In recent months, a number of Chinese apologists have made the case that “abandoning” Taiwan to China would help improve strategic cooperation between Washington and Beijing. In their view, Taiwan remains the last impediment to a flourishing relationship between the two giants, and therefore yielding to Beijing’s irredentist claims on Taiwan would somehow unlock a future of manifold promises and stability.
In the name of journalistic neutrality, this newspaper has given space for this argument and has allowed those who disagree with such a strategy to also make their case. However, facts alone suffice to discredit calls for the international community — and ultimately on Taiwanese themselves — to sacrifice Taiwan for a more constructive relationship with Beijing.
One need look no further than news over the weekend that Beijing prevented the release of a damning UN document on missile proliferation involving Iran and North Korea, as well as the possibility that China may have acted as a transshipment point for related prohibited technology.
In light of this development, how could any of the academics who made the case for abandoning Taiwan still argue that once the “Taiwan problem” is resolved, everything will be fine? North Korea, Iran and the proliferation of dangerous technology has nothing to do with conflict across the Taiwan Strait, and to put it mildly, it would be naive to assume that Beijing would become a more responsible stakeholder in a post-“Taiwan problem” scenario.
Why Beijing would reassess the utility of Iran and North Korea (and the other repressive regimes it props up) after unification with Taiwan is a question that none of the experts appear to have pondered seriously. The reality is, if Beijing no longer had to focus on a “Taiwan contingency,” it would be in a position to devote even more resources to other problematic areas, such as a border dispute with India, contested claims in the South China Sea — and yes, its support for dictatorial or nihilistic regimes, which, potentially as a result of Chinese assistance, are now in the possession of dangerous items such as nuclear technology and the means to deliver nuclear warheads.
A consequence of Beijing’s refusal to play by the rules is that deadly technology has landed in the hands of crackpot regimes, such as those in Tehran and Pyongyang. The risk then increases that this technology will be further proliferated, ending up in the arsenal of additional countries, or perhaps more alarmingly, in that of even less accountable non-state actors, including terrorist organizations. As a result, global security is undermined as a result of decades of proliferation on China’s part.
Anyone who has done business with China or any country that has been party to a bilateral or multilateral agreement with China knows by now that Beijing observes legal commitments in the breach. If, as the China apologists would argue, Taiwan is to be considered as mere business transaction, then one would logically assume that in exchange for goods, China would be expected to deliver a service, or commit to something. However, to act in the belief that China would respect its side of the contract is one hell of a gamble and history clearly shows us that Beijing would continue to selectively behave as per Western expectations.
If the past is any indication, sacrificing Taiwan in the hope that this point of contention, once eliminated, would bring China in from the cold, is beyond academic speculation: It is sheer stupidity.
The US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment for this year certainly cannot be faulted for having a narrow focus or Pollyanna perspective. From a rising China, Russian aggression and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, to climate change, future pandemics and the growing reach of international organized crime, US intelligence analysis is as comprehensive as it is worrying. Inaugurated two decades ago as a gesture of transparency and to inform the public and the US Congress, the annual threat assessment offers the intelligence agencies’ top-line conclusions about the country’s leading national-security threats — although always in ways that do not compromise “sources and methods.”
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