The Taiwan crisis appears to be a flashpoint between China and the US. China considers Taiwan it’s a territorial part, while the US has long maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” and has been contented with the “One China” policy for more than a couple of decades. But President Biden asseverated that the US would protect Taiwan militarily in the face of Chinese invasion. However, the US State Department clarified later that the US didn’t change its policy, yet Nancy Pelosi’s visit added insult to the injury, provoking China to demonstrate its military prowess in the Taiwanese waters.
With the growing concern of confrontation, the US and China will play chicken in the Taiwan Strait. Any strategic miscalculation can make escalation inevitable. The collision of two great powers, with gigantic economies and militaries, shifts global tectonic plates in such a way that will smash everything off for good. The war between the US and China will be different from those of the previous big powers.
War will not only be costly, but abominably horrific!
It is obvious that the US cannot stomach taking the bull by the horns, so it will provoke China by pulling its tail now and then. The US has created a ring of regional alliances—Quad and AUKUS—around the periphery of China to strategically harass it, but these alliances lack proficiency to contain China or browbeat it. Therefore, the US tries to irritate China by meddling in Taiwan’s affairs, which is China’s Achilles’ heel.
To get to the bottom of the crisis, what are the strategic objectives of the US in Taiwan? Protecting democracy in Taiwan is not the rationale behind the US changing policy, but controlling the South China Sea and being the dominant power of the Pacific waters through alliances, which consider China as a rival, are perhaps the chief inducements. Moreover, the US intends to get China embroiled in a war that should shatter its economy. Hence, the US can break the resistance of the enemy even without fighting. Similarly, war will ignite domestic chaos in China that may cause the fall of the Communist Party of China (CPC) rule—a thorn in the US’ flesh.
It will be a repeat of the tragedy in Taiwan that is afoot in Ukraine. After the Ukraine war, Russia will be a declining great power as this war consumes its energy considerably. Russia will not compete with the US in the long run because the Ukraine war not only shatters its economy, but also its manpower, national morale, institutions, military, and industries, which are some elements of national power.
In the same way, China will pay a heavy price provided it attempts to occupy Taiwan by force. Its economy will receive a major blow by the dint of war. Switching economic power to military prowess will have horrendous repercussions on its growing might. Though the US will not engage in direct military confrontation, it maneuvers to get engaged rival powers in costly wars to prevent its own decline by arresting the rise of other potential peers. To illustrate, it happened during the Word Wars of the 20th Century as the US maintained a policy of isolation for some time, but it provided belligerent powers with arms and ammunitions to fight. Thus, the US preserved the energy that enabled it to be the global dominant power after the World Wars.
Similarly, the twin crises—Ukraine and Taiwan—will be a blessing in disguise for the US. The US will not protect Taiwan militarily, but supply arms and ammunitions to the Taiwanese army to fight its own battle as the Ukrainian army is doing against Russia. It is a deliberate US policy to provoke China to use force against Taiwan, and the US will help Taiwan to get independence. It will be a fool’s errand for Taiwan if it tries to clash with China just for the strategic objectives of the US. However, geopolitical tensions of great powers are sometimes opportunities for smaller powers to cash in on the opportunity of great power rivalry to attain their national interests. But such a chance strikes only once in a blue moon.
Comparatively, the Taiwan crisis will be different from that of Ukraine
However, the strategic aims of Russia are to maintain a buffer zone, protect its sphere of influence, oppose the eastward expansion of NATO, and sustain its regional dominance. And Ukraine is an independent country that has a legal carte blanche to protect its sovereignty through the doctrine of national security against a belligerent power, and the international community has legal obligations in international law to side with an oppressed state.
Nonetheless, unlike Ukraine, Taiwan is not an independent state, but an autonomous/breakaway province of China. There has no legal sanction to coerce China over Taiwan—but for the human rights issues. The Taiwan crisis will drive a further wedge between the US and China. The island state will be proverbial grass that suffers by the dint of fight between the two strategic elephants. Simply, it is not just an issue of the island state, but it is a bone of contention between two global powers for global supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region.
Finally, the US-China tensions have abominable ramifications on global peace and stability. The Ukraine crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic have already brought the world economy in shamble, and another crisis in the Taiwan strait will aggravate the situation. In addition to this, cooperation on ecological degradation, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, and global inequality will be unattainable in a confrontational environment. Therefore, both powers should resolve their differences through deft diplomacy and dialogue.
The writer is a strategic affair and foreign policy analyst. He often analyzes global affairs through the lenses of realism. He tweets at @drsho_aib. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.