Recently Mr. Mearsheimer published a long essay, entitled, Say Goodbye To Taiwan, in a website (May 2016),www.chinausfriendship.com based on his old article published in National Interest (March-April 2014). The title of this article for sure will catch lots of eyeballs, but its content essentially contains his hegemony theory and uses Taiwan as a case study. Based on hegemony theory, he analyzes what the U.S. will do regarding China's desire to reunify with Taiwan and Taiwan's desire to maintain de facto independence. He assumes that China will continue to gain power and the U.S. will be reluctant to go to war against China on behalf of Taiwan. Then he concludes among the three options, 1. Developing nuclear deterrence, 2. Developing conventional military deterrence and 3. Adopting a version of Hong Kong Strategy; Taiwan has no choice but accepts option 3. In essence, Taiwan will be eventually reunified with Mainland China, just a matter of how far beyond a decade of time.
After reading this essay (unlike Mr. Mearsheimer’s other essays), I do not necessarily disagree with John's conclusion, but I do beg for difference in John's arguments or analysis to reach his conclusion. Here I would like to offer my comments based on an Oriental philosophy and historical facts. On the Mainland China-Taiwan reunification issue (to some degree the Korea reunification issue), the current situation is entirely created artificially, possibly partially promoted by the U.S. attributable to hegemony behavior Mearsheimer characterized, but not due to China following a hegemony theory. This is my main disagreement with Mearsheimer's arguments. I shall list my reasoning below.
I believe that in the Orient, particularly in China, the hegemony theory and behaviors are well understood, however, China through her several thousand years of history (experienced hegemony behavior as early as Chun Qiu and Zhan Guo eras, 771-221 BC), had developed a philosophy not to pursue hegemony but honor the "Wang Dao". In history, China has repeatedly adopted the "He Qing" policy to deal with the aggressors from the North (Marrying the Emperor's princess to the King of the aggressive northern state to avoid war which is always devastating to the people) rather than pursuing a hegemony strategy. China has also built the Great Wall (1100-223 BC) consuming enormous resources and man power for defense rather than resorting to military build-up to defend or conquer others. In Ming dynasty, after successfully dispatching "Zheng He" (1371 - 1435) to explore the world seven times (1405 through 1433) with a large fleet consisting of ships longer than 400 feet, the emperor after knowing that the rest of the world was far less developed than China had ordered destroying the big ships and forbid further exploration as waste of national treasury. In Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), the ruler repeatedly swallowed the hegemony and colonial behaviors of the Western power and the Imperial Japan to the point that China was near annihilation. These historical evidences illustrate one thing that the Chinese people firmly prefer to "Wang Dao" which is the opposite of "Ba Dao" as the governance and nation building philosophy. This firm belief has a strong influence on Chinese political leaders.
Naturally, there were debates about the merits of "Wang Dao" (this philosophy may be explained with modern language as soft power and rule based foreign policy) versus "Ba Dao" (essentially the hegemony theory, ruling by power and preventing the rise of other hegemons), but the Chinese people and statesmen overwhelmingly preferred the "Wang Dao" philosophy. This philosophy may have caused China to be defeated militarily numerous times, but in Chinese history, the conquerors, such as the Mongols and Manchurians (when they were powerful and invaded and occupied China), gradually yielded to the Chinese "Wang Dao" philosophy. This philosophy gives Chinese tremendous tolerance to military invasion, but the greater the tolerance the greater the resolve in resistance, this was proven in WW II, while many Western countries quickly surrendered to Nazi military force, the Chinese was extremely resilient to the powerful and cruel Imperial Japanese Army. Despite of Japan's superior military force and determined objective to conquer China, the Chinese resisted for nearly a decade eventually defeating Japan. The nuclear bomb might have accelerated Japan's surrender, in fact, it was China who tied up Japan's huge army and exhausted it to eventual failure. Japan may deny it out of shame but it is the real truth.
Taiwan had a treacherous history as a part of China's sovereignty. Taiwan had been captured and ruled by foreign invaders a number of times, first by the Dutch (1624 - 1662) then by the Japanese (1895-1945). Post WW II, the anti-communism ideology artificially separated Taiwan from Mainland China again. Taiwan depended on the U.S. protection and the U.S. was viewing Taiwan as a strategic island as Mearsheimer pointed out, an unsinkable carrier right between the East and South China Sea. Whatever the political maneuver on the island, be it pro-independence or color revolution, I believe the fate of Taiwan is not in the hands of the U.S. nor Japan, simply because the Chinese people believes in their unwavering reunification principle. Politics, propaganda, even brain wash may change the mood of people (more likely the young people for a period of time), but the traditional culture including the "Wang Dao" philosophy has a tremendous staying power. Just like China eventually gave up communism and pursue her own governance system principally influenced by the "Wang Dao" philosophy, Taiwan would find a suitable democratic system compatible with her culture and tradition. No matter which political party is in control, the political leaders will accept the "Wang Dao" philosophy. The Japanese tried very hard to ‘Japanize’ the people in Taiwan for fifty years, but the people remain to be Chinese in culture and in tradition.
The Chinese people including many overseas Chinese firmly believe and expect reunification of Taiwan and mainland but there is no specific time table for it. In the "Wang Dao" philosophy, people are extremely patient towards political systems and political changes. Mainland China will not use force to reunify with Taiwan unless a foreign party is involved to spoil the natural reunification process. Taiwan will not declare independence and has no compelling reason to do so (nothing to gain and everything to lose). The people across the Taiwan Strait do have patience to observe the natural changes to embrace a mutually acceptable political system. During this wait-and-see process, there may be external political influence trying to terminate the process, but in today's fully developed communication environment, people can not be manipulated and fooled for long, the "Wang Dao" philosophy will eventually prevail over the hegemony theory. The hegemony behavior of the Western countries in the 19th and 20th century will eventually be diminishing in the 21st century simply because nuclear deterrence will render hegemony behavior not workable, a point Mr. Mearsheimer concedes. Human race will have no choice but accept "Wang Dao" philosophy and abandon hegemony theory to avoid the destruction of the human race. Taiwan will be reunified with Mainland China eventually, in agreement with Mearsheimer's conclusion but for a different reason.