Saturday, October 9, 2021


The world is edgy, because of China's President Xi's statements regarding Taiwan.

The island has been a Japanese colony, Chinese province and now the seat of a rival government. Beijing considers it as an inseparable part of the People's Republic of China.

Chiang Kai-shek, defeated in the civil war on the mainland, moved functionaries, troops, gold reserves and arts treasures to Taiwan.  Regularly, the Chinese tested Taiwan's resolve, i.a. by bombarding Quemoy and Matsu, which are not covered by the mutual defense treaty between the US and Taiwan (1954). Ensuing Straits crises tested both the US commitment, Taiwan's nerves and China's intentions. Taiwan followed a rather pragmatic route, exploring economic links and direct contacts with the mainland. Lately a freeze set in, afterTaiwan became more democratic and less Kuomintang.

Since President Nixon, Washington recognized 'one China', of which Taiwan is a part. It was also made clear that the future of Taiwan would be settled peacefully.

Taiwan has become a democratic powerhouse since and a shadow model pluralism. Beijing resents this "South Korea bis" on its doorsteps.  Some conclude hastily that China's patience might run dry since they consider Taiwan theirs.

In the Hall of Union in the Forbidden City figure the two characters "Wu Wei" (abstain from action), sumarizing the Taoist political ideal: the heavenly mandate can only be maintained if there is an avoidance of disturbance.

The Tienanmen drama was more the result of a bruised Chinese ego, for all the world to see, than of real political determination. When a Chinese risks losing face, his or her actions can become unpredictable and vicious.

The Americans have until now been able to manage the "waves" in the Straits by sophisticated diplomacy and the 7th Fleet.  Lately, American presidents have however been more noticable for their faux pas than for their skills. Trump's histrionics during President Xi's stay in Mar-a-Lago left the Chinese side incredulous.

Probably the Chinese are going to test the mettle of the new US  administration. The Afghan debacle left them in shock. Hence the temptation to call Washington's bluff . However there is no immediate reason to fear the worst, as some do. China is a possessive power, not an acquiring one. It plays the waiting game, slowly creating a fait accompli in what  it considers to be its zone of legitimate, historic influence (South China Sea, Tibet).  It doesn't hesitate to return to Emperor Qianlong, if it fits its narrative. The Chinese are united in never forgetting the opium wars and the humiliations brought on by the Western powers. They consider Westerns to be over-nervous and superficial. Their way is more a sophisticated tactic "to smother". Beware of the pillow which is presented. It is not ment for rest but used for slow asphyxiation. The fortune cookie might behold a death sentence.

They will never give up on Taiwan but they will certainly sort their possible options with caution.

One does't give enough credit to the highly sophisticated ways the thinking goes in the Chinese power elite. It knows too well that it has to deal with imminent threats of climate change, economical bluff, an aging population, a cynical generation of game addicts and over-reach (Africa). 

Beijing will not jeopardize its still shaky success story by "adventurous", unwaranted moves.  Regarding Taiwan,  it probably has no better option than to wait and see (the Hong Kong way), as long as the US doesn't oblige it to intervene militarily, the least desirable option since it would risk losing both face and control of events in the region. China might be angry but it is not a fool.

So far, so good as long as a familiar cynical mindset continues to prevail in all corners. After all, a status quo is just another convertible for the usual modus operandi that occurs between partners who have no illusions about the other's long- term intentions.

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