Regarding China and Taiwan

As of August 2, Nancy Pelosi's Taiwan trifecta can be summarized as follows:

(1) Ignoring the wishes of President Biden, Speaker Pelosi lands in Taiwan and publicly states, "Our visit reiterates that America stands with Taiwan: a robust, vibrant democracy and our important partner in the Indo-Pacific."

(2) President Biden declares through a spokesman that "we do not support Taiwan independence."

(3) China fumes, stamps its feet, and puts on a demonstration of military power, but otherwise does nothing, precisely as one would predict from the insight into Chinese behavior that Daniel Jia detailed — namely, that Chinese military decisions are made by carefully contemplating their effect on American public opinion, which would be outraged if China targeted an American woman.

All of this surely bodes ill for Taiwan, as the Chinese chairman has been humiliated and the American president has been confirmed a weakling.  My heart grieves for Taiwan, but there can be little doubt now that China will seize Taiwan sometime during the Biden presidency.  Although world events do not necessarily follow the path of geopolitical logic, that is the way to bet.

From Chairman Xi's point of view, the configuration of factors clearly confirms the feasibility of this course of action.

(1) The seizure of Taiwan will not involve combat with American forces unless the Americans initiate it.

(2) Chairman Xi sees President Biden as weak.

(3) Taiwan's proximity to mainland China is highly advantageous to China.

(4) Chinese forces near Taiwan are stronger than American forces in the vicinity.

(5) Surface ships are highly vulnerable to modern missile technology.  The U.S. Navy knows well that the American plan to rescue Taiwan relies upon a Naval voyage across the western Pacific into the mouth of Chinese anti-ship missiles.

(6) It is public knowledge that the U.S. has repeatedly war-gamed Taiwan's rescue, and, in every game, the U.S. has been defeated by China.

Image: Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan.  YouTube screen grab.

So is Taiwan doomed?  No.  It still has two options: deterrence and diplomacy.

To pursue deterrence, it is necessary to understand what deterrence is.  It is an enormous blunder to think defense is deterrence.  Thus, a February 12, 2022, editorial in the Taipei Times declared, "Deterrence needed to deal with China" and then called for more Patriot and drone-based air-to-air missiles.

The Times is correct that deterrence is needed but dead wrong in thinking the ability to shoot down attacking aircraft is deterrence.  That's defense, not deterrence.  Deterrence is the capacity for offense — that is, the capacity to strike hard at Beijing.  For Taiwan to earnestly pursue deterrence, it must beef up its strike-at-Beijing capability, harden itself against EMP, give itself a hair trigger, and leak that information to Beijing.

But once Taiwan is empowered by deterrence, a diplomatic settlement is possible.  China has long been wedded to the "one China" principle, to which the U.S. has promised to adhere and that China insists Taiwan repudiates.

But exactly how does Taiwan reject that principle?  Consider the fact that Outer Mongolia and Tibet are sovereign states and yet are Chinese.  They don't offend China's "one China" principle because China recognizes that one Chinese nation can be implemented in multiple Chinese states.

So why can't Taiwan be another of those Chinese states?  The problem with this is that Taiwan calls itself the "Republic of China," whereas the mainland calls itself the "People's Republic of China."  Were Taiwan to rename itself the "Republic of Taiwan" (or whatever), and establish some deterrence to military attack, a diplomatic settlement might be reached.

Note from Andrea Widburg: Such a step would mean Taiwan would abandon its claim to be the true government of mainland China.  However, if doing so meant mainland China abandoned its claim to Taiwan and backed off a war footing, it could well be worth the change in Taiwan's posture.

If you experience technical problems, please write to