In 1996 when the United States under Bill Clinton sent the biggest American military flotilla to Asia since the end of the Vietnam war, which subsequently sailed through the Taiwan Strait, it was clear that Washington’s leaders were still intoxicated on the sense of self-congratulatory post-Cold War militarism that was defined by Clinton’s predecessor George H. W. Bush as “the new world order”.
America’s new world order was one where American policies were prioritised over obedience of international law, where meddling in the business of other countries was prioritised over respecting their sovereignty and where antagonising nations through worrying provocations was part of the daily life of the US military industrial complex.
Under Donald Trump, the US is once again heightening tensions in the Taiwan Strait as it appears that Washington is walking back from the One China Policy. If the US follows through with its brazen attempts to sell billions of dollars in weapons to Taipei while breaching the sovereignty of the Strait by sailing war ships through Chinese waters, it can only be concluded that the US intends to provoke China by wantonly heightening military tensions without any thought for the long term strategic failure that such a policy entails.
First of all, the authors of Washington’s new aggressive policies seem unaware of the fact that the Chinese government has no desire to ever shed the blood of fellow Chinese under any circumstances. The cross-strait issue is an internal political matter not one that implies a rush to militarisation. China after all pursues a policy of non-interference and good relations with every country in the world so why would China adopt a militarily hostile policy to an internal political matter when China does not even threaten the use of force against hostile foreign states? The answer is that once again, the US policy makers have failed to grasp the essence of the Chinese political mentality.
Secondly, the US must be aware that China has changed a great deal since Bill Clinton’s provocation of 1996. China’s military today is the strongest in the long history of China and with plans to further modernise the People’s Liberation Army’s hi-tech weaponry, it is safe to say that something along the lines of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction would be the result of a full scale war between the US and China.
No sane person in the world would want to see a war between two countries which in spite of the current protectionist policies in Washington remain vital trading partners and furthermore, partners who have been able to work together to accelerate the Korean peace process.
Therefore, while war is not in anyone’s interests, the US should remember that if it attempted a 1996 style provocation in the Taiwan Strait, it would elicit the kind of response that in 1996 China was less capable of giving. Those who stand next to an oil field should not develop a habit of playing with fire. This is the stern but reasonable message that US policy makers should understand if they think that provoking China in its territorial waters will not result in meaningful consequences.
Finally, the US should realise that there is no point in provoking the most extreme political elements in Taipei when this can only result in global conflict. Nothing positive whatsoever from anyone’s perspective can occur as a logical result of such a stance. If the US fully committed its actions to the One China Policy that Washington currently supports with its words, it would be entirely possible for the Taiwan issue to be solved on a permanent basis through inter-Chinese dialogue without external interference.
US meddling in the issue is manifest of a colonial mentality in Washington that is unfit for the 21st century as not a single American life nor an inch of American territory is effected by the internal Chinese matter. When Chinese President Xi Jinping recently met with former chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) party Lien Chan, they were obviously speaking Chinese rather than English and they were speaking from the position of a shared historical Chinese cultural experience within the framework of a political conflict which must continue to be shaped by the 1992 Consensus rather than framed by hostility or US provoked secessionism.
As the cross-strait issue is one that can only be logically solved by dialogue, the US should know that no good can come out of provoking China and that certain disaster would befall anyone who sets fire to the international and cross-strait Consensus by fanning the flames of dangerous secessionism. Chinese officials will be well aware for example that a fringe group of extremists in the US state of California are agitating for secession from the United States. But just because this is the case, Chinese warships have not sailed into the San Francisco Bay and made unilateral weapons deals with California Governor Jerry Brown.
China respects the sovereignty of the United States in-full and realises that internal conflicts in America can only be solved by the American people themselves. The US must apply a similar position and remain removed from an internal Chinese matter where it behoves no one either in China nor in the US to provoke violence within one of the world’s most prosperous and peaceful nations.