Taiwan and the global maritime empire: World history and geostrategery classrooms

Signal and noise, forest and trees. Many over-the-top reports about Chinese communist blockades and missiles and jet fighters around Taiwan Republic. Related to my earlier post about the nature of Taiwanese democratization and its resilience, compared to the 1996 Chinese communist crisis, this time Taiwan Republic is far more democratic, diverse, and less reliant on a centralized party-state. This is the same as the unruly democracy in Ukraine that confounded and surprised the invading Soviet Red Army and western experts. Imperialists, western or not, are always confounded when peasants have their own ideas – and are willing to fight for them.

Rather than being led by the western press and think tanks passing on Chinese communist scary talking points, and staring only at Speaker Pelosi’s visit or these Chinese communist military intimidations, none of what’s been happening makes any sense without understanding the nature of global shipping. It is not that Taiwan is unique or important per se, but that Taiwan is one of many, many global maritime chokepoints in the Chinese communist world war against the maritime global order imposed by the US Navy. From 1300 AD to now we have lived in an era of global maritime empires. Each leading maritime imperial power has had unique takes on how this empire building ought to proceed. But they ALL share a core principle – a ‘rules-based’ world order and a ‘free and open maritime environment’ that is to serve the global movements of goods, services, and labor. Anything, ANYTHING (and anyone) that interferes with this principle is pummeled.

The revival of the Chinese communist economy from 1980 to 2022 owes largely to this global maritime imperial order imposed by the US Navy. But as the Chinese communists ascend, and the US stalled or declined, this Globalization 1.0 world order frayed. This is why while it is important to study the Taiwan case, not connecting Taiwan to many many other global cases misses the central point – the Chinese communist navy bases in East Africa, Mideast, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Chinese communists claimed the entirety of the South and East Seas. Chinese communists recently declared the Taiwan Strait as Chinese territorial water, functionally choking off critical supplies for Japan and Korea. Chinese communist military expansions into the south Pacific. Chinese communist “corporations” buying major global shipping harbors – and shares of the Panama and Suez canals. The main point is that this present Chinese communist crisis over Taiwan Republic is not occurring in isolation – and all of them are related to a long-standing effort by the Chinese communists to subvert the maritime empire created and led by the US Navy.

Once we understand the historical and global context, then it is easier to guess what the US Navy, Japanese Navy, and NATO navies will do if the Chinese communists come anywhere near a blockade of the Taiwan Republic. And no of course this is not about friendship. It is not even about democracy though it really doesn’t hurt. It’s actually not even about dollars and cents per se. A global maritime imperial order requires steadfast enforcement of precedence. The two ‘recent’ historical precedents I can think of are the Libyan attempt to claim the tiny, far less economically important than the Taiwan Strait Gulf of Sidra, as their own – the US Navy showed up in less than a day and pummeled the Libyan military. And the Iranian attempt to blockade the opening to the Pershing Gulf – US and allied navies showed up immediately and annihilated the Iranian navy. 3.8.2022

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