If the U.S. and China Can Collaborate, Why Can't Both Sides of the Taiwan Strait?

Want Times Editorial, April 24, 2021


Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed positive attitude towards the Leaders Summit on Climate proposed by President Joe Biden of the United States. When the public generally held negative views on U.S.-China relationship, the United States special envoy on climate change John Kerry visited Shanghai and reached a joint statement with the Chinese side, and later on President Xi agreed to attend the climate summit and showed good faith. These signs show that the diversity of U.S.-China relationship far exceeds the past public experience, and the relationship is different from any other modes of relationship between two major powers. As the “dependent variable” of the U.S.-China relationship, cross-strait relations, which has been in stalemate for more than five years, should learn something from the above developments.


For more than a decade, there have been continuous discussions and commentaries surrounding the types of U.S.-China relationship from strategic and opinion angles. The most representative ones are “G-2 co-management of the world” (G-2) and the “new U.S.-China Cold War.” Advocates of the former type are mainly in Mainland China, they hoped that the United States and China can cooperate and transfer the power center peacefully, orderly, and stably; a small number of Democrats in the United States held the same expectations, but they have disappeared. Advocates of the latter type have realized their goals during the Donald Trump administration. Many measures adopted by President Biden towards China are considered as “new Cold War” and are irreversible.


How about the reality? Although China has increasingly adopted “wolf warrior diplomacy” based on ideology and generated many problems, yet Beijing has no intention to have a “new Cold War” with the United States. Likewise, while the United States is cautious about China’s military, economic, and value system expansions, yet just as the Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, the U.S. relationship with China “will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be”. In the eyes of the White House, it is necessary for the United States and China to cooperate and communicate on global affairs and regional issues. Therefore, the current U.S.-China relationship should find a point between the two ends of the spectrum of “G-2” and “new Cold War”, and it can be temporarily termed as a “new type of relationship of competition and collaboration”.


From the verbal warfare in Alaska to the peaceful atmosphere in Shanghai’s meeting, the United States and China have shown the world that based on reasonable practicability and from the high point of peace, despite the contradictions, when facing major issues that confront the humanity, both sides can shelf political differences and discuss in full sincerity to reach results that benefit the world. If the ruling parties and policy teams on both sides of the Taiwan Strait can learn from the above experience and wisdom and stand on the high point of Chinese people, they can consider how to resume benign interaction that will benefit the people, and the five-year old stalemate can be turned around.


The saying that “The small one serves the powerful one with wisdom, and the powerful one serves the small one with benevolence” has been cited to describe the Cross-Strait relationship in innumerable times. In the 1990’s, Taiwan’s gross domestic product was one-third of that of China, now it has been surpassed by Fujian Province alone. Solely from the economic strength, Taiwan is the small one and will become smaller in the future. From military point, China’s military has made leaping progress in its long-range naval power, its anti-intervention capability, and its joint operation of land, sea, and air capabilities in the past 20 years; this is the undeniable fact. Judging by its current military projection, China’s military forces can breach the middle line of the Taiwan Strait and the first island chain as the first step; in the future, they can blockade both sides of the Taiwan Strait and the sea areas of Taiwan’s east side, there is only the question of how “the other shoe will fall.”


However, when mainland China becomes more and more powerful and when Taiwan becomes more and more smaller, the powerful side should bear more responsibility and show its powerful status by exhibiting more good faith. It is without doubt that for the past 40 years, China’s hard measures towards Taiwan have been successful and effective. The administrations of presidents Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo could in early years raided China’s coast at night, but now Taiwan’s military is tired in coping with mainland China’s encircling of Taiwan’s airspace by air forces, let alone Taiwan’s people don’t want to fight. Facing China’s military power, it is impossible to achieve Taiwan independence. In economic aspect, no matter how powerful Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC) is and its treatment as the honorable guest by the United States, TSMC still has to go to Nanjing to expand its production capacity. These facts explain that China’s hard measures are firm and invincible and Taiwan independence cannot succeed, so why should China be afraid of?


As to the soft measures by China, objectively speaking, they have retreated one step every 10 years and actually are getting worse year after year. In the past, even though China’s economic power was far weaker than that of Taiwan, China could attract Taiwan’s students abroad by patriotism, contact Kuomintang‘s high level by nationalism, and attract opposition forces by leftist ideology. But how about now? In recent years, Beijing’s ability to deal with various parties on Taiwan, its persuasion power and appeals have rapidly deteriorated. China may argue that this is because Taiwan is lured by the United States and criticize that Taiwan authorities are narrow-minded, but the facts cannot be changed. In the past five years, China has refused to resume Cross-Strait official interactions, it actually has disarmed itself and this is not beneficial to the historical progress of bilateral relationship.


Under the coercive hard power, Taiwan cannot declare independence. China can deal with Taiwan based on self-confidence and good faith. By first doing so from non-political issues, Taiwan’s public opinion could have positive views on China. When the United States and China can collaborate despite major differences, why can’t both sides of the Taiwan Strait?


From: https://www.chinatimes.com/opinion/20210424003170-262102

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