Last week, China held three days of combat drills in the South China Sea, simulating naval and air force maneuvers to “seal off” the island of Taiwan. These military exercises took place only a few days after the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, visited Taiwan. This is the latest episode in ongoing friction between China and the U.S. over the question of Taiwan.
The island of Taiwan was, at various times in the past, a part of Chinese empires, but never a part of the modern Chinese state formed by the revolution of 1949. China claims the right to govern Taiwan, part of the long-standing “One China” policy. Conflict over Taiwan has been a guarantee since then, as not only does China claim a historical right to the island, but after the revolution of 1949, China’s former ruling party, the Kuomintang, used the island as a refuge. Since 1949, Western powers, most importantly the U.S., have insisted on Taiwan’s independence, not out of any concern for its residents, but because the issue can be used against China. In the last two years, the U.S. has sold almost a trillion dollars’ worth of military weapons and equipment to Taiwan.
These sorts of “exercises” are all-too frightening in a world plagued by war. At what point does the Chinese government decide to gamble and invade Taiwan, based on past territorial claims, like Russia under Vladimir Putin has done with Ukraine? What stops the U.S. from retaliating, as U.S. presidents, including Biden, have repeatedly promised, if China attacks Taiwan? None of these military and diplomatic maneuvers and counter-maneuvers are in the interests of people in the U.S., China, Taiwan, or anywhere else in the world. By their actions, the Chinese government and the U.S. government are playing out a dangerous conflict that risks all of our lives!