By: Ricardo Israel - 13/03/2023
The answer is Yes and No. YES in the sense that it has been prepared since the end of the civil war in 1949, where the communist victory led two million Chinese nationalists to the island of Taiwan, the Portuguese Formosa. However, I think the answer is NO, if you want to or are going to do it now.
As the blockade of the island during Nancy Pelosi's hearing in August of last year demonstrated, their current attitude includes all kinds of pressure, but not the military attack. It was -at least for the Pentagon-, a before and after, since the USA proved impotent to stop the escalation made by Beijing, and perhaps for this reason it had advised against the trip of the prominent politician.
For China, what has changed is the following: in 1949 it was a great country, but with local interests and Mao concerned with consolidating his revolution. Its aspiration was to be a regional power and in addition to its intervention in the Korean War, the scenarios where it was willing to use its armed forces were the consolidation of the communist revolution and the maintenance of Taiwan and Tibet as Chinese territory, which led to the total occupation of the second territory, against the will of the Tibetan people.
From the point of view of the United States, everything begins with having a good characterization of what is happening, that is, a correct diagnosis, every time it has been wrong, more than once in the recent past.
The first mistake was that the integration of China into the world economy and a notable creation of wealth that allowed hundreds of millions to rise out of poverty, would strengthen the democratic system, and, on the contrary, it went from a collective dictatorship to a personalist, that of Xi Jinping.
In this new stage, where the legitimacy of the communist party is not only based on a state capitalism that offers a constant improvement in the personal situation of the inhabitants, Xi's implicit promise for this new stage is now added, which is to challenge the USA for the scepter of the main superpower and apparently there is even a date for it, October 1, 2049, that is, on the centenary of the proclamation of the People's Republic of China.
In the struggle for historical legitimacy, Taiwan celebrates it on October 10 and gives birth to the republic under Dr. Sun Yat Sen, father of modern China for both and first president in 1912, albeit short-lived.
Such is the level of the economic relationship between China and the US and the presence (and sympathy for the regime) in business and university sectors, among others, that it has been very difficult for the United States to understand how important the challenge of dethrone it as the leading superpower, surpassing even commercial interests.
A new stage, which otherwise coincides with this new phase of globalization, where the invasion of Ukraine is proof that history and geopolitics have been fully (re)incorporated into a globalization that did not seem to consider them.
After a stage where China was part of the internal polarization and where there was strong Democratic criticism of former President Trump for his policy towards China, even accusing him of being "racist", today, perhaps for the first time, China has already been integrated into all the directives. of national security, to the military and intelligence testimonies in Congress, and even, with some delay, in the FBI recognizing the possibility that the CV-19 virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, something that has been said since the beginning, but for the first time it seems to receive credibility in security organizations, although it is still insisted that there was nothing intentional.
In any case, it is enough to review that in the official Chinese press in English and in Hong Kong (while there was freedom of the press), to see that, for years, something that may seem shocking has been accepted, but it is absolutely true. , which, for the Chinese, the model to replace the USA, is what it did with Great Britain in the last century.
This is how it has happened that China has followed very similar steps: massive investments abroad, search for raw materials, becoming a major player in the world market, a market for the best distribution and use of resources, moving from a definition of its territory as untouchable to an increasingly aggressive attitude towards others, use of debt as a weapon of political obedience. Part of this process is the transformation of the navy into one that aspires to be the most powerful in the world.
China would only be missing a greater financial presence, since it is still a minor player, for example, in international banks, and a greater importance of its currency in world exchange, where the US dollar continues to predominate, and without a counterweight, although Beijing is, by far, the largest holder of North American public debt in the world, and as experience indicates for all, when an economic crisis situation arrives, every country has discovered that debts are paid
This expansion has also coincided with the last of four modernizations that Deng established last century. With the first three completed (Agriculture, Industry, Technology), Defense has become the last mission, and large investments are being made, not only in the fields of land, sea, and air, but also in outer space, new technologies , cyberspace and others.
The USA is still the first military power, and comfortably, but Chinese investment and its progress are notorious, so much so that the distance has been greatly reduced. Probably, perhaps because of its need to think of the world in terms of threats, the Pentagon has warned before the State Department where China is headed.
Perhaps the last mistake of the USA was to think that China could be a kind of intermediary, exerting pressure to restrict Russia in its invasion of the Ukraine, and apparently, nothing further from the interests of China.
To confront it, what is most difficult for the USA to understand is the existence of a new scenario, where beyond its economic benefits or losses, what interests China most today is its national goal of becoming the world's leading power. , a distinction that for them would be limited to recovering a place that they believe they have had for millennia, and that had only been frustrated in previous centuries by the colonial powers, which is exactly what their propaganda in Chinese and for internal consumption in a nationalist dictatorship, continues to spread, including the United States itself, by the way.
History will probably pick up that one of the big changes that came out of the invasion of Ukraine was this novel alliance (it had never existed before) between China and Russia. And for the world domination project of this new, rich and powerful China, Russia is seen as a kind of “gift”.
In this new stage, Russia will be the minor partner for China, an equivalent of Europe for the USA. For China, Russia contributes to being the atomic rival of the USA and a great producer of raw materials, that is, a society where China contributes capital and technology, becoming the dominant partner.
It is, moreover, a style of society that can already be seen in Siberia, with a growing Chinese presence and also in a large project in the Arctic to benefit from climate change, where the melting ice and Chinese resources would allow the creation of a new route there. of communication, which would be added to the new Silk Road, undoubtedly, and by far, the largest infrastructure project (and debt acquisition) in the world.
In this sense, what is happening in Ukraine is convenient for China, since if the war drags on, especially if there is no clear winner, the United States itself could be dragged into a situation of increasing involvement. Whether it happens or not, for now, China watches the performance of NATO, which we remember, has decided, without the existence or plans being known, to add it to its potential adversaries.
In any scenario, the need for help from China increases, and what Moscow is willing to give in exchange for benefiting from its industrial capacity, for example, in munitions. It would be a change, since, until a few years ago, Moscow was the main supplier of weapons and military technology, a situation that has existed more or less since the 1990s, coinciding with the end of the USSR.
This is how until recently, the navy and aviation had benefited from this relationship as well as atomic fuel for nuclear energy. In aviation, it was the Mig and the navy, until recently, its only aircraft carrier was one of Soviet origin, sold by Russia. Today, China no longer needs, but can still benefit from advanced technology, such as hypersonic missiles and the space station, so it is the natural investor of everything that the USA or Russia are not going to renew in this new stage of confrontation.
Even more, it is not convenient for China that Russia and the USA renew nuclear or simple weapons agreements, since a modification of the current ones would be to the advantage of the United States itself, which is tied up by those that limit the development of new range missiles. intermediate, designed for the European scenario, but which are exactly what are required to confront China in Asia and which the USA does not have, for example, for the aggressive militarization of the China Sea, which without respecting the rulings of the International Court of Justice, Beijing has turned simple rocks into usable islets for missiles and planes.
That is why the correct and accurate diagnosis of China's intentions is vital, and this includes understanding that there is already a new alliance scenario between China and Russia, and it is enough to see the consequences, in the simple sum of both territories, one at a time. side of the other
This became very clear with the debut of Qu Gang, the new Chinese foreign minister, Xi's spokesman, in this new stage. He said that the ties between Beijing and Moscow were "an example for world foreign relations," where strengthening that link was an "imperative." He spoke of an "alliance" and an association that would grow and where there was "close contact" between the two heads of state.
Finally, he appeared to respond to Washington's request that they not hand over weapons to Moscow, saying that “nobody who handed over arms to Taiwan” could ask them to do so.
The aggressiveness shown is one more indication that passive China no longer exists, and that it goes all out for first place. Perhaps this attitude is a reflection of what has been shown for a long time by the new generation of Chinese ambassadors, who are not limited to attending official ceremonies, but in Latin America are an active actor in social networks and in the defense of interests. of Chinese companies, recalling their performance to that of American ambassadors in the last century. It also occurs at a stage, where in general, the US ambassadors prefer to go unnoticed, and play the "soft" power of the US rather than the "hard" one, that is, the government and ambassadors come back, at moments where the Chinese go with all enthusiasm, in the process of going.
In all this, perhaps what the United States, the West and the rest of us will discover, that this new rich and powerful China does not like to be "warned" from abroad and even less, threatened. In other words, in this stage of the triumphant return of geopolitics and history, contrary to what is still thought in Washington, the opinion of foreigners has less and less importance.
It is an attitude deeply rooted in history and in Confucius himself. It also obeys a past where China was hardly interested in foreign products or ideas, unlike the need for Chinese novelties in the Middle Ages. In the end, something still not adequately explained happened, and that changed history, when China, being more powerful, literally destroyed her ships, ultimately being conquered instead of conquering us.
The discovery that foreign opinion matters less than we think has a lot to do with Taiwan and for the purpose of this column, since the military occupation remained a discreet second for a long time, and not just because of Chinese military insufficiency. or for being focused on growing economically.
It so happened that Taiwan was governed by the defeated in the civil war, by the Kuomintang, with another dictatorship, one of the right, headed by Chiang Kai-shek, Mao's enemy, but always maintaining the same narrative, that the island was part of the Chinese territory, except that the communists were the illegitimate occupiers of the mainland.
This is so until 2000 when the Democratic Progressive Party triumphs in the elections and as a liberal party, manages to transform Taiwan into a democratic country in the following years.
The problem is that it simultaneously rejects the "1992 Consensus" between China and Taiwan, which included the previous situation of a single China, and speaks of the full independence of the island, since many of its leaders were born there.
China has always considered this situation "unacceptable" and without this fact, impeccable from the point of view of self-determination (like Ukraine) of the peoples, it is not well understood what is happening, which, moreover, figures little in the analyzes international. The bottom line is that in 2024 there are presidential elections, and the last local elections give importance to a return to power of the Kuomintang, supporter of the status quo with China.
In other words, few elections are as important for the United States and the world as the next ones in Taiwan, not to intervene in its internal politics, but rather whoever occupies the government will condition, as in previous decades, the Chinese response in front of the island Of course, economic health matters in Beijing, but in parallel foreign opinion loses relevance.
And if it is a question of conflict, Beijing has a series of alternatives for an invasion that does not seem to be a priority, in addition to the fact that the island has important investments from mainland China, and where a war for which Taiwan has prepared very well for a great Resistance could create a world economic problem, even more relevant than the European war, given the importance of Taiwan as a major producer of semiconductors, especially high-end ones, as was demonstrated in the days of the 2022 blockade. An alternative is that, being an archipelago, in addition to the main island, Taiwan has a total of 168 islands or islets, and since Penghu is only 50 km from the mainland, its occupation would be easier.
The USA can create a difficult economic situation for China, but it can also create it for the USA, and if it is not enough to weaken it, it can do it with Europe, starting with Germany, today with an exchange surplus.
The real solution is complicated, since it needs to initiate the disengagement, a US decoupling from China, in a double sense, as a place of production for so many US companies starting with Apple, as well as the destination of the main factory in the world, as manifested with medicines in the pandemic, and which is witnessed by any consumer of Walmart or another similar chain in the USA.
It is a difficult process, but it would save the US the problem of having so many economic agents that, unlike Russia, will not want to adhere to sanctions against China, in the event of a conflict, given its importance as a trading partner.
In other words, China's economic strength makes it a formidable rival, different from what the USSR was in the cold war.
«The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author».