The United States is considering options for a sanctions package against China to deter it from invading Taiwan, with the European Union coming under diplomatic pressure from Taipei to do the same, according to sources familiar with the discussions. The sources said the deliberations in Washington and Taipei’s separate lobbying of EU envoys were both at an early stage — a response to fears of a Chinese invasion which have grown as military tensions escalate in the Taiwan Strait. In both cases, the idea is to take sanctions beyond measures already taken in the West to restrict some trade and investment with China in sensitive technologies like computer chips and telecoms equipment. The sources did not provide any details of what is being considered but the notion of sanctions on the world’s second-largest economy and one of the global supply chain’s biggest links raises questions of feasibility.
The most reassuring part of this report is the indication that the US and Taiwan Republic are collaborating. Remarkable progress in that the US is allowing the Taiwanese ambassador to the US to do this, in public – what a difference a few decades make. Would be even better if Japan co-lead this effort. The Chinese Communist Party ‘war’ against the world is all domain, multidimensional – and so seeing geoeconomic tools as a part of the efforts to deter a war of annexation against Taiwan makes sense. The main lesson from the Russian invasion and war of annexation against Ukraine is that a dictatorship like Russia and China will have very different ways of calculating “acceptable economic sacrifices.” And so I suspect the two main tools for the US, Japan, EU, and Taiwan to dissuade dictator Xi from launching a war of annexation remain convincing dictator Xi that such a move would lead to the end of his dictatorship. A parallel to the Ukraine case is the dictatorship’s information bubble – somehow Putin either convinced himself or selectively only listened to those inside Russia and Ukraine that assured him that Kyiv would fold and that most Ukrainians would welcome an invasion. One suspects Xi has created a similar information bubble, wherein he has selectively listened only to the most extreme anti-democracy anti-Taiwan voices inside Taiwan – assured, falsely, that Taipei would melt the way Chiang Kai-shek and his party-state did in 1949 and that the majority of Taiwanese would welcome a Chinese communist annexation. How the US, Japan, EU, and Taiwan find effective and convincing voices to change this perception in Beijing will go a long way to dissuade dictator Xi from resorting to an invasion.
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