The tension in Taiwan Strait has risen as we are witnessing the U.S. - China relations deteriorating. Many political analysts tend to look at the Taiwan problem as a not solvable issue because of the U.S.-China conflict. Historians and political scientists alike generally understand that China has a historical mandate to unite with Taiwan to end the sad and shameful chapter – Taiwan, seized by Japan in 1845 and returned to China in 1945 after Japan surrendered in WW II, yet to unite with the motherland. The present separation between Taiwan and the Mainland was the result of a Chinese internal war, dragged on over 75 years with external interference. Russia backed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP now governing the Mainland) and the U.S. backed the regime retreated to Taiwan (governed under an evolving democracy with two major parties, Kuo Ming Tang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)). The current ruling party in Taiwan is DPP, which advocates independence for Taiwan. That goal is not achievable, because CCP would for sure use force to reunite with Taiwan. The U.S. does not want to see Mainland-Taiwan reunited making China stronger than she already is. Neither would the U.S. want to see Taiwan independent dragging herself into a war at a formidable high price and getting less control if Taiwan is truly independent. Thus the Taiwan problem is not a problem the U.S. is anxious to solve or able to solve. Under current situation, the U.S. can sell to Taiwan military gear for profit and have a hold on the Taiwan government. To China, the Taiwan problem has a clear simple solution. If Taiwan would declare independence or progress close to that status, China would use all her might to take over Taiwan with crashing force if necessary. Hence, the Taiwan problem is presently a real dilemma for the Taiwanese people. However, the problem is solvable by people in Taiwan with a real awakening of their historical mandate. How an amicable outcome and peaceful future are possible is discussed below.
Many strategic analyses on the Taiwan problem exist; Taiwan is generally included in a bigger U.S. strategy, such as Asia-Pacific or China policy. Bounded by U.S. - China Shanghai Communique – the one China Principle and international (UN) recognition, the U.S. cannot engage Taiwan as an ally-nation like Japan or South Korea, but Taiwan has geographically importance in the “First Island Chain' (FIC) strategy - from the Korea Peninsular to Japan, Taiwan, then to the Philippines containing China. Obviously, for FIC to be effective, the U.S. would like to have a hold on Taiwan (she did since 1949) and continue this hold through sales of 'defensive' weapons. Taiwan is mainly a supply source for the U.S. military in her FIC anti-China strategy. However, as China is rising in economic and military strength, the effectiveness of the FIC containment concept is in question. The current tension between the U.S. and China in the East China Sea (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS) is rooted in that question. The U.S. wishes to keep the FIC Strategy effective in containing China by extending the chain into the Indian Ocean by involving her ally Australia and possibly recruiting other nations such as India and Vietnam. However, China's development in naval forces has been very impressive, not only in terms of building carriers, battle ships, jet fighters and missiles but more significantly in strengthening some SCS islands in her possession with basic infrastructure for human habitation including even militarized runways and ports. The more pressure the U.S. is applying to China in ECS and SCS, the more 'defensive' China becomes (defensive weapons could immediately become offensive at war time). With China's overall mature and independent technology capability such as Beidou (GPS system), laser and space and her modernized air force, navy and army, the hawkish voice of reunification is understandably getting louder in China. This trend is definitely leading to a disastrous future for Taiwan if the people in Taiwan is not awakened to facts and reality.
Besides selling limited and outdated weapons to Taiwan and passing ambiguous non-binding legislature in Congress to allow more interaction with Taiwan officials, the U.S. did little for Taiwan in the world arena such as curtailing small countries cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan or getting Taiwan into any significant international organizations. In the media, we see many political commentators (including former Secretary of State Kissinger) warning the U.S. not to cross the red-lines drawn by China. A recent article, entitled, “The Taiwan Temptation – Why Beijing Might Resort to Force”, authored by Oriana Skylat Mastro (July/August 2021 Foreign Affairs), provided key logical answers to why the Taiwan issue is not a problem the U.S. can solve or in this author's opinion the U.S. wish to solve. Mastro, a Center Fellow at Standford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, a fellow at American Enterprise Institute and an inaugural Wilson Center China Fellow, is an international security expert focusing on Chinese military and security policy. In her essay, Mastro first acknowledged the Taiwan problem being a China's internal problem and the One China Principle being recognized by UN and the U.S., then proceeded to give an in-depth analysis on why the U.S. would not like to see a 'Taiwan Strait War' and through five logical thought processes or main points she discussed why the Taiwan Strait War will not produce favorable outcome. (for the U.S. and Taiwan)
First, Mastro acknowledged the existence of different options for China to take regarding Taiwan issue; she felt that Xi would be more likely than previous Chinese leaders to force reunification with Taiwan. According to opinion survey, 70% of Chinese people think reunification by force is possible and 37% think possible within 3-5 years. Her second point is that the Chinese military is 'Battle Ready' after 25 years of modernization and recent anti-corruption efforts. She outlined four possible attacks: 1. missiles and air raids, 2. blockade and cyber-attack, 3. attacking U.S. military bases preventing any support for Taiwan, and 4. amphibious landing attack first off-Taiwan islands than Taiwan itself. Mastro concluded that Taiwan would be no match to Mainland in all three types of attack. In fourth, Taiwan might wish to receive some international support, but possibility small. Mastro quoted former Indo-Pacific Commander Philip Davidson saying: “in six years China could take Taiwan by force.” Her third logical analysis is whether Mainland would take a fast or slow action to reunite with Taiwan? Her prediction was China would take a gradual and slow process (a few months, low cost approach). The U.S. would not be able to do anything especially if China did not attack the U.S.
Then Mastro followed a wishful thinking logic (4th) to analyze the Taiwan problem. She thought that, the cost to China would be too high and Beijing would be isolated internationally and tied up for decades, were more American projections based on wishful thinking. She thought that China would avoid a protracted and high intensity scenario and would only attack with a confidence of a quick victory (Chinese citizens more than Americans are socially and economically prepared, willing to sacrifice). In her fifth logical analysis, she said, once China had the military ability to solve the Taiwan problem, Xi could find it politically hard not to do so and Xi might also think solving the Taiwan problem would not detract (but help) his “Chinese dream and rejuvenation” program. Taiwan is a 'no-exit' problem, because China has a ready solution waiting for the opportune time and the U.S. has no solution with no desire to solve.
This author agrees with Mastro's analyses above but must add one important missing point: Taiwan problem is solvable by the people in Taiwan provided that they will be awakened by the warning bells of war, recalling the memories of history from Japanese occupation, to WW II, to rising of a new and transforming China. The acute tension in the Taiwan Strait will force people to think. The brains washed by DDP propaganda will be awakened by facts and reality. In an awakening mind, calm and serious thoughts will arise: How and what kind of system can be built under the One China Two Systems Principle (One China means protection and two systems mean optimization). China needs different systems to practice and improve governance of all her people, land and water, and 56 minorities. Taiwan Strait Tension presents the Taiwan people the opportunity to solve the Taiwan problem, the historical mandate, for an amicable outcome and a peaceful solution.