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Relax … China will not invade Taiwan

Relax … China will not invade Taiwan

Of the many legitimate concerns we might have regarding China, an invasion of Taiwan is not one of them.  I have expressed that opinion in several earlier commentaries.  Apparently, the big guys are agreeing.

This time the opinion was expressed by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a podcast discussion with Britain’s former M16 head Sir Richard Dearlove and international reporter Julia Macfarlane.

According to the report of the discussion in The Hill, Gates said the possibility of an invasion is “very low.”  I put it close to zero.  Although Gates and I proffered different reasons, they go to the same conclusion.  Gates noted that “The Chinese have never undertaken an amphibious operation. It would look something like D-Day, and it would have to be huge, and it would require a lot of softening up.”

The report in The Hill contained a grievous error that leads to a lot of misunderstanding of the China/Taiwan relationship.  It stated that “Taiwan says it is an independent country, while Beijing insists the island is part of China.”  Actually, the island has never declared itself as an independent nation.  Furthermore, no nations treat it as an independent nation – with less than half a dozen maintaining a formal embassy on the island.  

Yes, the United States provides defensive weapons to Taiwan – and maintains a critical trade relationship – but does not recognize Taiwan as an independent nation.  The United States maintains a “One China” policy, meaning that Taiwan is basically a break-away province of the Peoples’ Republic of China. That is why Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations – and why it participates in many international competitive events under the Mainland Chinese banner.

According to Gates, China has a full range of options short of an invasion to “bring Taiwan to its knees.”  He mentioned “enormous” cyber and economic pressures as a couple of options.  He said these would “create huge incentives for Taiwan to have a very different attitude toward China.”

As a top military strategist, Gates bases his opinion on raw power, but I see important cultural reasons why Xi Jinping will not be a Vladimir Putin.

From the last days of the Qing Dynasty to a modern communist state, China has not been a conquering nation in the tradition of Russia.  Outside of a few border disputes, China seems content to compete economically and diplomatically within its borders.  That is not to say they are not adversarial to the interests of the United States – or do not engage in unfair and illegal practices – but just not into invading and subjugating.

Also, the relations between Mainland China and Taiwan became congenial after China took down the so-called Bamboo Curtain.  Tourism and trade began to flourish between Beijing and Taipei – with Taiwan becoming the number one investor in Mainland China.

Many of the descendants of those who fled the Communist Revolution have ancestors buried on the Mainland.  They still feel a connection.  It would be a mistake to fail to realize that there is a sizeable minority in Taiwan who would like to see reunification with the Mainland – although some of Xi’s more autocratic policies may be chilling those thoughts.

One has to keep in mind that Chiang Kai Shek did not escape to Taiwan.  He invaded it.  There remains a schism between the ancestor of Chiang and the indigenous Taiwanese.  Even after more than 70 years, many of the original Taiwanese would like to see the invaders go home.

Conversely, there is virtually no sentiment among the Mainland Chinese people for an invasion of Taiwan.  Many view them as family.  As long as they can visit back and forth – and do business – the idea of a bloody war is repugnant to both sides.

The official U.S. policy is to promote a peaceful reunification of the Island and the Mainland.  In many ways that was moving along rather smoothly until Xi started acting like a brutal autocrat.  The most unsettling matter has been his crushing of the democracy movement in Hong Kong and the Orwellian-style social control.  While the Taiwanese may envision reunification with Beijing, they do not want to be subjugated to the oppressive policies they see in Hong Kong or on the Mainland.

That means that for the time being, Taiwan will function as a quasi-independent entity.  Xi’s policies may have put off reunification to a more distant future, but the Chinese on both sides are very patient.  There is nothing to precipitate an invasion.

And Xi well understands that an invasion would be difficult, bloody, and require a prolonged period of Marshal Law and violent resistance.  It would make Putin’s invasion of Ukraine look like a cakewalk.

More concerning issues between China and the United States are corrupt trade policies and control of the South China Sea and the Straits of Taiwan.  We engage the former with sanctions and tariffs and the latter with what was once called “gun boat diplomacy.”  But those are issues for later commentaries.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry HoristLarry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.

5 Comments

  1. Ted

    Biden will see that they don’t invade Taiwan Lol

  2. charles hollis

    Biden is an incompetent, senile moron. He is not calling the shots, his communist handlers are in charge and they will give Taiwan to Xi on a silver platter before 1984. Who wants to bet?

  3. tom

    We agree for the most of it. But China is not as docile as you may think. Yes lots of border skurmishes but the Tibetans and Mongolians do not see it that way. I see China as being more passive aggressive than a shootist like the USA. But they have been aggressive such as in the Korean War, Vietnam War, and then in 1979 they got their asses kicked by the Vietnamese because China was helping PolPot kill Cambodians and Vietnam despised the slaughter. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China China is also trampling on its neighbor’s fishing exclusive zones which harms the economies of other countries which is why . I call harming another country’s economy and food supply very aggressive! China also claims 90% of the South China Sea and has occupied (invaded) islands belonging to Japan as well as harassing the Philipines. Please do read up on how China attacks Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philipines fishing industry and territorial waters which it does not respect: start here at https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-11-12/china-attacks-fishing-boats-in-conquest-of-south-china-sea And have you ever heard the phrase that “business is a war without bullets”? China’s BRI is plenty aggressive, even to the point that there are penalties if the borrowing country lets other countries see the contract! And they are using BRI defaults to claim territory to establish military bases. And how about all of that hacking and cyber crap they are pulling off, you do not call cyber war aggressive? And please lets not forget about origin of Covid and Wuhan and not allowing a fair and open visit by the WHO where many countries are complaining!!! But as the older folks die off in Taiwan the young folks in a recent survey are much more favorable to reunification. Taiwan has trouble recruiting into its military because the younger folks prefer mobile phones, TikTok, and Weibo. If anything, Taiwan being more Western oriented will cause China to have to loosen up a bit down the road. But please do not say China is not aggressive!!! They are damn aggressive!

  4. tom

    We agree for the most of it. But China is not as docile as you may think. Yes lots of border skurmishes but the Tibetans and Mongolians do not see it that way. I see China as being more passive aggressive than a shootist like the USA. But they have been aggressive such as in the Korean War, Vietnam War, and then in 1979 they got their asses kicked by the Vietnamese because China was helping PolPot kill Cambodians and Vietnam despised the slaughter, google it. China is also trampling on its neighbor’s fishing exclusive zones which harms the economies of other countries which is why . I call harming another country’s economy and food supply very aggressive! China also claims 90% of the South China Sea and has occupied (invaded) islands belonging to Japan as well as harassing the Philipines. Please do read up on how China attacks Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines fishing industry and territorial waters which it does not respect: Google it. And have you ever heard the phrase that “business is a war without bullets”? China’s BRI is plenty aggressive, even to the point that there are penalties if the borrowing country lets other countries see the contract! And they are using BRI defaults to claim territory to establish military bases. And how about all of that hacking and cyber crap they are pulling off, you do not call cyber war aggressive? And please lets not forget about origin of Covid and Wuhan and not allowing a fair and open visit by the WHO where many countries are complaining!!! But as the older folks die off in Taiwan the young folks in a recent survey are much more favorable to reunification. Taiwan has trouble recruiting into its military because the younger folks prefer mobile phones, TikTok, and Weibo. If anything, Taiwan being more Western oriented will cause China to have to loosen up a bit down the road. But please do not say China is not aggressive!!! They are very aggressive!

    • larry Horist

      Tom … My commentary was only to explain why China will not invade Taiwan. It was not to suggest that there are not a lot of issues with China foreign or domestic policies. China is a bad actor on the world stage in a lot of ways — many of which you articulated very well. I agree with virtually everything you pointed out. Xi is a brutal dictator. But I think it is fair to say that China in not the kind of empire building like Putin’s Russia. They never invaded or occupied Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, etc. They do not create military bases all over the world. But they have viscously oppressed the Tibetans and Mongols. The ruling class are Hans — and other other are considered minorities. But you points are well taken.