US will face consequences of Tsai's meeting
Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen's stopovers in the United States en route to Guatemala and Belize in Central America have drawn strong opposition from Beijing, with her scheduled meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy further compounding the situation across the Taiwan Straits.
The US' decision to arrange Tsai's stopovers and meeting with McCarthy will harm the US as well, as it will be seen as provoking cross-Straits tensions, in order to contain China's rise.
The US' growing political and military relations with the Chinese island have deepened the mistrust between Beijing and Washington.
Occupying an extraordinarily important position in the "first island chain" and the global semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem, for Washington Taiwan provides a powerful lever to target Beijing. Not to mention the comprehensive approach taken by the US to weaken the Chinese mainland. Apart from the trade war and high-tech blockade, the US has also been strengthening its alliance system in the region with an eye on the mainland.
The US has persuaded Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to allow it to build four new military bases in the country. In partnership with the United Kingdom, the US is arming Australia with nuclear submarines. It has also influenced the Republic of Korea, which has deep-rooted historical differences and disputes with Japan, to move toward a detente with Japan. And if the detente is achieved, the ROK may follow the US policies on China more closely. More dangerously, Japan is on the path of re-militarization.
On the other hand, India has been roped into the QUAD, a strategic grouping that also includes the US, Japan and Australia, and holds annual Malabar military drills with the other countries, again with an eye on China. If Tsai and McCarthy hold a meeting, there may be severe consequences for the US, and Taiwan.
To begin with, the mainland could consider imposing some economic sanctions on Taiwan, while avoiding a blanket approach to hurt the island's economy and its residents. And second, the mainland could consider conducting large incursions into the island’s "air defense identification zone" and holding military exercises in close proximity to some outlying islands of Taiwan.
If the ruling Democratic Progressive Party on the island continues to suck up to the US to get its support to provoke the mainland, it's Taiwan residents that could end up paying the price for the DPP authorities' wrongs. And if a conflict broke out across the Straits, the Taiwan economy would suffer a deadly blow, causing Taiwan compatriots immense suffering. Besides, most of the youths on the island are unwilling to fight for "Taiwan independence".
A peaceful reunification of Taiwan with the motherland, on the other hand, could bring a lot of benefits to Taiwan and its residents, similar to what has happened in the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions thanks to the "one country, two systems".
However, it is necessary for Beijing to counter the increasingly hostile attitude adopted by some US scholars toward the national reunification. For example, Dan Blumenthal, defense and Asia policy expert, and Frederick W. Kagan, military history and policy expert, recently urged the US and its allies to block Taiwan’s reunification with the motherland even if it is peaceful.
Many American foreign policy elites may not appreciate how central the Taiwan question is to the Chinese leadership and the Chinese people. That’s why the meeting between Tsai and McCarthy will be too provocative to be ignored by Beijing.
The author is chairman of China Dream Think Tank, a Hong Kong-based non-profit organization. The views don’t necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
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