A Growing Chance Of Conflict With China - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Opinion

A Growing Chance Of Conflict With China

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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2019 3:41 pm

Many Democrats and other anti-Trumpers are still under the delusion that Russia determined the outcome of the 2016 election in Trump’s favor and that the Trump Campaign colluded with the Russians to make it happen. This is so despite no evidence to that effect and a two-year intensive investigation that failed to find any. Still, the president is accused regularly of cozying up to Vladimir Putin in spite of administration policies that are anything but friendly toward Russia. Many actually believe that Russia is our number one enemy.

In fact, the only significant threat that Russia now poses to the U.S. is its huge nuclear arsenal, the use of which is effectively deterred by our own. Russia is a second tier economy with an aging and declining population and decaying infrastructure. Its leaders know that they can never displace the U.S. as the world’s predominant superpower.

China, on the other hand, is quite another matter. It would be ever so comforting to think of China, not as a potential enemy, but as just a rival economy or, perhaps, even an economic partner, but that would be naïve. China may not be an enemy at the moment but that could quickly change. Any of several potential flashpoints could serve as a catalyst, among them: China’s territorial ambitions, especially in the vast and vital South China Sea; China’s trade policies and theft of intellectual property and industrial secrets; China’s crackdown on freedoms and protests in Hong Kong and the status of Taiwan.

Attention is now focused on Hong Kong, the former British crown colony that the U.K. “returned” to China in 1997 under terms of an agreement that would permit self-rule and other freedoms for 50 years. In fact, Hong Kong was never ruled by the Peoples Republic of China and its freedom-loving inhabitants, who prospered under British rule and institutions, never lived under communist rule. If they had been offered a choice, they may well have preferred existence as an independent city-state like Singapore to China’s stifling control. Instead of the freedoms they were promised, they are seeing those freedom eroded away by Beijing’s heavy-handedness.

After 10 weeks of protests which have rocked this important financial and business hub, Beijing’s patience is nearing an end and protests are being met with force which is turning more lethal. Memories of the Tiananmen Square massacre are still vivid. If history repeats, will the U.K. and U.S. stand idly by again? While a U.S. military response seems an unlikely option, the use of military force by China against Hong Kongers would almost certainly provoke the imposition of crippling economic sanctions involving not just China but perhaps any nation that trades with China and expects to continue trading with the U.S., leading to a world-wide recession. Even if the current crisis is resolved peaceably, what happens if the “One China, two systems” policy ends after the fifty-year period?

Taiwan may be an even more ominous trigger to a U.S.-China conflict. The U.S. severed formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1979 and recognized the Peoples Republic of China under the “One China” policy. It was an act of pure political expedience and betrayal of a loyal ally. It abrogated a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan and replaced it with the Taiwan Relations Act, declaring that the future of Taiwan must be determined by peaceful means and that any use of force would be opposed by the U.S. This agreement was light on details to put it mildly.

Taiwan, a modern and prosperous democracy of 23 million, with a per-capita GNP greater than that of Mainland China, has never been a part of the Peoples Republic of China and, like Hong Kong, has never been under communist rule. It was, in fact, a part of the Japanese Empire and called Formosa for half a century prior to World War II. The U.S. supplies most of Taiwan’s military weapons needed to defend the island nation against attempts by the Peoples Republic to occupy it and is thus, at least morally, committed to its defense. China flies into a rage whenever we provide such aid or even treat Taiwan as the independent country that it is and not a renegade province of the Peoples Republic.

Washington’s policy regarding the defense of Taiwan can only be described as intentionally ambiguous. Where China is concerned, that’s not nearly good enough. To avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation on Beijing’s part we should make it crystal clear that we would react with great alacrity to forcible occupation of Taiwan and that all options would be on the table, the very least of which could be the severing of diplomatic relations with Beijing and a total boycott of Chinese products.

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