An article published on the Guardian on October 5, 2021, entitled, The US Must Avoid War with China over Taiwan at All Cost, was authored by Daniel L. Davis who is a senior fellow for defense priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the US army, deployed into combat zones four times. He is also the author of The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America. His opinion is certainly based on his military knowledge. His main points are as follows:
- “American policymakers must face the cold, hard reality that fighting China over Taiwan risks an almost-certain military defeat – and gambles we won’t stumble into a nuclear war.”
- “There would be no palatable choice for Washington if China finally makes good on its decades-long threat to take Taiwan by force. Either choose a bad, bitter-tasting outcome or a self-destructive one in which our existence is put at risk.”
- “The deputy secretary of defense, Kathleen Hicks, said that if Beijing invades Taiwan, “we have a significant amount of capability forward in the region to tamp down any such potential. Either Hicks is unaware of how little wartime capacity we actually have forward deployed in the Indo-Pacific or she’s unaware of how significant China’s capacity is off its shores, but whichever the case, we are in no way guaranteed to “tamp down” a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.”
- “Earlier this year, Senator Rick Scott and Representative Guy Reschenthaler introduced the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act which, Representative Reschenthaler said, would authorize “the president to use military force to defend Taiwan against a direct attack”. In the event of an actual attack, there would be enormous pressure to fast-track such a bill to authorize Biden to act. We must resist this temptation.”
- “The best that could be hoped for would be a pyrrhic victory in which we are saddled with becoming the permanent defense force for Taiwan (costing us hundreds of billions a year and the equally permanent requirement to be ready for the inevitable Chinese counter-attack).”
- “The most likely outcome would be a conventional defeat of our forces in which China ultimately succeeds, despite our intervention – at the cost of large numbers of our jets being shot down, ships being sunk, and thousands of our service personnel killed. But the worst case is a conventional war spirals out of control and escalates into a nuclear exchange.”
There were quite a number of comments posted by readers. Many just like I agree with Davis' military assessment. However, many readers do not seem to support his not-to-war position. The ones that disagreeing with Colonel Davis can be represented by the words, obligation and duty, hence willing to war, for example, “We have a duty to protect Taiwan, it’s been etched in stone for decades. If the US falter in this commitment, it will be open season for all the world’s adversaries to do as they please.” The ones agreeing with Davis further pointed out the dependency of the West on China's manufacturing. As for strategy, Davis' suggestion is as follows: “The most effective course of action for Washington would be to condemn China in the strongest possible terms, lead a global movement that will enact crippling sanctions against Beijing, and make them an international pariah. China’s pain wouldn’t be limited to economics, however.” This is more or less Biden's Administration is doing or hope to achieve, but so far the progress is not prominent.
The Taiwan issue has been discussed in the US-China Forum for nearly a decade, but our views seem to fall on deaf ears. We have discussed the history behind the Taiwan issue – it was a result of a Chinese internal war following the ending of WW II. The split of China across the Taiwan strait happened while the world was polarized between a capitalist liberal democratic West led by the U.S. and a communist authoritarian system controlled by the Soviet Union. China had two political parties fighting for power but they had a common goal to unite China and make China strong again despite of the external influence from the Soviet Union and the U.S. The Chinese would have been united if there were no interference from the U.S. and the Soviet. There was no obligation for the U.S. or any other nation to fight in or for a Chinese internal war. The U.S. has no reason to get involved with any political party in Taiwan for its struggle for power. It is none of the U.S. business.
The U.S. has been a superpower since the end of WW II and she became The Superpower when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989-1991. However, being a superpower does have obligation in maintaining world peace and promoting world prosperity, but it has no obligation nor right to interfere with other nation's internal affairs. China is a perfect example that she has five thousand years of history and far richer culture and literacy than any nation on Earth. If China is progressing to find the perfect system for governing China who in this world has the right or obligation to dictate or interfere with China's own political evolution? Other nations especially the U.S. should try to understand what a political system with Chinese characteristics mean.
The present Taiwan government is ruled by a small political party. Even the present party chose to be a poppy of the U.S., we should be wise enough to stay neutral. The fact that China has risen so fast and advanced in numerous domains making the U.S. uneasy, the U.S. must reflect on itself why we are falling behind? No, no country can steal another country's success. China rose peacefully. She did not wage war or conquer any other country to make her growing strong. From Col. Davis' article, we should ponder what are the differences that have made China to be a world power in a few decades? Only through a humble reflection we may grow strong again. If the U.S. interferes with the Taiwan issue, the outcome will be what Davis predicts. Any hegemony strategy or Thucydides theory is obsolete in a nuclear power world. We must learn how to compete and accept reality.
Ifay Chang. Ph.D., Inventor, Author, TV Game Show Host and Columnist (www.us-chinaforum.org) as well as serving as Trustee, Somers Central School District.