China has rattled the saber over the island nation of Taiwan for decades but ratcheted up tensions over the past few days with military incursions into Taiwanese airspace on a scale sufficient to ring alarm bells across the South Pacific region. Since at least Oct. 1, China’s air force has been flying dozens of aircraft close to the island, and on Oct. 4 Taiwan reported violations of its air defense zone by 56 Chinese warplanes, the largest incursion yet.
Historical divisions aside, it seems China has become particularly emboldened in its ambitions toward Taiwan since Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. More recently, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may have decided flexing its muscles in the Taiwan Strait serves as a useful distraction from looming manufacturing and economic crises that threaten to derail its drive toward the long-desired goal of global hegemony.
A Complex History
The relationship between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland is a complicated one. Following its defeat at the hands of Mao’s communists in the 1940s, China’s Nationalist government, along with a couple of hundred thousand citizens, fled to the South China Sea island. This was not the establishment of a new country but the set-up of a government-in-exile. From Taiwan, the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) continued to claim authority over the mainland, considering it still to be the Republic of China. The ruling KMT was replaced by more democratic leaders in the early 1990s, and the state saw its first presidential election in 1996.
The CCP has never formally recognized any degree of Taiwanese independence, however, and to this day frames tensions with Taiwan as its legitimate efforts to prevent a rogue province illegally breaking away from Chinese rule. Few countries recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation.
Like Hong Kong, Taiwan has long been a thorn in the side of China’s authoritarian leadership; one of the economic powerhouses of the region, Taiwan realized a level of prosperity never achieved under any communist regime. Communist China’s economy, after all, remains a paper tiger, propped up only by massive government subsidies and a global – specifically American – thirst for huge quantities of cheap consumer goods. Without either one of those two supporting pillars, China’s economy would be primitive by the standards of modern developed nations. Taiwan continues to demonstrate the superiority of capitalism over communism, right in China’s backyard.
While these recent Chinese growls may turn out to be nothing more than that, America’s most dangerous adversary could be sensing a rare opportunity. The man currently in the White House has a remarkable record of foreign policy incompetence. Even better, from the Chinese perspective, is that Biden family business ties to China might yet compromise the president’s ability – or willingness – to stand up to aggression committed a world away by a country that poured money into Biden coffers. As Liberty Nation’s Dave Patterson observed, “China’s behavior toward the United States and its allies can be characterized as war-like in every respect. The Biden administration is meeting Beijing’s aggression more with denial than with a firm challenge.” All this, plus the chance to divert attention from impending economic catastrophe could prove, for the Chinese, to be a turn of fortune too good to pass up.
~ Read more from Graham J. Noble.