Thoughts on regional geopolitics

Taiwan: the linchpin in the US pivot to Asia?

12 October 2021 | CCCA (Image: Thomas Park)

The pivoting of American interest from the Middle East to Asia initiated by Obama, has seen the geopolitics playground shifted to the South China Sea.  The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan facilitated the increased attention in the SCS and particularly Taiwan.

The visit of former Australian PM Tony Abbott to Taiwan is not co-incidental, although dressed up as a private visit, the functions attended and the statements made points to a de facto “diplomatic” overtures to Taiwan. (Tony Abbott in a China shop: Former PM’s ham-fisted Taiwan intervention)  

The plot thickens when French officials were also present the same time. Did our former PM had conversations with the French officials and if so, what was discussed?  Did they try to snub each other in public functions if they were present together?  It is more likely that the French were there to sell submarines and is actively competing with the Americans selling warplane and other assorted military equipment to Taiwan?

News about Biden-Xi telephone calls and the US-China low-key summit in Zurich led us to believe that there is some understanding between the two superpowers albeit there was no joint communique of what positive collaborations or agreements they reached. The best outcome was a line of communication has been established and would facilitate future meetings.  One would think that these events reduce tensions in the world and bring about a peaceful outcome however, the events unfolding in Taiwan goes in the opposite direction, ie. heightens tension and increase the possibility of war.  This bi-directional sequence of events showed an “ambivalent” American policy; is this deliberate or a ruse?

One could speculate that the issues on the SCS have been thrashed to death and nothing new is available to taunt the dragon.  If one is discussing military strategy on paper, then the shifting of attention to Taiwan is not a bad strategy to aggravate the dragon.  Never mind the possibility of provoking a war using this move, but look at the money and profits that can be made by selling arms to Taiwan.  In simple terms, President Biden may have wished for less confrontation, conflict or Cold War, but the military industrial complex does exert tremendous pressure on him hence, the contradiction.  

Prior to the visit of Tony Abbott to Taiwan, two Taiwanese Minister have cried “wolf” to the world playing victim, and signally that China would attack Taiwan.  In short, they were asking for military help.  On landing in Taiwan, and after making fiery anti-China speeches to the delight of the Taiwan politicians, President Tsai also opened up a few salvos at China.  Sounds very much as a concerted and collaborative effort to raise awareness of China’s eminent attack on Taiwan and requesting the liberal democracies of the world to defend Democracy.

At home, we wondered Abbott presence in Taiwan has been sanctioned by PM Morrison and it would be difficult to believe that Abbott’s visit is totally private.  The smoking gun points to the fact that all these events were planned because the agenda is the same.  Why would Abbott risk his reputation by going to Taiwan on behalf of the Australian government and what would he hope to gain?  

The timing of Abbott’s visit is interesting and it co-inside with 10/10 celebrations, ie. ROC National Day, an equivalent of the PRC National Day on 1/10.  This would add more sting to the prod on the dragon.   

Most of criticism of China, viz. human rights, genocide, authoritarianism, Xinjiang Tibet, Hong Kong etc, was nothing new to China and because of its frequency, China has become numb to these allegations and like “water off the duck’s back”, she just simply ignored them.  However, Taiwan independence is a real red line and is most sensitive issues of all.  To poke the dragon that hurt her most is Taiwan and to over play the Taiwan issue would trigger a peoples’ request to pressure Xi for military intervention in Taiwan.  Hence, this game is getting dangerous and can really result in war.  

The Taiwan game, if not tone done by Americans, could push China pass the threshold and to the point of no return, but to react emotionally for a non-peaceful unification of Taiwan. At times, we wonder whether that is the true objective of the US to start a war with China using Taiwan as the pawn.  

The Australian public is not really aware of the dangers of the games play in SCS and issue around Taiwan. This policy seems to enjoy bi-partisan support.  However, if they understood the implication of starting a nuclear war, they would be circumspect about supporting the game.  Australia being front and centre in the China containment game is now also front and centre in Taiwan stirring the pot.  At least, the actions are consistent, but the consequences could be deadly.    

The direction we are heading seems to be unstoppable but there may be opening in the horizon when IPAN and 15 NGOs civic peace organisations planning to form a coalition to opposite China containment through AUKUS and nuclear submarines. 

Arms race is never shown to be a deterrence of war. To err is human. War creates more disastrous human mistakes on both sides. War is a crime against humanity and human civilisation. 

Chinese Australians like many overseas Chinese, would like to see peaceful re unification across the Straits. Taiwan can maintain its status quo for decades without mentioning ‘independence” and if President Xi’s promise of peaceful unification holds out, then only time will heal the problems between them.   

The Abbott’s visit to Taiwan and recent Taiwanese Ministers drumming up foreign military help, is not helpful to solve the problem but only make it worse for the Taiwanese people.  Many people are not aware that there is a lot trading going on between them and over 400,000 Taiwanese work- and live-in mainland China and the majority of Taiwanese surveyed did not think China would invade them.  

 Tone down the rhetoric and the best way to resolve the Taiwanese issue is for China to be engaging and make an olive outreach to President Tsai and establish a hot line and diplomatic dialogue to ease tensions and preparations for future collaborations without preconditions.  

 China should consider talking to Tsai directly just as Xi has spoken to Biden.  Capturing the heart and mind of the Little Sister and siblings are better ways to secure peace, security and prosperity across the Taiwan straits which are what all Chinese peoples across the strait are hoping for.   

At the same time,  the West must also tone down the rhetoric and military actions, stop stirring the pot if they are serious in the peace and security of the Asia Pacific and allow the Chinese siblings to mend their own differences and make up. Blessings to all.  

Principal authors, Tony Pun and Dr Ka Sing Chua. This commentary is supplied by the Chinese Community Council of Australia Incorporated: Founding President, Dr Anthony Pun OAM, President, Mr Kingsley Liu. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.

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