Financial Times reported today easing of tension between the United States and China in regard to Trumps phone call last month with Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen. Taiwan, or Republic of China, is a sensitive theme in US-China relations. Beijing sees Taiwan as a wandering Chinese province which will return in the embracing arms of the mother country, the so called One China policy. Taiwanese people like foremost their independence and the US has backed up Taiwan financially and military since the Korean wars, helping create the economic Taiwan miracle. Although the US enacted the Taiwan Relation Act in 1979, pursuing better relation with China, strong relations still remain as Obama’s administration $1.6 billion weapons deal proves. Also Trumps phone call didn’t make the Chinese secure about US intentions in regard to the One China policy agreed to in 1979. But now with Trump very very good phone call with Xi Jinping today, all is at ease and tension are gone.
Alas, this is gonna be a different and more complex story. Only Taiwan’s location is important for the rest of this story as it is located on the border of the East and South Chinese Sea, one of the world main trading routes and has massive amounts of natural resources. Furthermore 11 other countries are neighbouring this sea and all are claiming some inhabitable reefs and islands, but only China militarised many of them into harbours, defence systems, supply depots and airfields. Basically China has invaded the area and is asserting dominance. What China is doing is not much different then what president Monroe did in 1823. An important aspect of the so called Monroe Doctrine states the Caribbean sea and even the whole American continent as a solemnly United Stated of America sphere of influence. Soon China will assert to a diplomatic tone the world must accept a same type of doctrine (Xi Jinping doctrine), moreover China may already have the military muscle to overcome American dominance in this area.
In the end, Taiwan is just a pawn on the tabula of power, much will be determined from diplomatic skill between the US and China not to escalate a situation uncontrollable. Some possible occurring similarities with a few origins of the first world war fear me. Namely, an international system of countries backing each other up military and economically for decades, lowering economic growth rates, rising nationalistic sentiments and multiple areas of conflicting interests in the form of natural resources and trade routes. A diplomatic crisis can soon come into existence or, as how usually wars start, artificial enacted.
For example, Chinese fishers have been acting as support troops for the Chinese coast guard. A scene between Chinese, north/south Korean, Japanese or Indonesian fishing boats assisted by a national coast guard can easily get blown out of proportions in todays media world. Also North Korea can easily set off alone an international crisis, Beijing has less control over Kim than they would like to have. Couple this with rising national sentiments and Trump proposed changes in world trade policies, China may be forced accelerated to a point of being a more assertive player in the region and attain more dominance by military power. I am not sure how Trump will react to a diplomatic crisis in this area, history shows many demagogs using international crises as a distraction for failing domestic policies… But let’s hope I am premature negative this night. Please, have all a good night and wake up with reason.