“Just hold on loosely
But don’t let go
If you cling to tightly
You’re gonna lose control ….”
Sagacious philosophers of the 1980s .38 Special
[US Navy photos from Naval warfare journalist Chris Cavas at https://twitter.com/CavasShips/status/1565020387653607427?s=20&t=6ITkBgg7L1b8orFBUg_uCg&%5D
A world history level pattern of dictators pursuing policies generates the exact opposite results of their stated objectives. President Biden and Zelenskyy, before the Russian invasion, probably could have reached accommodating deals with Putin that would continue to maintain or even enhance Russia’s historic influence in the region. Everything being equal, by size China has much going for it vis-a-vis Taiwan and its other neighbors. Yet in both cases, by lacking patience, not having confidence, by exporting the dictatorial attitude they are used to in domestic rule, Xi and Putin have created opposite effects. Even though the Chinese communists have stigmatized Taiwan’s democratically elected Presidents Lee and Tsai as radical pro-independence activists, they are likely the last two democratically elected Taiwanese leaders willing to tolerate pragmatic, face-saving for the snowflakey Chinese communist’s arrangements (for e.g. by keeping the RoC, even though the status quo is two separate sovereign entities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the appearance of “C” remains and no one says anything about what happens a century, or two, from now.)
From 2014, or maybe even earlier, absolutist and belligerent positions from Moscow have unintentionally solidified Ukrainian resolve; and likewise, the Leninist Chinese Communist Party and its inability to share power/space with any other entity mean it has done as much to promote Taiwanese national identity than any other force. The most important “escalatory spiral” is that of seeing the world through the eyes of a Leninist tyrant – ever more belligerence and ugliness even though all metrics show one is getting the opposite effect. After the Xi genocide in East Turkestan and the brutality in Hong Kong, how many democratic citizens of Taiwan – whether they love Taiwan Republic, or Taiwan RoC, or RoC Taiwan, or just RoC – would be interested in a deal with the communists?
Western corporate media and talking heads may not be great at this, but this is where Twitters and open source military observers shine. A textbook example of this unintended consequence of the Chinese communist reflex is this important detail: When the US sent two Ticonderoga class cruisers through the Taiwan Strait, they were shadowed by Chinese communist destroyer(s) and accompanied by a Taiwanese naval frigate and a Taiwanese Coast Guard corvette – Taiwanese and American ships sailing in formation.
The ‘breakthrough’ is not that this has never been done – one suspects after 1996 Taiwanese, American, and Japanese military vessels and aircraft have had many “chance meetings” away from the limelight. What’s interesting about this case is that photos of the Taiwanese naval vessels sailing alongside US naval vessels were publicized by the US Navy. Even though Beijing thinks ratcheting up its military belligerence will isolate Taiwan, it has actually promoted many breakthroughs.
I would guess that it is nearly impossible, given the tasks needed, that the highest national security officials in Taiwan do not occasionally communicate directly with their counterparts in Tokyo and DC. But up to this point, it is taboo to acknowledge this in public. I think Beijing’s threats are creating the opposite intended effect by forcing these contacts into the public. And sooner rather than later, for practical and for symbolic reasons, continued Beijing belligerence will accelerate the pace when American, Japanese, and maybe even NATO officers returning to Taiwan. 5.9.2022
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