Reading the newspapers these days is like reading a Tom Clancy novel in which growing national tensions are ignited into full-scale war by some unforeseen event, such as a natural disaster or a terrorist strike. Of course, that hasn’t happened yet, but even Clancy would have struggled to come up with the web of simmering tensions facing the world today.
In Red Storm Rising, Islamic terrorists destroy a new Soviet oil facility, prompting the USSR and Warsaw Pact nations to attack NATO, which leads to World War III. In The Sum of All Fears, another war is barely avoided between the USSR and the US after Arab terrorists try to use a nuclear weapon against the US. In Debt of Honor, ultra-nationalist Japanese try to start a war with the US. Outdated though these scenarios might be, they all carry an element of what we’ve seen in the past 10 years — war started in an unexpected place by a small group of extremists.
The terrorist attacks on the US in 2001 led directly to more war in Afghanistan and were used to justify a US invasion of Iraq, two wars that are still simmering 10 years later. The atrocities perpetrated by both sides in those wars have fueled anger across the Muslim world, which is now seeing burgeoning revolt against corrupt regimes. Those revolts can’t be connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but US actions over the past 10 years can’t have helped the situation of citizens angry with regimes that buddy up to the Stars and Stripes.
These situations you could almost pull right out of a Clancy book, but how about natural disasters and their long-term effect on security? The magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan could not have come at a worse time for the US and its empire of business interests. After losing most of its diplomatic credibility during the years of former US president George W. Bush, wasting resources for years in Middle Eastern wars and trying its best to cope with the effects of a devastating recession, just when the US and its allied powers were starting to creep back into positive economic territory, the world’s third-biggest economy has seen its industrial heartland ravaged by a tsunami and the continuing nuclear reactor crisis.
The US is strained and tired. It is fighting wasteful wars with no end in sight, and it looks set to be drawn into another in Libya. Money is becoming increasingly scarce, and its biggest ally is now down for the count.
In a Clancyesque twist of fate, the time seems ripe for China to take to the stage. China has kept out of military interventions for the past 30 years, while at the same time pouring ever larger sums of money into military spending. Apart from indicating that it can blow US satellites out of space, China now has missiles that could attack US aircraft carriers, attack US military installations on Okinawa or Guam, destroy Taiwan’s air fields or even deliver a nuclear device to US shores (although this seems completely unlikely in an age of so-called limited war.) On top of this, China has pockets deeper than the Grand Canyon, an economy that continues to outstrip all others in the region, and now the perfect opportunity to get what it wants — regional dominance followed by a global role similar to that of the US.
The likelihood of all this is debatable, but the crisis unfolding in Japan has shocked the world. Japan now needs aid and assistance from the US and other countries, and the US should use the opportunity offered by its part in the relief effort to refocus on the strategic importance of East Asia in order to counterbalance China’s growing power.
Beijing’s imposition of the Hong Kong National Security Law and a number of other democratic and human rights issues continue to strain relations between the UK and China. The tense situation has significantly decreased the likelihood of British Royal Navy ships being able to continue their practice of docking in Hong Kong’s harbor for resupply — a not altogether unpredictable development. In a Nov. 19 online speech to parliament, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier would next year lead a British and allied task group to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and East Asia. Johnson
President-elect Biden and his team soon will confront a raging pandemic, a severe economic crisis, demands for progress in addressing racial injustices, intensifying climate-induced crises, and strained relations with allies and partners in many parts of the world. They will be oriented to view China as America’s greatest geostrategic challenge, but not the most immediate threat to the health and prosperity of the American people. Amidst this daunting inheritance, US-Taiwan relations will stand out as a bright spot, an example of progress that should be sustained. There are strong reasons for optimism about the continued development of US-Taiwan relations in the
Universities and colleges are bearing the brunt of Taiwan’s falling birthrate. Many schools have already closed down, while lower-ranking institutions find themselves in a precarious position. The Ministry of Education has said that more than 40 private senior-high schools, universities and colleges are already in a critical situation. When schools are forced to close, the impact is felt not just by students, who can easily transfer to other schools, but even more so by teachers and other staff, for whom it is hard to change track in the middle of their careers. A Cabinet meeting on Nov. 19 approved a draft
I was probably the first professor in Taiwan to teach a university-level food safety class and a postgraduate food toxicology course. During the administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), I participated in discussions to allow imports of US beef containing traces of ractopamine, and was part of the decision to permit imports of US pork containing the leanness-enhancing additive. I am not an expert on ractopamine, as I have never done any research on the drug, but I have taught classes about the health dangers of foods containing traces of harmful substances. When US beef imports were about to be allowed,