In yesterday’s article, we discussed the possible impact of protests in Europe on China’s willingness to invade Taiwan, with the takeaway that it seems increasingly unlikely that many of America’s traditional allies would be willing to take the same measures in defense of Taiwan that have proved so important to the defense of Ukraine. That reality is of imminent importance to the United States because recent events make it seem as though we are on a collision course with the Asian superpower.
What is even more troubling, though, is neither side really seems interested in avoiding that fate.
As Ben Werschkul notes, the US and China have been in something of a cold war for a number of years now, but there was a basic understanding that it was in neither side’s best interests for that conflict to escalate beyond bickering and trade disputes. However, recent events have started to portray a different picture.
The two nations have begun to “uncouple on fronts from trade to the movement of labor to technology.” The White House, for example, recently passed a number of new restrictions designed to limit China’s ability to access various American technologies needed for semiconductor development, artificial intelligence, and advanced computing.
As Klon Kitchen, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, warns, “these new actions show the United States is not trying to slow China’s technological advancement, but to arrest and to contain it” (emphasis his).
Likewise, Xi Jinping repeatedly emphasized the need for his nation to become more self-reliant during his opening address at this week’s Party Congress, right alongside warnings against Western “hegemonism and power politics.” At several points, he spoke of the need for stability, with greater independence from the West as a key component to attaining that end.
However, control over Taiwan could be just as important.
Why Taiwan is so important
China and Taiwan have had a testy relationship over the years, as one might expect given that the Chinese government considers the independent island part of its Republic. But despite those issues, the two have developed a great deal of economic interdependence. China and Hong Kong account for roughly 42 percent of Taiwan’s exports and 22 percent of the country’s imports. In comparison, the US comprises 15 percent of Taiwan’s exports and 10 percent of its imports.
Moreover, many of Taiwan’s largest companies maintain factories in mainland China, including the world’s largest producer of semiconductor chips: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC). Those chips are needed for products like cell phones, cars, and—most notably—a wide range of “military-grade” devices from fighter planes to defense systems.
TSMC is currently in the process of building one of its most advanced factories in Arizona, and the company’s Chairman, Mark Liu, warned that they would shut down rather than fall under Chinese control in the event of an invasion.
However, the degree to which Beijing believes that threat remains to be seen. And, even if they do, it is possible that they would rather see the factories close than supply the West with the kinds of semiconductors we cannot yet produce on our own.
All that to say, while both the United States and China have a clear need to maintain economic ties to Taiwan, the latter has also indicated an increased willingness to monopolize that relationship. And, should they try, President Biden has already promised to come to the island’s aid to an even greater extent than the support America has given Ukraine by committing troops and military personnel to the effort.
Unfortunately, as we discussed yesterday, should that come to pass, America may do so alone.
And therein lies the greatest danger, as well as one of the most likely reasons for the recent increase in Chinese aggression toward Taiwan.
A fight we may not win
China has long desired to be the most dominant country in the world. But for some time, those aspirations have been held in check by the US-led alliances that have often set the ground rules for how nations interact with one another. However, the mutual recognition that it would be foolish for one nation to go to war against the world seems increasingly less likely to apply to any conflict over Taiwan.
While NATO’s Article 5 defense commitment, for example, binds nations to defend one another when attacked, Article 6 limits the scope of that commitment to attacks that take place in Europe, North America, or on islands “under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.”
If the US and China go to war in the South Pacific, none of America’s traditional allies would be required to join the fight. And many seem increasingly unlikely to do so.
China, however, is unlikely to have that problem. Given friendly relations with countries like Iran, Russia, and several others that are not exactly fans of the US, it is possible that America is steadily marching toward a fight we may not win.
“The proper estimate of oneself”
As we discussed yesterday, counting the cost as Jesus commands requires a calculation based on what we’re willing to pay rather than what we expect or hope to pay. Both nations and individuals get into trouble when they make decisions based on the latter of those prices.
One of the most indispensable helps in avoiding that mistake is the self-awareness to fully appreciate the fact that we often do not get to dictate what that price will be. And that self-awareness is especially difficult to maintain when one becomes accustomed to acting from a position of strength.
Throughout history, one of the primary reasons that nations fall from greatness is the inability to recognize when the reasons for their prior success no longer apply to their current situation. Allegiances can shift, strength can wane, opposition can grow stronger, and each can occur in ways that are easy to miss if we’re not paying attention.
What is true of nations can be equally true for each of us.
Whether it’s in our walk with the Lord, our relationships with other people, or any other facet of our lives, when we act as though past success guarantees success in the present, we’re setting ourselves up to fail.
Fortunately, God stands ready to help if we’re willing to ask.
So, as Paul advised, pray for the “sober judgment” needed to make an honest evaluation of your life today (Romans 12:3). Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any areas where you might be thinking more highly of yourself than you should, as well as any areas where that problem is reversed.
After all, God isn’t interested in false humility but rather, as Charles Spurgeon described it, “the proper estimate of oneself.”
Will you ask the Holy Spirit to help you make such an estimate today?