Mainland China (The People’s Republic of China – PRC) insists it owns Taiwan. Taiwan says it is an independent nation. The PRC finds this embarrassing. The PRC does not like to be embarrassed.
Communist China has claimed Taiwan since 1949, when the Kuomintang began governing the island after the fall of Japan in 1945. Nearly ninety years have passed. Why should anything change now?
The answer is fourfold. First, there is considerable and under-reported unrest in China. The PRC’s ongoing mistreatment of the Uighurs and other ethnic and cultural minorities, its mishandling and continuing obfuscation of the COVID crisis, the severe financial fallout of that mishandling, jealousy amongst ordinary citizens of the greater individual wealth and comfort of people in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and ongoing restrictive rules on movement and social interaction, are leading to increasing dissatisfaction with the central government. The PRC needs a distraction, preferably one which will give it a victory and restore confidence in the party and the state.
Secondly, the USA, which is the only country which could help Taiwan withstand an attempted invasion by the PRC, is weaker, both materially and in resolve, than at any time since the Second World War. The US economy has been damaged almost as badly as that of China. It has weak and equivocating executive leadership. US armed forces have been seriously depleted by the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the transfer of billions of dollars worth of military hardware to Ukraine, and their own woke agenda-distracted and battle-inexperienced senior officers.
Thirdly, US leadership and the US public have deeply entangled trade ties with the PRC. Far more so than with Russia, for example. For a number of reasons, including its abandonment of energy independence and local manufacturing, the US is dependent on China for a large proportion of its consumer products.
Finally, the US, along with much of the Western world, is worried about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and the severe decline in the relationship between the US and Russia. There is a sense that “We can beat China. We can beat Russia. But we can’t beat both.” Entry into another major conflict in East Asia, even if coming to the aid of a friend, would be deeply unpopular and deeply alarming to large sections of US society.
The PRC leadership knows all this. It has also heard President Biden’s assurances that the US would (probably) come to the aid of Taiwan. And it knows that even if the US were willing to help, by the time US forces got there, the PRC would be in effective control, and that any attempt to remove them would be massively destructive of lives and infrastructure.
Communist China is not worried. We should be.
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