Sunday, July 31, 2022

Appeasement Will Work For Taiwan

By Thadtaniel McDorpington III

Several decades ago, while earning my degree in China Studies with a focus on governance in China, I had the privilege of visiting Taiwan for a short period of time. As with young Cao Cao in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, I learned much in that short trip, for which I am humbled to say I was invited to give a short talk on China at a conference at the Grand Hyatt. 

My taxi driver from the airport was an affable man. Though I don’t recall his name, I will never forget what I learned about Taiwan from him. Apparently, Taiwan was founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who declared it the Republic of China in 1949, before which time no one lived on Taiwan. However, “Taiwan” also means “Formosa”, which is Portuguese for “Beautiful Island”. 

This depth of experience in Asia has caused me to take a deep interest in the discussion around the visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, and qualified me to publish this op-ed in a paper of record. 

As I consider the dangerous signal that Pelosi’s visit to the Republic of China would send to Mainland China, I can only think of the wisdom of two great men. Sun Tzu, who said “the wise warrior avoids the battle”, and Neville Chamberlain, who famously avoided war by extolling the virtues of “peace in our time”. 

Indeed, it is peace in our time that we need for Taiwan, as it would be terribly inconvenient if the United States were to provoke a war by sending a high-ranking official to a place that the People’s Republic of China does not govern. 

After all, if America is a great power, isn’t the greatest show of power to listen sincerely? If we listen sincerely with open minds towards cooperating with China rather than creating conflict by pointing out “genocide in East Turkestan” and “threats of subjugation and mass slaughter in Taiwan”, surely there is a path to peace here in which everyone gets some of what they want. Perhaps Taiwan can even keep some of its democracy!

Of course, I did not come to this opinion alone. Many analysts concur, some of whom have even spent up to a year, or even two years, in Taiwan. We all agreed at a local bar — they didn’t recommend the hotel bar, that’s how you know they are old-timers — that Taiwan has no will to fight China, and there is no data whatsoever showing otherwise. 

In fact, Taiwanese believe they are the real Chinese, as stated in the Republic of China constitution. There is no other data showing any other consensus in Taiwan. Continuing to believe this is a controversial topic gives analysts like us relevance. We simply do not acknowledge any other data showing a general consensus on Taiwanese identity as it may require us to find another issue to write about, or even force us to ask Taiwanese people what they think beyond the single poll we always cite. 

The United States should not step into this muddy and unclear situation. Who knows -- maybe some Taiwanese want to be subjugated by China! 

What’s more, international support for Taiwan could be disastrous: it might hurt shareholder value or even create a smartphone shortage. Although I did not ask any Taiwanese for their perspective, surely they would agree that compromise with China would be in everyone’s best interest as well. I can say from my experience of three nights at the Grand Hyatt that the Taiwanese are a friendly and hospitable people, and they would certainly bend over backwards to ensure the US does not suffer any supply issues with its devices.

After all, from my all-expense paid press junket to Beijing, I can state with confidence that Xi Jinping is a man of reason, and will happily grant to Taiwan all legitimate rights and interests that they request. Of course, Xi himself will determine which rights are “legitimate”, but that’s a minor discussion point. 

Perhaps the Chinese on both sides of the strait could agree on a system where Taiwan continues to hold elections, but there is some flexibility vis-a-vis who wins those elections. There are many creative solutions to the Taiwan Problem which has vexed Western analysts for decades.

My experience working for a think tank that publishes and hosts events related to Taiwan which include unique and relevant perspectives from noted Taiwan experts such as Thorp Borpworth, Bradjohn Golfingshorts, Carolinda Catspaw and Jacobscreek McGillicuddy only underscores my concern. As a khaki phalanx, unanimous in our thoughts, these men and one woman agree: if China issues threats due to US actions, that is clearly American provocation and must be opposed resolutely. Even Noam Chomsky agrees, which matters for some reason.

The only way forward, therefore, is appeasement. Beijing is extraordinarily angry that the United States wants to do a thing, and thus the United States must under no circumstances do that thing, as it may provoke a war. Taiwan is very important to China, and therefore all of our efforts should be centered on assuring China that we are not a threat to their intended annexation of the island. That is the only way to ensure peace (for us), and will surely convince Mr. Xi not to invade Taiwan once he knows the international community will not stand in his way.

Certainly, we must not ask the Taiwanese government if they want Pelosi to visit. They might say 'yes' or indicate that they don't fear China as much as we do, and that would not be in line with our views as analysts. We might even learn that they approved of the visit in advance! As our views are paramount, and this goes against them, the best choice is simply not to inquire. 

We must clearly show Mr. Xi and the People’s Republic of Mainland China that we will not oppose any action they take, but rather cater to their will on any action we take, in the hope that perhaps we may kindly request (but not insist) that they not take actions we disapprove of. I believe this will be successful: Mr. Xi is a man of his word and keeps every promise he makes.  

To do otherwise might harm China-US relations, which only the US can do. China, of course, can do whatever it wants up to and including a genocide. To stand up to China would not be in line with my wise, sober and nuanced analysis. Opposition to prioritizing relations with a genocidal dictatorship over solidarity with Taiwan is merely the dark hand of ultraethnonationalism caterwauled by those who did not attend a prestigious university.

If we fail to stop tensions from rising and China starts the war that the United States provoked, then it will be disastrous for both sides — the United States and China. That relationship certainly cannot be soured by something like a visit from a high-ranking official to Taiwan. Otherwise how can these two great powers work together in the future to decide the fate of Taiwan in a peaceful way?

Nancy Pelosi should not visit Taiwan. After all, as the Chinese say, it is best not to climb a tree to seek fish, but rather show kindness like Duke Xianggong. Why not peace with Xi?


Skylight Taiwan said...

When did US goverment need China's approval to visit any country ??? Are we in so-called China's new world order now ???

Unknown said...

Your remarks are helpful, and I applaud the civility of your discourse.