Maybe it was an error by the US Navy staff in charge of its Web site — a common one in which Taiwan is confused with Thailand. Or maybe it really did happen — but was intended to be kept quiet to avoid creating a diplomatic incident. Either way, news last week that a Taiwanese vessel had participated in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) created waves in defense circles.
Photo captions underneath pictures depicting the USS Ronald Reagan with dozens of vessels in its wake stated that the ships were from South Korea, Japan, Singapore, France, Canada, Australia, the US … and Taiwan.
While Ministry of National Defense officials quickly denied Taiwan was participating in the exercise, it took days before the US Navy removed Taiwan from the captions — and even then, the job was a patchy one at best. Given the likelihood of Chinese retaliation for Taiwan’s first participation in RIMPAC since the exercise was launched 39 years ago, we can assume that the Pentagon would have corrected the mistake as soon as it was discovered. The fact that it did not raises the possibility of a disconnect between the US State Department and the US Department of Defense, with the latter — usually more pro-Taiwan than the State Department — using the misnomer to send a signal to Beijing.
Absent an official explanation, this remains in the realm of conjecture, but it should serve as a lesson to Beijing, whose presence in the South China Sea and off the waters of Japan is becoming increasingly belligerent. The message Chinese officials should take home is that if the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy continues on its current course, the participation of Taiwanese vessels in future RIMPAC maneuvers could be more than a typo. In fact, an expansionist Chinese Navy could force Pacific powers to turn to Taiwan to reinforce a naval security chain to contain Beijing and prevent provocative transgressions.
Incidents over the past decade involving Vietnamese, Philippine and Indonesian vessels and Chinese boats (some of which resulted in clashes), Beijing’s claims over the South China Sea and a series of contested islands, are forcing a reassessment of military postures not only in the US, but also in Japan. The more threatening the Chinese navy becomes, the more likely its neighbors will seek to contain it to protect their interests.
Taiwan’s proximity to China makes it a strategic point whose value is well understood by the major powers. If the situation were to reach boiling point in the Pacific, it would be inconceivable for the US or even Japan to overlook the option of bringing Taiwan into the fold as a way to strengthen their alliance.
For about 10 years, China has managed to convince its neighbors of its “peaceful rise” — something it has done with considerable skill. As a result, Beijing has been able to isolate Taiwan and whittle away at international concern for the safety of this small democracy.
A sudden shift in posture, perhaps emanating from an increasingly strident Chinese nationalism, could undermine this achievement and result in the greater integration of Taiwan into the regional security alliance. One potential offshoot could be the invitation for Taiwan to participate in RIMPAC as a full member.
What the Chinese leadership should keep in mind is that while building trust takes time, in can be lost in the blink of an eye.
While on this occasion it may have been a clerical error on the US Navy’s Web site, it could just as well be a portent of things to come.
As China’s economy was meant to drive global economic growth this year, its dramatic slowdown is sounding alarm bells across the world, with economists and experts criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for his unwillingness or inability to respond to the nation’s myriad mounting crises. The Wall Street Journal reported that investors have been calling on Beijing to take bolder steps to boost output — especially by promoting consumer spending — but Xi has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, seeing it as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse, and
For Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the military conquest of Taiwan is an absolute requirement for the CCP’s much more fantastic ambition: control over our solar system. Controlling Taiwan will allow the CCP to dominate the First Island Chain and to better neutralize the Philippines, decreasing the threat to the most important People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) space base, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Satellite and manned space launches from the Jiuquan and Xichang Satellite Launch Centers regularly pass close to Taiwan, which is also a very serious threat to the PLA,
During a news conference in Vietnam on Sept. 10, a reporter asked US President Joe Biden about the possibility of China invading Taiwan. Biden replied that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is too busy handling major domestic economic problems to launch an invasion of Taiwan. On Wednesday last week, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office published a document outlining 21 measures to make the Chinese-controlled Fujian Province into a demonstration zone for relations with Taiwan. The planned measures would expand favorable treatment for Taiwanese people and companies, and seek to attract people from Taiwan to buy property and seek employment in Fujian.
More than 100 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) vessels and aircraft were detected making incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Sunday and Monday, the Ministry of National Defense reported on Monday. The ministry responded to the incursions by calling on China to “immediately stop such destructive unilateral actions,” saying that Beijing’s actions could “easily lead to a sharp escalation in tensions and worsen regional security.” Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said that the unusually high number of incursions over such a short time was likely Beijing’s response to efforts