[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

War Over Taiwan?
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2003


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] In the last couple of weeks, top Chinese officials have exponentially increased their bellicose rhetoric toward Taiwan. Many in the American government believe that these are idle threats. If this proves to be wishful thinking, then what response is the United States prepared to undertake?

Unquestionably the issue of Taiwan is at the top of the agenda of the leadership in Beijing. The Chinese regard the island as a renegade province which must be brought into the Peoples Republic. Recent statements indicate that the day of reckoning may be fast approaching, and that Beijing is prepared to use force to achieve its objective.

A mere statement of the problem confirms its intractability. After the Communists prevailed in the civil war in 1949 and conquered the mainland, the remnants of General Chiang Kai-Shek’s vanquished army fled to Taiwan calling themselves the Republic of China,. They viewed Taiwan, an island of some 13,000 square miles as a temporary refuge. One day they hoped to recapture the entire mainland, thereby unifying China on their terms.

Some thought they were optimistic and idealistic. Others delusional and unrealistic.

The view from the mainland was diametrically opposed. Beijing believes that there is one China and Taiwan is an integral part of the Peoples Republic. Periodically the Communist leaders have threatened to attack the island and achieve its integration by force.

In fifty years that hasn’t happened. Due in no small measure to the United States. By treaty and declarations, numerous American governments have consistently committed to come to the aid of democratic Taiwan if attacked by China.

Until recently, the situation was in a pragmatic holding pattern. Taiwan has an ambiguous political status. Neither an independent nation; nor a province of China. Rather, it has some vague legal non entity status.

At the same time, trade between China and Taiwan has rapidly escalated in recent years. Most notably, many Taiwanese businessmen have built plants on the mainland, taking advantage of cheaper labor. This hasn’t been easy to do because the Chinese don’t permit direct flights between Taiwan and the mainland. A circuitous connection via Hong Kong is required at the insistence of Beijing.

Still, it’s easy to be lulled into believing that money cures all political problems. As long as there is increased commerce, the thinking goes, there will be no war.

That premise is no longer valid. In Taiwan, whether as a part of a political campaign or because they genuinely believe the time is right, some of the leaders have begun advocating a change in the status quo. They have raised the possibility of independence for Taiwan, not only in speeches, but in the enactment of legislation permitting Taiwanese citizens to initiate referenda. The possibility is being held out that one of these referenda can lead to a vote for independence.

The response from Beijing has been strong and hostile. Frustration and alarm among the Chinese leadership have been rising sharply. Recently, Major General Wang Zaixi, deputy director of China’s Taiwan Affairs office, spoke out on the issue in the bluntest way in years. He said that, “the use of force may become unavoidable…Taiwanese independence means war.”

The statement is not surprising. Last year I was in China in connection with my recent novel, Dark Ambition, which deals with the Taiwanese issue. Everyone I spoke to and everything I read reinforced the importance of Taiwan to the leadership in Beijing.

Missile batteries aimed at the heart of Taiwan are continually being upgraded and new ones added. What the recent statement of Wang proves is that there is now a very nervous finger on the missile button. Should that button be pushed, this will pose an enormous problem for the United States.

The State Department has been unable or unwilling to develop a coherent response. Mixed signals would be an unduly kind. On one hand, a State Department spokesman said that “the use of force” to resolve these differences is unacceptable. At the same time, “we oppose any attempt by either side to unilaterally change the status quo.” On the other hand, the spokesman for the de facto U.S. Embassy in Taiwan said that our government has never said it “opposes Taiwanese independence.”

The time has come to get our act together. If the Taiwanese leaders continue to stoke the flames of independence, the chances are that Beijing will launch missiles and follow it by putting a powerful army in the water to cross the narrow straits and conquer Taiwan. Is the Bush Administration, strongly committed in Iraq, prepared to respond to the Chinese with force? If it is not, then we better move firmly to tell Taipai to put the genie of independence back in the bottle unless they are prepared to take on one of the world’s major fighting forces on their own. People who pick battles with stronger foes that we haven’t endorsed can’t expect us to bail them out.

Taiwan is playing a dangerous game by baiting China. The likelihood of a miscalculation is huge. After all, hardliners in Beijing have been looking for an excuse to attack Taiwan for years. It makes no sense to provide one to them at this time.