Stop Poking the Super-powered Bear

It’s not my place to say whether Taiwan is part of China or is an independent state. It’s not the place of the US government to make that determination. It for damn sure is not Nancy Pelosi’s place to do so.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was at best pointless and at worst wildly provocative. Whatever planning and approval process led to it happening was flawed, what positive outcome was meant to come of it did not, and it was a stupid move. All that it definitely achieved was pissing off the Chinese government. It didn’t intimidate them. It didn’t incline them to engage in multilateral diplomacy. It didn’t make the people of Taiwan any safer.

This provocation by a representative of the US government was yet another case of a frat boy bully, overconfident in his drunkenness, poking a bear. It put the Chinese leadership in a position where they had to do something in response, which could have ranged from angry press releases and a show of military force endangering the people and economy of Taiwan, to full-scale war between the world’s reigning superpower and its current runner-up. Fortunately, they chose relative restraint.

China is by no means an innocent or benevolent actor. Everything that it does is calculated and it has done many bad things. The Chinese government harshly punishes dissent as a matter of course, they habitually violate the human rights of minority groups and perceived threats to the authoritarian control of the government’s leadership, they’ve bought up land and resources and built infrastructure all across Africa, essentially creating modern economic colonies on the continent, and have been working on doing the same throughout Asia.

Defenders of the Chinese government would say that they’re doing these and other things with good intentions, or that the way these things have transpired has been misunderstood or willfully misrepresented by China’s adversaries, and they would say that the United States has done the same and similar things. The former point is not true but the latter is. The United States doesn’t have the high ground to cast moral aspersions. Much as US government officials will publicly claim that their confrontational approach to China is rooted in opposition to their human rights abuses, the lack of democratic practices, or promotion of shady business behavior, this is a hypocritical cover. They view China as a competitor who could displace, or at least rival, them for global hegemony. The idea of losing economic and military dominance is anathema.

China hasn’t gone to war with the United States because they don’t want to. This is not necessarily because they believe they would lose. It is likely that they would, since our military is so bloated and excessively deadly that it could eradicate the global population several times over. But it’s not a certainty that they would lose. We’ve proven incapable of victory over ragtag Taliban fighters or despots in small countries like North Korea with a handful of nukes. It’s implausible to think we’d be more successful against a country with the weapons, land mass, money, influence, and population of China. What is certain is that it would be a catastrophic loss of life, and destruction of epic proportions, if China and the US engaged in full-on war. We’d both lose. And the reason that China does not start a war with the US is that they know this and do not want it to happen. They seem to have reasoned that such spectacular levels of death and destruction, and the expense of it all, would be stupid and not worth it. To the US’s credit, they haven’t openly initiated war yet either, and instead just continually poke the bear, making threats and weapons sales, with no plan for a practical eventuality other than war.

My personal bias is for Taiwan to be an independent state, as it has essentially been for decades. Since the time that the island was seized by dictatorial militaristic nationalists fleeing the communist revolution of mainland China, Taiwan has been doing relatively well in recent decades. I think they should be free to go on doing so. However, my opinion doesn’t count for shit, and only a little less than does the opinion of the US government, because ultimately it’s not our business, like most of the international affairs that we decide to make our business. The true concern of all people should be the welfare and safety of the people of Taiwan, which is regularly endangered by allies and adversaries alike.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store