As a famous US professor once told an up-and-coming Taiwanese academic, there is something about Taiwan that makes even the best and the brightest of minds stop thinking.
Time and again, otherwise intelligent academics, journalists, writers and government officials have managed to get it all wrong when it comes to Taiwan. The fact that a country whose 23 million people would make it the ninth-largest country in Europe by population size, and whose economy is among the 20 largest economies globally, is so regularly misunderstood is predominantly the result of Chinese propaganda and the willingness of other countries to allow Beijing to get away with its lies.
Not only is Taiwan misrepresented, but the biases that are stacked against it prevent its 23 million people from deciding their own future. So entrenched has this handicap become that Taiwan, not China, is often regarded as the troublemaker, even though it is Beijing, not Taipei, that threatens war — against Taiwan, Japan and the US — over the question of its sovereignty. It is as if Czechoslovakia or Poland, not Nazi Germany, were the true instigators of World War II in Europe.
Even though relations across the Taiwan Strait have in some ways improved since 2008, Taiwan continues to be denied the choices that a democratic nation should be allowed to make about its destiny. As if this were not enough, academics continue to regard it as an uncontrollable wildcard and the likeliest source of conflict — perhaps even nuclear conflict — between China and the US.
Such fallacies were again present in a major report issued last week on nuclear weapons and the future of US-China relations.
Released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, the report says that Taiwan “is the contingency in which nuclear weapons would most likely become a major factor.”
Quoting defense analyst Richard Betts, the report states: “Neither great power can fully control developments that might ignite a crisis. This is a classic recipe for surprise, miscalculation and uncontrolled escalation.”
Once again, Taiwan stands accused of endangering the peace because of its desire for self-determination, as enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Taiwan is the uncontrollable variable that must be controlled, even if this goes against the wishes of 23 million souls, to avoid nuclear war, when in reality, it is the two great powers, pace Betts, that have full control of the developments that might ignite a crisis. The decision to use force and to escalate over Taiwan — and thereby risk miscalculation leading to nuclear war with the US — lies fully in Beijing’s camp, which controls the People’s Liberation Army, its nuclear arsenal and the Second Artillery Corps.
Nobody in his right mind would blame Prague or Warsaw today for creating the uncontrollable uncertainties that led to Berlin’s decision to invade, which was followed by European, and eventually US, declarations of war against Germany. The decision to escalate lay fully in the Reichstag (and also with Moscow, with regard to Poland), not among the peaceful peoples of European countries whose only wish was to be left alone.
Even if the conclusions were reached inadvertently by the authors of the CSIS report, they nevertheless contribute to added pressure on Taiwanese to forsake their right to self-determination. It tells them that they, ultimately, would be responsible for potentially sparking a devastating nuclear war between two superpowers should they choose to behave irresponsibly by seeking to exercise their right as human beings.
Everybody knows that Beijing is the aggressor in the Taiwan Strait, yet experts all over the world continue to pretend that it is otherwise, that somehow Taiwanese are not the victims, but the cause of ongoing tensions, and perhaps of Armageddon.
Late last month, Beijing introduced changes to school curricula in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, requiring certain subjects to be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. What is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeking to gain from sending this message of pernicious intent? It is possible that he is attempting cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, but does Xi also have the same plan for the democratic, independent nation of Mongolia? The controversy emerged with the announcement by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau on Aug. 26 that first-grade elementary-school and junior-high students would in certain subjects start learning with Chinese-language textbooks, as
There are worrying signs that China is on the brink of a major food shortage, which might trigger a strategic contest over food security and push Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), already under intense pressure, toward drastic measures, potentially spelling trouble for Taiwan and the rest of the world. China has encountered a perfect storm of disasters this year. On top of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, torrential rains have caused catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze River basin, China’s largest agricultural region. Floodwaters are estimated to have already destroyed the crops on 6 million hectares of farmland. The situation has been
In 1955, US general Benjamin Davis Jr, then-commander of the US’ 13th Air Force, drew a maritime demarcation line in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, known as the median line. Under pressure from the US, Taiwan and China entered into a tacit agreement not to cross the line. On July 9, 1999, then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) described cross-strait relations as a “special state-to-state” relationship. In response, Beijing dispatched People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft into the Taiwan Strait, crossing the median line for the first time since 1955. The PLA has begun to regularly traverse the line. On Sept. 18 and 19, it
Midday in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 16, was sunny and mild. Even with the pandemic’s “social distancing” it was a perfect day for “al fresco” dining with linen tablecloths and sidewalk potted palms outside one of New York City’s elegant restaurants. Two members of the press, outfitted with digital SLR cameras and voice recorders, were dispatched by The Associated Press to cover a rare outdoor diplomatic meeting on one of these New York streets. American diplomat Kelly Craft, Chief of the United States Mission to the United Nations, lunched in the open air with Taiwan’s ambassador-ranked representative in New York, James