Mail Bag

More on China, this time from Ben:

The point of our policy is to maintain peace until a peaceful resolution
of the Chinese Civil War can be found. Almost all of Taiwan — I’d say
98% — would, if there were no consequences, choose independence. As
one friend of mine (a 33 year-old doctor with ethnic Taiwanese parents)
said, “it’s more defensible to suggest that we reunify with Iceland than
with the Mainland.” Taiwan has moved on. The KMT government of Lee
Teng-hui gave up the fiction of “ruling the mainland from exile” in 1991
(to the annoyance of my ancient grandfather-in-law, who was the
doddering Senator from Zhejiang province in the Taipei National
Assembly) and abolished the perks and privileges of the redundant office
of “Governor of Taiwan Province” in 1997. Taiwanese think of themselves
as ethnically and culturally Chinese — as Singaporeans do — but also
as citizens of a new nation, Taiwan. It is a sophisticated and dynamic
society and in a perfect world would hold its rightful leadership place
in the world, as an example of how to turn a resource-free waste-dump of
colonialism, ethnic hatred, and war into an amazing political, social,
and economic success story.


Click “MORE” to continue reading about what Ben says would be “a pointless bloodbath.”

But it isn’t a perfect world, and the other part of this story is
Beijing, which has never for a second thought of Taiwan as something
other than a nice part of China that has been occupied by rebels for the
last 54 years. China would happily accept war with the United States or
anyone else rather than rewrite the maps and give Taiwan independence.
This is partly a face issue, but also a national integrity issue. One
of the driving motivations of the PRC has been to reassemble the country
that was hacked up by colonial European powers in the 18th and 19th
centuries. They got Tibet back, Inner Mongolia back, Hong Kong back,
Macao back, and now it’s time to get Taiwan back. It doesn’t have to be
today. They are willing to wait, indefinitely if necessary, for Taiwan
to come back. It’s certainly profitable for them to maintain the status
quo, and it would be very expensive to change it. But they are totally
unwilling to accept the loss of Taiwan and consider it (without irony)
as the equivalent of the United States’ unwillingness to accept the
secession of the Confederacy.

To us, this may seem like a pure face issue, or some absurdity, because
we can see how completely different Taiwan and China have become. But
in China, this issue is absolutely front and center, and the result of
an independence declaration will be war of some kind. Anything we can
do to avoid that is worth it, even if it appears that we are
“abandoning” our Taiwanese friends. We are not abandoning them. We are
abandoning the reckless, dangerous behavior of certain politicians.

I appreciate the desire to see de jure independence in Taiwan. I love
the place dearly. And maybe that’s why I’m so adamant that they not do
anything stupid. This isn’t appeasement of some dictator, the
equivalent of 1939. This is an acknowledgement that a peaceful solution
exists in the future under some different grouping of governments and
leaders, and that the best and only solution for today is for Taiwan to
continue enjoying its unique variety of industrial-democratic
capitalism, its universities and R&D parks and cultural cathedrals and
architectural icons, its cutting edge human rights and environmental

The independence we might help Taiwan buy for itself through war would
be a paper victory only. The end result for millions of people would be
pain, poverty, and death. It would be decades or worse before Taiwan
ever reached the level of prosperity and strength it enjoys today, an in
that time, “peaceful evolution” would have made it possible to solve the
Taiwan question without war.

I am a Republican, and an Iraq hawk, and I know for certain that
applying the neocon moral spotlight to Taiwan would result in a
pointless bloodbath.

End of rant.



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