Taiwan, nobody else will.

Of course, the American military staying out of the fight would be sending the Taiwanese to certain defeat. That’s a scenario that many, such as a certain commenter here, would be very unwilling to allow. But it’s certainly a plausible (and quite likely) scenario, regardless. It would result in Taiwan going to the wolves, and an emboldened China who was not countered in an act of aggression.

3: China Invades and America Fights on Taiwan’s behalf
Likelihood: Moderate

This is a situation, that for all intensive purposes, is unprecedented. One nuclear hyperpower in a war against also-nuclear controlling power in the region. We’re talking about direct war between America and China. Now, I don’t think China can beat us in a direct war, conventional or otherwise. But for us to defeat them will make the loss of life and cost of the Iraq war look like a playground scuffle.

There’s a chance this won’t be that bad. Obviously, both the US and China know it’s not in their interests to get into a serious war. Both sides would be doing as much as possible to make sure it was limited to Taiwan. These things have a way of escalating, though. If it escalates, it’s bad news for us, regardless of if we win. And it’s worse news for Taiwan, who will be stuck in the middle.

Taiwan has every right to declare independence, but being right is sometimes the dumbest strategic move. The threat to Taiwan— and by extension China and the US— if they declare independence, is large. The threat of not acting is small, because China has no impetus to start a war as long as Taiwan doesn’t declare independence. I wish it were not this way. But the situation is as it is, and the balance of power is such that Taiwan would be committing suicide to declare independence. My wishes don’t change that fact.

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  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2006/11/22/comrades-i-hereby-declare-the-revolution/ Adam Selene

    Bear in mind that neither the Chinese government in Taiwan nor the mainland considers Taiwan independent, nor wants it to be. They both consider Taiwan to be a Chinese province. Both prefer that it remain an autonomous province. It’s fairly lucrative to both the governments that it remain so. The principle behind the government in Taiwan is not that it is, or should be, an independent nation. Rather, it is the government in exile of all of China. The war that led to the creation of the PRC is, technically speaking, not over.

  • M. Anthony

    An interesting hypothesis, but it only takes in to account three players– Taiwan, PRC and the US. Don’t forget that others are very interested in assuring that the PRC does not control the Taiwan Straits, including Japan, Korea, Australia, and much of southeast Asia. However, the most likely scenario is economic: The PRC is Taiwan’s largest market, and one of its largest suppliers. The PRC is dependent on Taiwan for investment, and Taiwan is the largest investor in the PRC. Such interdependence may make the independence question moot.

  • http://unrepentantindividual.com/ Brad Warbiany

    Adam,

    That is true. Although I do think the younger generation in Taiwan is not tied quite as heavily to the mainland, and it’s that group that is more likely to favor independence.

    M. Anthony,

    There are other players, but I don’t think any of them are large enough to change the analysis. If America were to come to Taiwan’s aid, we’d probably get help from Australia and several other Asian nations, because they don’t want to see China allowed to freely act aggressively. But if the US doesn’t get involved, do they have the power to counter China on their own? I don’t think so.

    And I completely agree that the PRC is dependent on Taiwan for investment, and Taiwan is dependent on the PRC for manufacturing capacity. Which is why I don’t think war is likely UNLESS Taiwan declares independence. Which is why I’d like to make sure they don’t issue that declaration.

  • walter

    Hey Adam it’s Walter again and I am not here for any ad hominem attacks. I come here in peace..lol. However I just want to “correct” your statments (please). The current government does not consider themselves Chinese in Taiwan, it’s Taiwanese and more than 80% of the people in Taiwan consider themselves Taiwanese. Also you are very mistaken on the stance of the current government in Taipei. The ruling party in power is the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and they favour eventual independence from China and they do not support the ‘one’-China policy. It’s not just President Chen, but it’s also a wide range of supporters. They believe that Taiwan is already independent and definitely not a part of China nor some sort of autonomous province. This is both a factual and an UNDENIABLE truth for China’s Communist Party. I strongly agree with the DPP’s assessment. Also, I totally agree with the possible outcomes mentioned in this article so I have no arguments against it. I personally think the more likely scenario would be China either blockading or using some sort of military force against Taiwan such as launching missles. I don’t include the invasion option because I think invading a country that has had years to prepare for such would be suicide. Especially regarding today’s technology and that by the time China masses enough personnel to carry out such a task, the U.S., Taiwan, Japan and maybe other countries would know well in advance. Also realistically, I don’t think other countries would allow such aggression against Taiwan as long as Taiwan did not start anything militarily. I definitely know Japan would not allow this and no one should underestimate Japan’s military; especially it’s navy. (But I don’t underestimate China’s military either, they would probably attempt it even if they would lose) There is much evidence to prove such.

    First there is the missles that China has aimed at Taiwan. Then there is the navy buildup as well as China’s diplomatic attempts to exclude Taiwan from international organizations. Then there is the military exercises aimed at invading Taiwan and fighting against the United States. I think that even if Taiwan did not declare independence, with the passage of the so-called “anti-successionist” law, that should actually prove to everyone what Beijing’s real intentions are which is that as soon as China feels more confident militarily and economically, they WILL more than likely try to cooerce Taiwan into unifying with China. One passage within that law states that if Taiwan delays unification with China indefinitely, then China reserves the right to use force.
    As for declaring independence, Taiwan really shouldn’t have to declare it, but at the same time, why is China obstructing Taiwan from international organizations? In my opinion, I know that most Taiwanese enjoy the status quo while at the same time 54% do prefer independence, but the reality is that the status quo gives Beijing an excuse to marginalize Taiwan. As long as Taiwan doesn’t choose one or the other, people can think of Taiwan the way they wish. They can say Taiwan is a rebel province in the case of China, or they can say Taiwan has de facto independence. It seems like to me that the only way Beijing will get the message that Taiwan is not part of China is by Taiwan making it explicitly clear that they are not part of China. I’m sure every commentator here would agree with me that it is up to the Taiwanese to decide for Taiwan, not Beijing. So why does Beijing act as if Taiwan is a province of its own when it’s really not? It makes me upset everytime I hear China going to under countries and making them support the outdated “one” china policy because that policy is a flat lie. There is one China (including illegally, Tibet and maybe Xinjiang Province as well as inner Mongolia), but there is also one Taiwan.

    There was recent mayoral elections in Taiwan in which both the KMT party and DPP party won gains although the DPP did better than expected. I think the message that Taiwanese voters were sending to both parties is that both should safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty against China as well as both parties should work together. Beijing of course was disappointed because they wanted Taiwan to put the KMT in power. The KMT party by the way favours future reunification with China while the DPP favours eventual independence but not by declaring it, but peacefully. I think the DPP party’s goal is more suitable for Taiwan.

    Also I have another interesting question, why would other provinces within China wish to break up? I mean could it be that they are occuppied illegally by China in the first place? Do certain provinces themselves really agree with “one” China? I urge someone to look up Xinjiang Province and look at the majority. The majority there are Uiygher Turkish Muslims, not Chinese. Also we already know about Tibet. It’s like a truth that the Communist Party in Beijing can not hide. Some people don’t want to be a part of China. The only reason this is an issue is because the Communist Party in an attempt to retain their grip on power has to find a way of whipping up nationlist sentiment among the Chinese people. What better way than to do that than by stating the national mission is to reunify Taiwan when Taiwan was never part of China in the first place (for at least the past 5 decades)?

  • walter

    This is more evidence to back up my claim that majority within Taiwan actually support independence:

    Poll indicates majority support

    independence

    Sixty-two percent of respondents in a recent opinion survey said they would support Taiwan’s formal independence if China were to “allow” the people of Taiwan to decide the country’s future, pollsters said on Thursday.

    The figure marked an increase of 4.9 percentage points over a similar poll conducted a year ago, according to the pollsters.

    Even if Beijing does not “allow” Taiwan to pursue independence, the results of the latest survey show that 54 percent of the respondents support the pursuit of formal independence.

    The poll was conducted by National Chengchi University’s (??????) Election Study Center earlier this month as part of a three-year comparative study program aimed at exploring differences in people’s sense of “self-identity” in four Asian territories that have experienced colonial rule and are faced with problems related to historical changes, cultural identity and the notion of “motherland” — namely Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Japan’s Okinawa.

    NCU is cooperating with the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Okinawa-based University of Ryukyus in conducting the research project that began last year.

    The November survey is the second of three in the three-year study program that asks the same questions at the same time of year annually in the four places.

    More than 1,000 valid samples were collected from randomly chosen people aged 18 or above in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Okinawa, respectively, in the latest survey.

    The survey results showed that people in the four regions varied in their sense of “self-identity,” or “local” identity.

    In comparison, the Taiwanese people have the strongest sense of “self-identity, ” with 60 percent of the respondents identifying themselves as “Taiwanese.”

    By contrast, only 13 percent of Hong Kong respondents identify themselves as “Hongkongers,” 15 percent of Macau respondents identify themselves as “Macauese,” and 30 percent of Okinawa respondents identify themselves “Okinawan.”

    In this year’s survey, NCU pollsters said they focused on studying the possible influence of China’s attitude toward local people’s support for independence.

    A cross-analysis of the survey results indicated that the Chinese government’s attitude is no longer a decisive factor for local people in determining whether Taiwan should pursue independence, a spokesman for the NCU Election Study Center said.

    In the past, he said, Beijing’s threat to attack Taiwan or impose economic and diplomatic sanctions tended to deter many local people from supporting any pro-independence campaign. But the latest survey shows a change in the local people’s attitude, with many of them no longer as strongly influenced by China as they were in the past with regard to the issue.

    According to the results of the latest survey, 89 percent of the respondents said they would cheer for the Taiwan team in a ball game against a team from China, up 2.5 percentage points from the figure in last year’s poll. In this year’s survey, 16 percent gave the thumbs-down to the pursuit of Taiwan independence.

  • http://unrepentantindividual.com/ Brad Warbiany

    Yes, but if you want to bring up polls, certain polls indicate that 58% of Taiwanese believe a declaration of independence would mean war. And other polls suggest that if a war would break out, the Taiwanese wouldn’t even be all that willing to fight.

    Also, can you provide a link to the above poll & story?

  • walter

    Sure thing Brad here it is:

    http://english.www.gov.tw/TaiwanHeadlines/index.jsp?categid=8&recordid=102464

    Just copy and paste into the URL. This is just one of many other articles that have made this statment concerning the views of the Taiwanese themselves. The Taiwanese are well aware that DECLARING

  • walter

    Sure thing Brad here it is:

    http://english.www.gov.tw/TaiwanHeadlines/index.jsp?categid=8&recordid=102464

    Just copy and paste into the URL. This is just one of many other articles that have made this statment concerning the views of the Taiwanese themselves. The Taiwanese are well aware that DECLARING independence would mean war, but that doesn’t mean they want to be a part of China. If they had no threats, more Taiwanese would support independence. But now this poll is unique in that Taiwan is no longer affected by Beijing’s threats when it comes to declaring independence. So I agree with your statement but please consider this poll as well. Thank you.

    Oh and by the way, the Taiwanese are just like us Americans. No one likes fighting war, but if it is right for your country to do so, then so be it. But the Taiwanese are right, war is a terrible thing and really, China needs to leave Taiwan alone and let Taiwan be themselves.

  • http://unrepentantindividual.com/ Brad Warbiany

    As for your other comment, it appears to me that you don’t think a Taiwanese declaration of independence would result in full-scale war or invasion by China, and that the lack of a declaration would still result in war once China feels more confident.

    I disagree on both counts. I don’t think China wants to go to war with Taiwan. If they did, right now would be the ideal time, because the US is tied up elsewhere. But they’ve chosen not to, because the ties between the two countries are too difficult to break without cause. I do think that if Taiwan declared independence, it would spur a war. Even if it didn’t result in a full-scale invasion, do you think heavy missile attacks (and probably airstrikes) wouldn’t do significant damage to the Taiwanese economy (not to even mention the human cost).

    It seems like you’re taking the overly romantic view of war and independence here, when the truth on the ground (IMHO) would be a bloodbath. So I’ve got two questions:

    1) If Taiwan declared independence, you think China would only offer a half-hearted military response and allow them to break off?

    2) If Taiwan does not declare independence, you believe that within, say, the next 10 years that China will try to militarily force Taiwan towards reunification?

    We need to get a little closer to understanding what assumptions we’re arguing from here. Obviously my answers to the above are:

    1) I believe if Taiwan declared independence, China would respond with a heavy hand, and the loss of life and destruction in Taiwan (whether other powers would get involved or not) will be extraordinarily high.

    2) If Taiwan does not declare independence, I believe China will allow the status quo to proceed for the foreseeable future, as there are too many economic reasons not to go to war unless absolutely necessary.

    I’m assuming we’re in complete disagreement on these two points, no?

  • http://unrepentantindividual.com/ Brad Warbiany

    If they had no threats, more Taiwanese would support independence.

    Obviously. But that’s not reality. I’d like to wonder what their assumptions are. Are they assuming America would be there to back them up? Are they assuming they could win a war?

    Oh and by the way, the Taiwanese are just like us Americans. No one likes fighting war, but if it is right for your country to do so, then so be it.

    Maybe so. But is it still right to fight a war that you’re assured defeat? That seems more like volunteering for a slaughter. Now, it may be that they don’t think it’s a losing war, and if that’s the case, more power to them. But again, the moral “right thing to do” is often not the strategic or tactical “right thing to do”.

  • walter

    I agree with your first point even though I think China would suffer huge losse as well, however it is your second point that I do not agree with Mr. Brad. I keep up with current events and I have actually noted an increase in Beijing’s military buildup but a decline in Taiwan’s defense spending. I do not advocate that China would simply just flat out invade Taiwan anyway as I have pointed out the many risks involved. If you can read my statements, I have noted Japan’s possible involvement as well as the United States. The involvement of the United States alone is enough to make China think twice. Your second point in my view is only correct at this point because as long as the United States remains committed to the defense of Taiwan, China, whether it uses force or not will still have to consider the consequences. This is a statement that I’m sure you can agree with me on.

    Even within the next 10 years if China fully modernizes its forces, the United States military would probably have leapfrogged into another technological dimension. Just because China is rising doesn’t mean the United States is declining. ( this point may be irrelevant with the two points you mentioned and if so I apologize for that)

    However Brad, you have to understand the nature of the government within Beijing. Time is clearly not on the Communist Party’s side. There are various internal conflicts within China between over 800 million in poverty and the remaining Chinese who have benefited from the economic growth. All is not as it seems on the surface within China. I know friends who would visit only China’s northern and eastern cities and marvel at the economic progress but have they visited out as far as Tibet or Xinjiang? Maybe or maybe not but don’t let the glamour and lights fool you. If you visit western China you can clearly see the gap between the rich and the poor. So what I’m saying to you Brad is don’t underestimate what China will or will not do simply because of analysises taken by different people. I like Robert Gates, the current defense secretary, am a realist, and I take everything in consideration

    In today’s world, information is very accessible, but that doesn’t mean people can actually know what will really happen. You never know what can happen. So as the United States military has quoted, we should “hedge against China’s unknowns”. I do agree on both points that you have stated, sir, but as for the second point, it is only true because of American involvement and its committment to use its power to defend fellow democracies.

    As for China allowing the Taiwan status quo to proceed in the future, I honestly think that is highly questionable. The more Taiwan is able to maintain its status quo and defend itself, the more the legitamacy of the Communist Party in China will be at stake because they have made reunifying Taiwan a national PRIORITY. So if the Chinese people see that they are not living up to that priority, what do you think will happen? Please take that into consideration. Thanks again and this is quite frankly a very good discussion.

  • walter

    Hehehe, how is this not a reality?

    “If they had no threats, more Taiwanese would support independence.”

    So you are saying that it’s not reality that Taiwanese can’t decide the fate of their own country for themselves? This is a legitamite poll here Brad, not something fake.

    Also why do people keep thinking it would be suicide for Taiwan to defend itself against China? Taiwan’s military commanders actually do not take America’s committment to defend Taiwan for granted so if you read up to date events, the current party (DPP) has actually tried to pass an arms budget to adequately defend itself. Taiwanese military know that Americans do not like defending a nation that doesn’t defend itself. I suggest you look up news on how the KMT (party that wants unification with China in the future) has consistently blocked arms deals from Mr. Bush. This arms deal would enable Taiwan to defend itself. I think the package included around 66 F-16 figher jets, some submarines, missle defense batteries, and so forth.

    Also defeat is not assured for Taiwan. If Taiwan can successfully defend itself, defeat is improbable. Particularly if Taiwan can hold out long enough for America to intervene (God willing, if it decides to do so I hope)

    As for this statment, “But again, the moral “right thing to do” is often not the strategic or tactical “right thing to do”.

    I suggest you go tell Anne Frank this. As Anne Frank quoted ” Evil prospers when good men do nothing”

    Also I want you to tell the victims of the Jewish Holocaust this same quote or even veterans of World War 2. It’s not like the Taiwanese want war with China. They want liberty and self-determination.

  • http://unrepentantindividual.com/ Brad Warbiany

    FYI, I do think America should continue their stated support for Taiwan as an incentive for China to stand down. I just don’t know what would happen in the “moment of truth” if China did take action. We are talking about a possible future superpower here.

    So you are saying that it’s not reality that Taiwanese can’t decide the fate of their own country for themselves? This is a legitamite poll here Brad, not something fake.

    No, my point was to ask a question of what they’d do if there were no threats is really not reality when there are threats. And that I would want to know more of their reasoning behind the 54% figure of people who want to pursue formal independence even with the threat. Are they counting on America’s help? Are they, like you, thinking it would be simply limited to missile strikes or a blockade?

    Also I want you to tell the victims of the Jewish Holocaust this same quote or even veterans of World War 2. It’s not like the Taiwanese want war with China. They want liberty and self-determination.

    Hmm… A democratic nation living in prosperity and freedom, compared with the Holocaust? As I pointed out in my first thread, I think the amount of control China is exerting on Taiwan is less than Britian was exerting on the US before the Revolution.

    Remember, you’re talking about a largely symbolic independence. China isn’t quartering troops on Taiwan. China isn’t taxing Taiwan. Look at America’s Declaration of Independence, and ask yourself how many of these charges actually even apply to China? I’d suggest looking this over before making improper comparisons to the freaking Holocaust!

  • walter

    Will you ever learn to read and FYI why don’t you ask the Taiwanese themselves why they support independence! They’ll tell you! Have you even been to Taiwan? I doubt it! Plus, why should they not count on American help? Is it wrong to face reality and let people know that realistically they may or may not be able to defend against China but still need America’s help?

    I thought I made that clear to you. I just stated that Taiwan’s military commanders know that they can’t expect Americans to defend a country that doesn’t defend itself. I’m sure they looked at American discontent with Iraq as a PRIME example.

    think the amount of control China is exerting on Taiwan is less than Britian was exerting on the US before the Revolution.

    “Remember, you’re talking about a largely symbolic independence. China isn’t quartering troops on Taiwan. China isn’t taxing Taiwan. Look at America’s Declaration of Independence, and ask yourself how many of these charges actually even apply to China?”

    Oh wow! Really? China exerting less control physically? Wow that’s such a no-brainer! Gee I didn’t know that Mr. Brad! Um my point exactly considering that the Commies in China doesn’t get the message that Taiwan is status quo and not part of China even when Taiwan never declared independence. Hence you have the anti-successionist law and the ‘one’-China policy. You keep missing my basic points! So China isn’t “controlling” Taiwan huh? Well obviously they think so! I mean you can’t even trade with China unless you agree to a damn lie that Taiwan is part of China. This is not the kind of control Britain exerted over America, this is a different kind of “control”. This control involves diplomatic isolation against Taiwan. Of course this is not like when Britain taxed Americans, as a matter of fact, I don’t even know why YOU put that kind of comparision with taxes in this discussion! Hell, Taiwan can’t even contribute to WHO because of China’s ‘one-China’ policy which if you want to take it literally means that Taiwan is part of China and supposedly …..key word here…..CONTROLLED… by China. This is my whole freakin point for stating that this policy is a lie.

    Oh and of course you are damn right that the Declaration of Independence charges don’t apply to China. But you can’t sit here and tell me that China doesn’t ignore fundamental UNIVERSAL values that are stated in that document. Those are the fundamental rights of all mankind not just Americans.

    Plus you keep misjudging my comparisions. When I mentioned the Holocaust, I was quoting your statment which was basically this: ““But again, the moral “right thing to do” is often not the strategic or tactical “right thing to do”.

    I was literally taking that quote for what it was and I did not agree with the quote itself because I took that to mean that good men shouldn’t do anything even if it’s morally right simply because it’s not in their strategic or tactical interests. I did not agree with that quote because it is selfish. So I took that quote and made comparisons with the Holocaust. I know damn well the Holocaust has nothing to do with Taiwan but you took my comparisions out of context and got all fired up about it.

    As for China being a possible superpower, you are soooo late. China is really already a superpower.

  • http://unrepentantindividual.com/ Brad Warbiany

    Yes, I’ve been to Taipei. I might be headed back there sometime early next year as well. A bit of advice… Stay away from the stinky tofu at the night market… Yikes!

    So you agree with my point that the level of “control” that China is exerting on Taiwan is more based on the Taiwanese government’s place in world affairs, not domestic affairs? I’m assuming you would also agree that the average Taiwanese citizen does not get oppressed by the Chinese, and lives in prosperity and freedom. Yet you assume that because Taiwan’s government does not get full recognition on the world stage, that the Taiwanese people should potentially give up that prosperity and freedom for a war with the nation that you claim is already a superpower. And that you think that Taiwan believes they can do it without our help, but that they should count on our help anyway (despite the fact that the American people are probably not interested in getting involved in another war right now, when we’re in the middle of two wars in the middle east theater).

    My point about the morally right vs. the strategically right thing to do was apparently missed by you. That’s why I took umbrage at your mention of the Holocaust. For example, as I pointed out in my initial post, I consider the War on Drugs to be morally wrong, and an infringement of my liberties. However, it would simply be stupid for me to walk in front of a cop smoking a joint. I may have a legitimate right to control what I ingest into my body, but in the face of overwhelming force (i.e. the American criminal justice system), it would be strategically wrong for me to flout that right. It’s not a good situation, but if I get myself thrown in jail, am I going to have any ability to make that situation better?

    My point is that some things are worth going to war over, and some things are not. In my opinion, for Taiwan to achieve de jure independence, instead of the de facto independence they currently enjoy, would cause them more harm than good. I think it’s a bad strategic move. The Holocaust is a whole different level of injustice, and thus the damage of not acting (6 million + dead bodies) is worse than the damage of acting.

    As you’ve pointed out, you consider it to be so important that Taiwan achieve full recognized independence that you’re willing to see them go to war, with America backing them up, even if it costs hundreds of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives, and leaves the Taiwanese island and economy in tatters, because they deserve full independence.

    I frankly don’t think it’s worth it. As I said, I’ve been to Taiwan, and I certainly didn’t see any signs of jackbooted Chinese thugs exacting the same oppression on Taiwan that they do in the PRC. Instead, I went to the mall at Taipei 101 and walked around with my gracious coworkers looking at high-end retail stores. I didn’t see people worrying about whether or not they’d be “disappeared” into some prison or face a firing squad. I saw a nation that appeared to be doing pretty well in its current situation.

    Now, maybe my analysis is wrong. Maybe China is just biding its time, waiting for a time to strike. If I’m wrong, Taiwan may end up in a fight several years down the road. If you’re wrong, Taiwan as we know it disappears.

  • http://unrepentantindividual.com/ Brad Warbiany

    By the way, why is it that you think Taiwan can defend itself, when you say China is already a superpower? You’ve said that the Taiwanese government has been spending less and less on defense, while China has been preparing for an invasion. If no one assisted Taiwan, do you really think they could repel the Chinese?

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Walter,

    If the Taiwanese want to declare independence, that is certainly their right. The question, which Brad rightly brings up, is whether it would be the right thing to do under the circumstances.

    Surely you don’t believe that China would just sit back and do nothing in the face of such a declaration ?

    We both know that won’t happen.

    So, a Taiwanese declaration of independence would lead, most likely to some type of action by the Chinese. It could be outright invasion, or it could be a blockade followed up by intimidation. The question is who would win in such a conflict. My money would be on Beijing, although my heart might be rooting for Taipei.

  • walter

    Lol, you are right about the tofu..hahaha! I am not totally disagreeing with Brad. He is very pragmatic and I am as well. Just because China is a superpower does not mean that it can aggressively cooerce other countries into submitting under its rule. If that nation doesn’t want unification then it doesn’t want it period. There are many examples Brad which you may have overlooked, where a technologically superior power could not totally dominate the will of a determined people. You have the Vietnam War as well as the conflict in Iraq. This is not to say that the U.S. military sucks because believe me if they wanted to they could give a damn less about Vietnam and Iraq and just nuke the hell out of them. But we are a “responsible” power. The U.S. government may have not done everything right, but it doesn’t invade nations for the purpose of forcing its will upon them. Even with Bush’s invasion of Iraq, you and I can agree that Saddam Hussein needed to be removed from power. Now with China and Taiwan, China has no legitimate reason to invade Taiwan and cause such drama. China only has national pride as a reason. That’s not a good reason especially when facts suggest Taiwan is already independent from China. Even if China landed troops on Taiwan, how would the occupation go? Would it be insurgents swarming everywhere? Would it be China’s “Iraq”? If there are insurgents in Taiwan, they would definitely be more deadly because they have U.S. WEAPONRY. This is why I still believe Taiwan can defend itself against Chinese aggression if it really wanted to. And Brad I just stated several times that mililtary commanders IN Taiwan are realistic. For some reason you keep missing that particular statement. I just said that Taiwan regardless of whether it can or can not defend for some time against Chinese aggression realistically needs the aid of the United States. I have said that. Look into my comments please.

    Doug I do not disagree with Brad at all. I really want to just bring up what you just now stated, it is Taiwan’s right to decide its destiny, not the U.S. or China’s. If Taiwan wants independence, it would hurt the Communist Party in China because they have lied to the Chinese people and linked reunifying Taiwan to some sort of sacred duty for the Chinese nation. As a matter of fact, just the point that Taiwan has been so patient in waiting for China to be a democracy should really be noticed. In spite of all these threats and diplomatic isolation China has put against Taiwan, Taiwan still won’t get turned off and tries to give China a chance at being a democracy. Why? Because a democratic China is more transparent and people wouldn’t have to worry about their basic freedoms being taken away. Also a democratic China would probably (key word is “probably”) be okay with an independent Taiwan because hey, there’s no harm at that point is there? Again I thank Doug and Brad for continuing this discussion.

    As for predicting the outcome of possible conflict Doug and placing bets on Beijing even if your heart is for Taiwan, perhaps you may mean if only Taiwan and China were involved? But even if that were the case, consider what I have just stated earlier. Don’t come to conclusion because of different analysis of different people. War is unpredictable. I don’t think the U.S. would sit there and allow China to invade Taiwan period. Also even if the U.S. wasn’t involved, you think Japan is going to just sit there? Taiwan is awfully close to southern Japan and Japan needs the Taiwan Straits neutral so that it can import much needed resources. Don’t underestimate Japan’s military either. So you may lose your money on this bet Doug (I’m just kidding with you). But seriously, the United States won’t let that happen. (At least I hope not!)

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Walter,

    Given the economic integration that already exists between China and Taiwan, much of it under the table, I don’t think it’s in the interest of either side to let a hot war come about.

    A better example of how this entire situation will, I am betting, resolve itself can be found in how China dealt with the reacquisition of Hong Kong and Macao. Rather than being aggressive, they were actually quite peaceful about it — and it got them what they wanted.

  • walter

    Well, you are right but that doesn’t mean Taiwan has to follow that example. Even the Nationlist Party in Taiwan, while supporting future reunification with China, do not agree with Macau and Hong Kong’s “one-state and two party system” advocated by China because to be frank with you…(please forgive my language), it’s bullcrap. Taiwan has seen how Hong Kong “integrated” into China and they are not stupid Doug. Actually, China was quite aggressive in the diplomatic process with Great Britain. They even made threats. Honestly, I don’t think your bet will pay off in that area too because Taiwan would have been integrated with China by now. You think Japan should integrate with China because it is economically integrated with China also?

    Economic integration alone does not mean a whole nation should become a part of China. If that was the case then Canada should be integrated with the United States. I do not mean any disrespect but that point of argument from you is not based on solid foundation.

    As I have said before, no one can conclude what is actually going to happen. Just because nations are linked economically doesn’t mean anything. There’s a lot of “ifs” and “buts” in this particular issue. So I am just being realistic here. Think about it Doug, just why hasn’t Taiwan aligned itself with China? Why is the sentiment shifting more towards a sovereign Taiwan? Is it because the seed of democracy sprouts the idea of freedom? Think on that. Thank you.

  • walter

    Also just to clarify, do you really think people in Hong Kong are happy with the end result? I don’t think so. China promised them basically that they would have free elections for their own government as they did with Great Britain for at least 50 years. Now look at what’s happened. The Chinese government couldn’t even wait that long! You just need to know that the Communist Party retains its grip on power no matter what. Power is important to these folks man. They will do anything to keep it. If Hong Kong could have free elections and such, ordinary Chinese people would start getting ideas for their government. Now if you was Communist in China would you want that? Nope!

  • http://unrepentantindividual.com/ Brad Warbiany

    Walter,

    Bear in mind, I’m arguing from the point of pragmatism first here. War is bad for both nations. Taiwan is doing quite well with their nearly-full independence. China is doing better every day with the economic boon they’re getting from Taiwanese investment and exports. Right now, the status quo is working.

    I’m not advocating reunification. That may occur in the future, that may not. But Taiwan has no desire to unify with the current Chinese administration. Reunification right now would be bad for Taiwan. I’m also not advocating a declaration of liberty, because I see the potential for destruction, economic collapse, and then a forced reunification with China. Since it appears that all courses of action are bad, I think it’s smart not to take actions likely to change that status quo.

    As I said, it’s not a situation I like very much. But the likely alternatives appear to be worse.

  • walter

    Now this argument I TOTALLY agree with regardless of my unwavering support for Taiwan independence. I just hope that the Communist Party in China would gracefully step down or reform.

    Let me just add something in here: what I am saying is that just in case (key phrase “just in case”) things do hit the fan, the United States should know what to do. As for a declaration of liberty, it will result in huge damage, but not necessarily a forced reunification with China. Also I don’t think the Chinese government is content with the status quo. I think they want to change all that (eventually, evidence? The anti-successionist law…again..lol). Let’s both hope that those Commies in Beijing are not crazy.

    Also interal riots within China has been identified by Commies as the single internal source that can destroy their power. (Just on the news). I really hope Mr Brad, that China’s government will not try to turn those riots into an aggression or nationalistic sentiment against Taiwan. We have already seen what happened with Japan. It’s like I say before, those folks will do anything to keep their grip on power. Allowing economic freedoms, giving people illusions, whatever it takes man.

    But I do agree with your argument. I just hope Taiwan can be free and independent. (Just my opinion and hope)

  • Daniel McCarthy

    The U.S. has made it very clear under both Republican and Democratic administrations since the time of Dwight Eisenhower that the U.S. will not stand for a military takeover of Taiwan by China. That point is simply non-negotiable. Further, a couple of years ago the Bush administration leaked a Pentagon memo describing plans to use nuclear weapons to defend Taiwan in order to convince China of how serious the U.S. is about this. And in order to further discourage Chinese military adventurism, last summer the U.S. Navy invited a handful of Chinese military commanders to observe the U.S. conduct a 6-carrier war game in the Pacific.

    But regardless of the U.S., Japan will also not allow a Chinese takeover of Taiwan because having the PLA on Taiwan would be Japan’s worse security nightmare for a thousand years. China would begin to choke shipping routes and threaten Japan’s supply of oil and other resources, and Japan knows it. So Japan too would defend Taiwan regardless of American desires or intentions.

    The most likely outcome is that China has a political implosion and breaks up into several nation states, as China has not adapted its governing structures to suit its wealthier and information-based economy. With 80,000 anti-government protests last year compared to 50,000 the year before, there is something simmering in China particularly in the countryside. All of that corruption and oppression is starting to catch up.

  • Daniel McCarthy

    One more comment:

    Taiwan is already independent from China. Taiwan has never been governed by the People’s Republic of China, and since 1895 has only been part of China for 4 years (1945-49).

    So Taiwan is already indpendent. It is time for everyone to get used to it.

  • walter

    Finally! Thank you so much Daniel for putting that out there. By the way Daniel, do I know you? Are you in the Air National Guard and if so do you remember me? Walter? The guy who was quiet most of the time during training. You are from Washington right? I hope that you remember me. It’s good to see you again pal!

  • walter

    Daniel if I’m not mistaken I think me and you trained together in Technical Training for the Air Force. I know you remember me man. I was the guy who was late on the first day of training..lol!

  • walter

    OH wait! Nevermind, I was thinking of another guy Daniel sorry! Lol. But I am so happy that you put that out there. This shows that there are people here who think as I do and firmly support Taiwan. I hope Taiwan knows this.

  • walter

    The Taiwan Relations Act is an act of the United States Congress passed in 1979 after the establishment of relations with the People’s Republic of China and the (pro forma) breaking of relations between the United States and the Republic of China on Taiwan by President Jimmy Carter.

    The act authorizes quasi-diplomatic relations with the ROC government by giving special powers to the American Institute in Taiwan to the level it is the de facto embassy, and upholds all international obligations previously made between the ROC and U.S. prior to 1979 (with the exeception of the Mutual Defence Treaty between the United States of America and the Republic of China, which was quietly allowed to expire in 1980, see Goldwater v. Carter).

    The act defines the term “Taiwan” includes, as the context may require, the islands of Taiwan and the Pescadores. Thus, the act does not apply to Kinmen or Matsu.

    The act stipulates that the United States will “consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area are of grave concern to the United States.”

    This act also requires the United States “to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character”, and “to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.” However, it does not necessarily require the United States to take any military action against the PRC in the event of an attack. The Taiwan Relations Act has been used by successive U.S. administrations to justify arms sales to the ROC, despite adopting a One-China Policy, which is not exactly the same as the PRC’s. However, many analysts recognize that as U.S.-Chinese policy continues to become more intertwined and collaborative in approach, the interpretation of TRA by U.S. policymakers will likely revert back to its original intentions, and more-closely bind to the Three Communiques and the One-China Policy.

    The PRC does not recognize the legitimacy of the Taiwan Relations Act as it is viewed by them as “an unwarranted intrusion by the United States into the internal affairs of China.” In the late 1990s, the United States Congress passed a resolution stating that relations between Taiwan and the United States will be honored through the TRA first. This resolution, which puts greater weight on the TRA’s value over that of the three communiques, was signed by President Clinton as well. Nonetheless, the United States, despite having “acknowledged” the PRC’s position regarding Taiwan, declared that “the United States would not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan” as part of the Six Assurances offered to Taipei in 1982.

  • Jay

    Adam’s comment is not just a hypothesis. Rather, it was the actual view held by both governments in the past. This is actually why Taiwan is known as Chinese Taipei in International circles. It’s widely assumed that this is due to China’s obstruction of the use of the name “Taiwan”. In recent years, it actually is, but back then it was in fact due to Chiang Kai Shek’s refusal to use the name “Taiwan”. CKS would settle for nothing but the Republic of China. Ironically, it was the old Taiwan that chose “Chinese Taipei” over “Taiwan”, not China.

    However, that is all history. Adam’s comment may have been accurate 15 years ago, but the political climate has changed in Taiwan, and most of the populace now identifies itself with Taiwan, and not China. Since the end of martial rule, the Taiwanese government also no longer contests China’s rule over the mainland, and the comment that it views itself as a government in exile no longer stands. The Taiwan “province” has also been abolished quite a few years back.

    The common view now in Taiwan is that the “Republic of China” is a sovereign independent country limited to Taiwan and its outlying islands, separate from the “People’s Republic of China”. If you ask someone from Taiwan to draw you their country, they will most likely draw you an outline of Taiwan, and not China. When you ask them if they come from China, they will most likely say no. When you ask them their nationality, they will most likely say Taiwanese. The only remaining link, I guess, is ethnicity. Generally, unless the question posed is overtly political, most people in Taiwan would not really mind being called Chinese. Most still recognize the roots of their culture.

    Despite the sense of separateness, the issue of independence is still hotly debated. This is not really due to a division over whether or not they see Taiwan as a province of China. It’s actually more a matter of choosing independence or avoiding war. With war out of the equation, most Taiwanese would choose independence in a heartbeat. The debate is whether the push for formal independence is worth the war that may follow.

    The days where both sides wanted to be China as long gone. The Taiwanese definitely want to be independent. It’s just whether the international community will let them.

  • Walter

    Jay I must say you have hit it right on the nail sir and I just want to appreciate your input here. It was just as I stated all along: Taiwanese themselves actually want to decide the fate of their country, but given the circumstances, they can’t as of yet. Even if China was to become democractic, Taiwan would be Taiwan, not China.

    You are 100% on point Mr. Jay and I really thank you for those comments. I am a passionate supporter of Taiwan and I hope one day Taiwan will just be Taiwan. Thank you.

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