Mon, Jun 18, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Ian Easton On Taiwan: Taiwan’s darkening national security picture

Today the island nation of Taiwan is watching China’s shadow close in. But there is still time for the United States to help keep the beacon of democracy burning bright.

The Republic of China, more commonly known as Taiwan, is on the front lines of the free world’s strategic standoff with the People’s Republic of China. It’s a lonely place to be, especially when facing a brutal giant whose brains and bankrolls are just as impressive as his guns.

By virtue of its shared values and strategic location, Taiwan is essential to the American-led international order. However, the island’s liberal government and territory are under threat. China is growing increasingly powerful and its leadership is seething with hostility. What’s worse, Washington has been dysfunctional and slow to extend a helping hand.

Make no mistake about it; General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平) has become a dangerous dictator. He has severed the Chinese people’s access to basic human rights. He has shattered their hopes and dreams of political reform. He has scorned rule of law. Under Xi’s leadership, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now boot stomping its way into an ugly Orwellian future.

The armed wing of the CCP, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is driven by an offensive military concept they call the Joint Island Attack Campaign (大型島嶼聯合進攻戰役). That’s code for the plan to launch a war of aggression against Taiwan.

To this end, China is racing flat out in its military buildup. The objective is a red flag with five yellow stars flying over every building left standing in Taiwan once they are done hammering the defenders into submission. Chinese generals envision a new world order where the prestige, power, and confidence of the United States have crumbled into dust. Annexing Taiwan is the first step.

The Chinese military is not a unitary actor. PLA officers work hand in glove with civilian intelligence operatives, shady financial organizations, propaganda outlets, united front groups, cyber hackers, and organized crime syndicates.

Xi understands that it is imperative to leverage every element of power. He knows that the battle of the mind comes before the battle of the fist. Taiwan would be almost impossible to successfully invade if the Taiwanese people stood united. For Xi, destroying their will to fight is critical.

The Taiwanese are being subjected to psychological warfare. They are being bombarded by weapons that draw no blood, but weaken nerves. Every day their televisions and computer screens are lit with images of hostile warplanes circling their island, Chinese spies being hauled off to jail, and pro-unification groups rioting outside their parliament. They watch as one diplomatic partner after the next betrays their trust and succumbs to Beijing’s dollar diplomacy.

Less visible, but no less pernicious, is the money changing hands between Chinese officials and major international corporations, lobbying firms, consultancies, universities, think tanks, movie studios, and newspaper empires. This money buys the Chinese Communist Party the ability to distort the truth and silence anyone who might otherwise voice support for Taiwan.

Any serious threat to Taiwan’s survival is a threat to US national security. But it is far from clear that this is well understood by most Americans. Officials in the Trump administration, like their predecessors before them under Obama and Bush, have mostly been unwilling or unable to stand up to China over Taiwan. Nothing is as demoralizing to the Taiwanese as watching the American superpower wilt in the face of intimidation.

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