Over the weekend, a war of words broke out between Washington and Beijing at the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore, turning the annual powwow into less of a dialogue and more of an exchange of angry monologues.
During an address to delegates at the summit on Sunday, Chinese Minister of National Defense General Wei Fenghe (魏鳳和) did not mince his words: “Let me make this clear: If anyone dares to secede Taiwan from China, we will not hesitate to fight. We will fight at all costs and we will fight to the very end. This is the only choice for China.”
The day before, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had used his address to warn that China had unilaterally changed the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait.
“Our policy hasn’t changed. But unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be true for the PRC,” Austin said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Rather than a riposte to Austin’s address, Wei’s aggressive rhetoric was more likely aimed at US President Joe Biden’s remark, made during a visit to Tokyo at the end of last month, that the US would intervene militarily were China to attack Taiwan — the third time Biden has done so since taking office.
Wei’s choice of words was revealing. Rather than make the standard threat against a move toward Taiwanese independence initiated by Taipei, in a thinly veiled reference to the US, Wei introduced a third party into the equation, cautioning against “anyone” who might dare to “secede Taiwan from China.”
Beijing might be concerned that in moving from a policy of “strategic ambiguity” to “strategic clarity” over Taiwan, Washington might also be considering reinstating formal diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, or by some other means providing Taiwan with a greater presence on the international stage.
In a further upping of the rhetoric on Monday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文彬) stated that China exercises “sovereignty” over the Taiwan Strait and that “there is no such thing as international waters in international maritime law.”
“Relevant countries claim that the Taiwan Strait is in international waters with the aim to manipulate the Taiwan question and threaten China’s sovereignty,” Wang said.
Wang’s assertion that international waters are a fictional construct is deeply concerning. It is a direct challenge to the settled, rules-based global order that guarantees innocent passage on the high seas, and a free and open maritime commons. If the concept of international waters is allowed to become eroded, free trade between nations and the entire system of global trade would be imperiled.
Wang’s remarks provided confirmation of a report published by Bloomberg earlier the same day, which, quoting an unnamed source within the Biden administration, stated that Chinese officials have repeatedly told their US counterparts in private that the Taiwan Strait does not constitute international waters.
The Taiwan Strait at its narrowest is 70 nautical miles (130km) wide, and, at its widest, 220 nautical miles. Since the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea defines territorial waters as extending 12 nautical miles from a nation’s coastline and the additional “contiguous zone” of jurisdiction extends out to only 24 nautical miles, Beijing’s stance is unadulterated poppycock.
China’s vexatious claim is clearly an attempt at what it calls “lawfare” — weaponizing the law as part of its overall strategy to turn the Taiwan Strait, and the South and East China seas, into Chinese inland waterways. Beijing attempted a similar trick last year when it passed a law that for the first time explicitly allowed its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels.
China’s bellicose rhetoric at the Shangri-La Dialogue and its attempt to unilaterally redefine international maritime law is yet more proof that Beijing cannot be an equal competitor since it has tossed the rule book into the fire: The only viable option for Washington is containment.
Sometimes When there is a choice to be made, none of the options are good. The choice between hooking up with communism — in its Chinese iteration, the one that bugs Taiwan the most — and neofascism, of the back-to-the-roots Italian variety or any other kind, is such a choice. The good news is that Taiwan does not have to choose. It neither needs to cozy up to China — the successes of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration, despite its shortcomings, are evidence of that — nor does it need to embrace Italy under its likely new leader, Italian lawmaker Giorgia
For many years, the military’s defense of the Taiwan Strait has been centered around the doctrine of establishing “air and maritime supremacy and repulsing landing forces.” However, after the legislature passed the Sea-Air Combat Power Improvement Plan Purchase Special Regulation (海空戰力提升計畫採購特別條例) last year, the doctrine was altered to “air defense, counterattack, and establish air and maritime supremacy,” with repelling landing forces removed from the equation. Despite the changes to the defense doctrine, landing operations and anti-landing operations still feature at the core of the military’s plans for the defense of the nation. The primary reason that peace in the Taiwan Strait has prevailed
In a China-US war over Taiwan, paradoxically the greatest loss of life could be inflicted on the Muslim Uighurs. Uighurs constitute 45 percent of the Xinjiang population of 25 million people, with over 1 million incarcerated in internment camps in accordance with a policy initiated under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). Another half-million children have been placed in state-run boarding schools. Forced sterilization has led to a 24 to 60 percent drop in the birthrate, leading officials from many countries to describe the mass detention as genocide. Estimated annual death rates in the camps of between 5 and 10 percent could
Starting from November, and in line with recent amendments to the Compulsory Automobile Liability Insurance Act (強制汽車責任保險法), electric bicycles (e-bikes) and other small electric two-wheeled vehicles must be licensed with mounted license plates before they can be ridden on the road. This change should resolve some existing problems, such as the difficulty that e-bike owners have faced in receiving help to find their bikes if they are stolen, and the difficulty that road users have in holding anyone accountable when an accident occurs. It would also allow the more than 600,000 e-bikes that are currently being ridden on Taiwan’s roads to