US Taiwan Policy Fails: Congress Moves Toward War With China – OpEd


War with China is no trivial matter. It will be far more dangerous to Americans than our present involvement in the Ukraine-Russia war.

This war will hit home squarely. Since imports from China greatly benefit us, the war will directly impact our lifestyles. That’s in addition to the threat to our security from Chinese military actions against us.

What does this all add up to? Right now we are being put in very great danger vis-a-vis China. It is rooted in a dysfunctional policy on Taiwan the U.S. has kept since the end of World War 2.

That policy is finally collapsing in plain sight. And America’s reaction? Congress is moving to tempt a catastrophic war with China.

What a sorry situation this is. Our constitution was established to, among other things, “promote the general welfare.” Unfortunately Congress is now taking steps that will endanger our welfare over Taiwan.

So first let me tell you about the failed policy. Then we can look at the dangerous course Congress is contemplating.

Since the end of WW2 the U.S. has maintained a view toward Taiwan that doesn’t match the facts. It involves the sovereignty of the island. We’ve allowed Taiwan’s status to be grossly misrepresented to the public. Frankly, we just ducked the issue in the face of false foreign claims.

The sovereignty details are way too complex to cover here. Currently I’m involved in a detailed study that will set the record straight. When completed it will be published under the title “Who Really Owns Taiwan.” It will present documented evidence that will make present claims indefensible.

After WW2 we got away with ignoring this sovereignty issue entirely at first. There wasn’t any apparent consequence.

That all changed when the Communists took over mainland China. They began asserting their claim of sovereignty over Taiwan.

There was no factual basis for the Communists’ claim. We didn’t challenge it, however — not in any real sense.

In my view our policy was, in effect, to “let sleeping dogs lie.” In U.S. governmental circles this was tagged with the euphemism, “strategic ambiguity.”

As it’s turned out this amounts to “strategic buffoonery,” if you ask me. Here’s why. If we had confronted the People’s Republic of China on her specious claim of sovereignty from the start we would have had a significant advantage. We would have been confronting a relatively weak and fledging nation. We would have been in a superior bargaining position.

Now the PRC is a strong world power. Its economy rivals ours. It possesses nuclear weaponry. And now it is hinting at a military invasion of Taiwan to remove the ambiguity about sovereignty.

“Strategic ambiguity” caused us to miss a practical opportunity to have reasonably settled the matter decades ago.

Incredibly, this hasn’t dawned on R. Nicholas Burns, our ambassador to China. According to The Diplomat, Burns observed during his confirmation hearings that strategic ambiguity is “time tested” and “the smartest and most effective way” to prevent a war across the Taiwan Strait.

Strategic buffoonery? That’s now an understatement.

When asked if U.S. forces would defend Taiwan if it’s invaded, President Biden answered “yes,” according to Reuters.

So how is our Congress handling this matter? A sane approach would be to support closed-door negotiations with the PRC to settle it. This will require give and take on both sides. Our negotiators would need to have something to give to the PRC in return for PRC’s compromise. And there would have to be a way to allow the PRC to save face. The U.S. would have to compromise and save face, too.

These would not be easy negotiations. But the alternative of war with China would seem to demand no less than a negotiated, peaceful solution.

So how is Congress presently dealing with this challenge? It is choosing to tempt war with China. This sounds like more buffoonery to me.

HR.554 is a bill under consideration in the House of Representatives. It is called the “Taiwan Conflict Deterrence Act of 2023.” It is described as, “A bill to deter Chinese aggression towards Taiwan by requiring the Secretary of the Treasury to publish a report on financial institutions and accounts connected to senior officials of the People’s Republic of China, to restrict financial services for certain immediate family of such officials, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Financial Services.”

To me this seems something like our approach to Russia since conflict first broke out in Ukraine in 2014. Sanctions, sanctions, sanctions. Now we see a bloody, horrific war going on non-stop over there. Certainly Russia is to blame for its decision to invade. But our policy of sanctions against Russia did nothing to avert that catastrophe or to curtail it. At worst it could have been an accelerant.

Why try this same fool’s game with China over Taiwan?

There also is S.1074 going on in the Senate. It is a bill “To require a strategy for countering the People’s Republic of China.” Among other things it seeks a plan “that describes a comprehensive sanctions strategy to advise policymakers on policies the United States and allies and partners of the United States could adopt with respect to the People’s Republic of China in response to any coercive action, including an invasion, by the People’s Republic of China that infringes upon the territorial sovereignty of Taiwan by preventing access to international waterways, airspace, or telecommunications networks.”

What’s more it wants to restrict China’s military of access to “oil, natural gas, munitions, and other supplies needed to conduct military operations against Taiwan,” and to “diminish the capacity of the industrial base of the People’s Republic of China to manufacture and deliver defense articles to replace those lost in operations of the People’s Liberation Army against Taiwan.”

The bill also wants to “identify industries, sectors, or goods and services with respect to which the United States, working with allies and partners of the United States, can take coordinated action through sanctions or other economic tools that will have a significant negative impact on the economy of the People’s Republic of China.”

If we’re planning all that, and planning it in public, isn’t China going to see it as a threat? How will she interpret it? What steps toward war will she initiate in response? And in turn, how will we interpret those steps taken by China.

Either we’re initiating a spiral of provocation or China initiated it with her own rhetoric. Frankly it doesn’t matter now who was the initiator. It still carries a great risk of spinning out of control as tensions rise.

And to make matters worse, aren’t we repeating a strategy that didn’t produce a desirable result with Ukraine? This all sounds absolutely crazy to me.

It’s not unwise to be contemplating what to do if China invades Taiwan. But to air our plans in public sounds foolish. To me it seems such plans should be kept as a hip-pocket document, only to be pulled out into the open if the need arises. But even so, these specific publically-disclosed plans seem nonsensical to me.

With Russia we’re still pursuing our ineffectual sanctions policies, and still getting nowhere. Now Congress wants to bring that same utter stupidity to bear on China.

Who is pushing those reckless and pointless actions in our Congress?

The Senate bill is sponsored by Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida. It is co-sponsored by Gary C. Peters, the Democratic senator from Michigan.

Are they nuts? I think so and intend to let them know it. If you think similarly, you might do the same too.

On the House side the dangerous bill is sponsored by J. French Hill, a representative from Arkansas’ 2nd district. It has eight co-sponsors. They are:

Brad Sherman [D-CA-32]
Michael Lawler [R-NY-17]
Susie Lee [D-NV-3]
Patrick Ryan [D-NY-18]
Chris Pappas [D-NH-1]
Young Kim [R-CA-40]
Monica De La Cruz [R-TX-15]
Ann Wagner [R-MO-2]

Who are those senators and representatives kidding? We’re not gullible enough to fall for their dangerous approach. Are we?

Tell them all to stop playing paper war games at the risk of our public welfare, and to get serious: start thinking about serious negotiations. They won’t be easy. But the result will be far preferable to the devastation, and the loss of lives, and the global instability that unavoidably would come from a war with China.

But let’s keep the negotiations out of the hands of R. Nicholas Burns, our ambassador to China!

William Dunkerley

William Dunkerley is a media business analyst, international development and change strategist, and author of numerous books, monographs, and articles. He has been editor and publisher of media industry information, and has additional expertise in post-communist media business and content.

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