CHINA WON’T STOP AT TAIWAN, SO WHERE SHOULD AMERICA DRAW THE LINE?

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The CCP backed Global Times featured all of the following articles on its front page this past Friday, 22 October:

  • “'Defend Taiwan' can hardly be seen as a slip of the tongue, … The US would come to Taiwan's defense if the island faces a Chinese mainland ‘incursion,’ US President Joe Biden confirmed …”
  • “Biden won't make good on 'defend Taiwan' claim: Global Times editorial”
  • “How anxious is US about report on China's 'hypersonic weapons'? Biden gives the answer”
  • “100 countries support China on human rights amid US-led smears at UN session”
  • “Accusations on Granholm show US politicians are dodging efforts on climate change”
  • “Those who push the EU on the Taiwan question are undermining the foundation of Europe’s interests”
  • “Chinese, Russian warships circle around Japan, 'bring balance to regional stability'”
  • “US ambassador nominee’s remarks full of Cold War and zero-sum mentality, inconsistent with facts: Chinese FM”

When was the last time an American news outlet, or taxpayer funded public news stations PBS or NPR featured comparable coverage critically analysing China?

China is hardly disguising its ambitions to become the dominant power in the world.

If that happens, America won’t have to worry about vaccine mandates, wearing face masks, or having its economy hobbled by COVID insanity. It will be even more progressively given over to China’s poisonous brand of corporate communism—a monster that in fairness, the U.S. helped spawn and develop at every stage.

It gets even worse. As a vassal state, America will exist to drive wealth and power to Beijing, along a hegemonic “belt and road” that relentlessly serves the motherland.

China may soon take a major step intended at displacing America, by taking Taiwan. Is the U.S. prepared for the consequences? 

And is there still time to formulate a policy that could flip the script and force China to battle from a place of strategic weakness instead of strength?

The WTO and 2001 Changed Everything

The Trends Journal has previously reported how the West has engaged in a series of historic miscalculations concerning China, perversely wounding itself while aiding the communist country in gaining strength. (See “CHINA CHALLENGING U.S. HI-TECH DOMINANCE,” 13 Jul 2021.)

There were arguably five modern touchstones in relations with China, up until 2016. The first was the original loss of China due to U.S. State Department blunders and subversion in the 1940s. The second was the Korean War, which resulted in a ceasefire that saw South Korea escape communist dictatorship.

The third was the Vietnam War, an ill-conceived and tragic attempt to pursue communist “containment.” Though China reduced their support in 1968, partially to redeploy military forces to deal with Soviet tensions, they were instrumental overall in supporting the North Vietnamese.

Nixon’s “opening” of China in the 1970s, the fourth touchstone, at least partially aimed to drive a further wedge between already rival communist systems of the Soviets and the PRC.

The fifth touchstone was the admission of China into the World Trade organization. It was hailed at the time as the last major achievement of the Clinton Presidency.

Though the event didn’t officially occur until December of 2001, Clinton had done the most to make it happen, including steering a Congressional vote on the matter.

As even the leftwing Slate wrote about the initiative in 2016, China’s entry into the WTO had huge unintended consequences. Clinton had hoped that free trade would advance American foreign policy interests, and induce China to become more like the West.

But the agreement wasn’t all about lofty “world peace” objectives. While labor groups adamantly opposed the measure, corporations salivated at the idea that 1.3 billion Chinese might soon be consumers for their goods and services.

According to Slate:

“In the end, after much wrangling, 73 Democrats joined 164 Republicans to pass the agreement, which was expected to glide through the Senate.

“‘This is a good day for America,’ Clinton said afterward. ‘In 10 years from now we will look back on this day and be glad we did this. We will see that we have given ourselves a chance to build the kind of future we want.’

Things have not worked out quite as the 42nd president hoped. Normalizing trade with China set our rival on a path to becoming the industrial powerhouse the world knows today, decimating American factory towns in the process and upending old assumptions about how trade affects the economy.” 

Some, like Robert Scott of The Economic Policy Institute, who projected that an already significant trade deficit with China would double in ten years, and that the U.S. would lose some 800-thousand jobs, were pilloried for projecting “absurd” fears.

The Washington Post, The New York Times, most academics, most Republicans, and a significant number of Democrats joined Clinton in approving the China agreement. Paul Krugman was awarded a Nobel Prize for his analysis of it.

Robert Scott’s fears, meanwhile, turned out to be an understatement.

As Slate observed:

“Once China officially joined in the WTO in 2001, the country rapidly began transforming into an export behemoth as foreign investment and factory work flooded into the country—its surplus with the United States alone rose from $83 billion in 2001 to more than $295 billion in 2011. During the same 10-year period, U.S. manufacturing employment, which had stayed essentially steady in the years after NAFTA, declined from about 17.1 million to 11.8 million.” 

NAFTA was a drop in the bucket compared to the damage of China’s entry into the WTO.

Notably, China’s envisioned “market reforms” have also not panned out. Today, according to some estimates, 28 percent of China’s GDP is generated by state owned entities that are advantaged in ways the West was trying to dissuade via the WTO agreement.

Specifically, China has created rule making and enforcements that have favored its state owned companies in competition with private firms including foreign firms doing business in China, and private Chinese firms with foreign investments and partnerships.

If China circa 2000 had engaged in the kind of provocations it's currently employing with respect to Taiwan, it likely would not have gained admission to the WTO. Its failure at bullying Taiwan before that country’s elections in 1996 contributed to its shelving of a hardline stance in that era.

Historic Taiwan Policy No Longer Holding

Having supercharged its economy off Western investment, one-sided trading, and protectionist schemes not formalized in law, but carried out via ruthless communist loyalties, China is now clearly bent on Empire. 

Like other empires, extending its territorial claims is part of the equation. 

After its pacification of Tibet, the Uyghurs, and, as of 2020, Hong Kong, the mainland is now laser-focused on Taiwan.

After President Joe Biden answered a question Thursday about whether the U.S. would defend the island, saying "Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” the Global Times responded.

In an Op-Ed, the CCP controlled outlet dismissed Biden’s words, while bringing Japan and South Korea into the mix:

“If Biden's answer implies that the US is giving up strategic ambiguity, and that US troops will fight the PLA if a war breaks out in the Straits, that would be a major shift in the cross-Straits situation and will be bound to trigger fierce confrontation. 

“In August this year, when Biden attempted to appease his allies after the US pullout from Afghanistan, he said, ‘We made a sacred commitment to Article Five that if in fact anyone were to invade or take action against our NATO allies, we would respond. Same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with—Taiwan.’ The rhetoric caused chaos at that time. The White House soon put out the fire, indicating that US policy on the Taiwan Straits has not changed. 

China knew Biden’s statement was an empty bluff, even before Biden backtracked on Friday.

More important, they believe even if the U.S. had an intention to help defend Taiwan, China can’t be militarily stopped:

“The military strength between the two sides of the Straits used to be relatively balanced in the past. The US had advantages, and its strategic ambiguity was out of its diplomatic need toward China. But now, the PLA has an overwhelming advantage over the military on Taiwan island, with full capacity to cause unbearable results to US troops if they dare ‘defend’ the island, and even to wipe them out.”

The U.S, has historically pursued a policy known as 'strategic ambiguity,' aiding Taiwan's defenses but not promising to come to the island's defense in the event of an attack.

“The President was not announcing any change in our policy nor has he made a decision to change our policy,” Psaki said about Biden’s comments to CNN. 

Though it’s not mentioned nearly as often, China has also been bound regarding Taiwan policy. Specifically, it has historically stated commitment to “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, as well as assurances that a “one country, two systems” policy would allow the island to exist with current political freedoms, if they opted to reunite with the mainland.

As recently as 9 October, Reuters noted President Xi Jinping struck a softer tone than he had over the summer regarding Taiwan, specifically using the term "peaceful reunification." 

But that softer tone appears to have been short-lived.

Beyond Taiwan

Should Taiwan fall, South Korea and Japan, with their technologically innovative industries, will be the next objectives of the Chinese.

One of the Global Times front page stories covering a recent joint naval exercise by Russia and China, offered a glimpse of what lies in store for Japan:

“From the east of Japan, China and Russia could reach the hearts of military installations in the country from which the US and its allies have been making many provocative moves in places like the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, observers said...

“Encircling Japan, particularly sailing to the east side of Japan, is of significance because many key military installations are located on that side, including the US Navy base in Yokosuka, headquarters of the US Seventh Fleet, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Friday.”

“Many US military provocations on China in places like the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea were launched from these bases, the expert said, noting that the joint patrol by Chinese and Russian vessels could be seen as a warning to the US and Japan…”

China taking Taiwan should be seen for what it is: the lynchpin for destroying America’s position in the whole of the Pacific.

With Taiwan subjugated, China not only would secure a crucial geographic location. It wouldn’t need further military action to cow Japan and South Korea into decoupling from the U.S., adopting a “neutral” position with respect to the world’s vying superpowers.

Economic overtures and closer strategic integrations would soon follow.

Some, like the Lowy Institute, (a leading Australian think tank founded by entrepreneur Frank Lowy, have argued a loss of Taiwan would not affect China’s greater ambitions to assert hegemony in the Asia—but only because China is already bent on that path:

“China is already coercing Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, and others without the benefit of owning Taiwan. As its military power grows, it will be able to take more direct action against others regardless of what happens with Taiwan.”

Cold comfort, indeed.

Strategic Alternatives to Direct Confrontation in the Pacific

The launch of the COVID war from Wuhan in late 2019 reversed a situation where China had been forced to fight on battlefields where it didn’t have iron-clad advantages.

There’s a reason why China operated under a different posture during Trump’s presidency. 

Trump drew China into uncomfortable terrains of battle on economic issues, signaling the first substantial change in policy toward China in 40 years.

Former Bush and Obama Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently acknowledged as much (see “FORMER OBAMA SEC OF DEFENSE SCOLDS BIDEN ON CHINA,” 19 Oct 2021).

Trump also notably resisted new foreign military blunders that had sapped the nation under previous administrations.

The combination of economic resurgence and military prudence, combined with a renewed commitment to modernizing and building America’s military, may have reminded China of the 1980’s.

Xi Jinping, already facing internal pressures, was obviously determined not to go the way of Gorbachev and the USSR. The COVID War, intentionally unleashed or not, helped the CCP ensure that history wouldn’t rhyme.

It’s unlikely to happen, but the Biden administration could choose to pull some inspiration from both Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump in dealing with China.

From Reagan, Biden could acknowledge the success of making it expensive for an aggressor nation to subdue a nation with suitable geographic attributes, determined to resist.

In the 1980s, adventurism in Afghanistan played a significant part in the Soviet Union’s downfall.

The U.S. won the Cold War, and millions of people in Germany, Poland, Hungary and Romania (not to mention 14 former Soviet bloc nations including Ukraine and the Baltics) gained a return to national sovereignty as a result.

Taiwan, like Afghanistan, is geographically difficult to subdue, with a people determined to defend themselves. Increasing military and other aid would increase the odds that China might pay a heavy price in a war, very quickly.

It’s not surprising that Xi is striking a harder tone concerning Taiwan. A major Communist summit in 2022 will decide whether he serves a historic third term, something only achieved previously by Mao Zedong. 

But Xi can ill-afford to have a military move against Taiwan go wrong, especially when the world rightly blames China for its evasions and cover-ups surrounding COVID.

Proteges of previous Chinese leader Jiang Zemin would leap on anything less than easy success against Taiwan.

China could try a step short of kinetic war, such as a naval blockade.  The U.S. should be enhancing Taiwan’s ability to be self-sufficient, with food and other reserves and measures. The longer Taiwan could hold out in such a scenario, the worse China would suffer on the world stage.

What else can Biden learn from Reagan and Trump?

Both of those Presidents oversaw economic resurgence during their presidencies. Instead of further sabotaging the current economy with vaccine mandates, travel restrictions and other measures, Biden could end the COVID War.

He could also re-institute Trump’s approach to energy, as he’s doing with some of the former President’s immigration initiatives. 

Just like the 1970s, energy is a significant driver of inflation. China is making no bones about upping coal production to feed their factories. The U.S. needs to return to an “all of the above” energy policy, and quickly.

Finally, Biden could look for ways to shift the theatre of confrontation with China to “fields of battle” where the U.S. could play to strengths, instead of weaknesses.

One of the simplest ways to do that is to strengthen initiatives and relations with nations in the Americas.

Some areas that would be highly beneficial include:

  • Countering China with new infrastructure and economic development initiatives in Central and South America
  • Forming security integrations with Central and South America, on cybersecurity and other areas where the U.S. can offer technology advantages
  • Mobilizing U.S. Intelligence to focus on rooting out Chinese infiltration, instead of domestic political opponents and PTA parents
  • Incentivizing American-based businesses to invest domestically and in this hemisphere, instead of elsewhere
  • Encouraging nations in the Asian region to do more to bolster their own mutual defense agreements and funding, while offering technology and military aid

Leaning on America’s Greatest Advantages

Most importantly, America’s strategic response to China’s latest threats should be rooted in recognizing and leveraging America’s two greatest advantages in the contest.

The first advantage is our Constitution as originally written and intended. The human freedom it guaranteed still works. America still leads the world in entrepreneurial innovation.

That’s why China has to engage in massive business and strategic IP theft. (See “CHINA BUSINESS ESPIONAGE NETS $500 BILLION A YEAR,” 29 Jun 2021 and “CHINA ‘TALENT PROGRAM’ GIFTED AT STEALING AMERICAN IP” in this issue.)

As of 2010, China became the leading manufacturing power.

But America, with four percent of the world’s population, produces more than 20 percent of the world’s goods and services by some calculations, and in 2021 accounted for 16 percent of the world’s GDP. China represents 18.5 percent of the world’s population. Their percentage of the world’s GDP also stands at around 18.5 percent.

In terms of GDP per capita, China has a long way to go to catch up with many first world nations. In 2020, it didn’t even make the top 20 list.

America also provides tremendous opportunities and benefits to immigrants on a scale that the Chinese would never dream of doing.

America’s freedoms should be re-invigorated, not cast aside trying to mimic Chinese “advantages.” (See “AMERICA DRIFTS TOWARD CHINA’S ‘TECHNO-AUTOCRACY’,” 9 Feb 2021.)

China’s repressive regime requires constant domestic persecution and suppression, and continues to fail on the frontiers of innovation. Though far larger than South Korea or Japan, China still has fewer of the world’s top tech companies than those countries. And the U.S. is far ahead.

The crypto-techno revolution is proving to be the latest area where China’s system is showing its limitations (see “THE GEOPOLITICS OF BITCOIN,” 27 Jul 2021 and “CHINA MADE A TRILLION DOLLAR MISTAKE, SAYS MICROSTRATEGY CEO,” 29 Jun 2021.) The necessity of surveillance and control to retain its dehumanizing regime prohibits it from partaking or allowing the kinds of innovations driving many crypto projects. 

The second great advantage America enjoys in comparison with China, lies in geography.

It’s been said that geography is destiny with regard to people. Place of birth obviously can confer advantages or disadvantages.

But geography is also tied to destiny when it comes to nations.

China has long taken advantage of its location to be a center of trade between the near and far east. It boasts great physical diversity and a huge pacific coastline.   

But considerable powers also lay around the country. There’s Russia to the north (and Mongolia, vast though sparsely populated and landlocked). India and Pakistan lie to the West.

The “Stans” of the Northwest and West, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the rest are not all consequential powers, but their sheer size, number and distinct cultures make them inherently difficult places to traverse, let alone intimidate.

Smaller mainland countries including the Koreas, Vietnam and Thailand all contain age old cultures that rival as well as share history with China.

Off the coast, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia to the far southeast, and Taiwan and Japan, to the east and northeast, all constrain China geographically and geopolitically. 

Comparatively, the U.S. has Canada to the north, Mexico to the south, and the large expanses of the Atlantic and Pacific to either side. With the island nation of Cuba off the Florida coast greatly diminished, the continental U.S. has virtually no significant powers nearby with which to contend.

Alaska and Hawaii are both huge strategic and natural resource rich outposts.

Arguably no other nation on earth is as blessed as the United States in terms of geography, and the richness and diversity of that geography. And that, especially at this time in history, is a very good thing.

For more on issues detailed in this story, see “BY LAND AND BY SEA: RE-THINKING OCEANIA,” (28 Sep 2021).


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1 Comment
  1. Jennifer Dunn 1 month ago

    Great article, thanks for clarifying the state of China.

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