By Peter Van Buren, The American Conservative
The United States and China will not go to war in our time over Taiwan. China is not engaging in provocative actions leading toward an invasion. So why the fuss?
Part One of this essay covered why China has nothing to gain, and given nuclear weapons, literally everything to lose. But however impractical an invasion might be, how unnecessary, or how risky, hasn’t China declared repeatedly it will reunite with Taiwan?
Yes. But if you want to cite Chinese propaganda as evidence of actual intent, it is best to pay attention to the details.
It was the United States itself that most clearly asserted the shared tripartite goal was reunification, declaring, with deliberate ambiguity as part of its diplomatic break with Taiwan, “there is only one China and Taiwan is a part of it.” Chinese President Xi regularly reiterates reunification as a goal, but always stresses the process is historical—as in, it is inevitable but we need to be patient, so don’t wait up for it to happen; the last revolution took 300 years to start—and must be peaceful. Sorry, if you’re going to quote Chinese propaganda statements as proof of intent, you can’t cherrypick only the scary parts. It makes no sense to trust Xi on the plan but to claim he and every previous Chinese leader has been lying about the peaceful execution in the same breath.
Not by coincidence, most of these reunification proclamations occur around important political holidays. One of Xi’s recent invocations was in a speech marking the 110th anniversary of the Xinhai 1911 Revolution, which overthrew the foreign Manchu Qing dynasty. The occasion was important, because Xinhai, ideologically midwifed by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, is acknowledged by both the most hardcore Communists and the most fervent Nationalists as the common origin point for modern China. This is drilled into every schoolkid on both sides of the Strait and forms a common vocabulary among their diplomats. The point is to understand Xi’s remarks in the same context as a Chinese person, not Rambo.