I see, in an article in the Hong Kong Press Press, that the US is stepping up the pressure on Beijing by reasserting its security guarantees to Taiwan.
Now, I need to make my (longstanding) position clear. Taiwan is part of China. It is Chinese by geography, by ethnicity and by political will. But the reunification of China ~ the reincorporation of Taiwan into the greater Chinese state ~ MUST be accomplished peacefully and with the full and informed consent of the people of Taiwan. I’m sorry to say that Beijing, Xi Jinping’s government, doesn’t see it that way. For the past year or more Beijing has been signalling that it will brook no opposition to or criticism of its control over all of China … and that includes Taiwan.
Taiwan is a special case.
The Republic of China of China was created, on the island of Formosa (Taiwan), by Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek in 1947, when Chaing knew that he had lost his last military foothold on the Chinese mainland …
… it is now a modern, thriving democracy and an economic powerhouse, led by recently re-elected President Tsai Ing-wen.
Canada, like most other nations, observes a formal “One China” policy. That means that we recognize that Taiwan is a province of China and it will be, as it should be, reintegrated into the Chinese state … eventually, when the conditions are right. It does NOT mean that Beijing is allowed to reintegrate Taiwan into China without the free consent of the Taiwanese people. It also does NOT mean that Canada cannot have friendly and productive political (but not formal diplomatic), trade, social and even military relations with Taiwan. But they have to be done carefully. Taiwan is not, for example, a member of either the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) nor of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) but it co-operates closely with them and obeys all the Word Trade Organization rules. Canada has sent warship, as recently as last year …
… through the narrow (180 km wide) Taiwan Straits, but our ships did not pay a courtesy call.
The Government of Canada says that “Taiwan is Canada’s 13th largest trading partner and 5th largest in Asia. Total merchandise trade with Taiwan in 2018 was $7.87 billion, with Canadian merchandise exports of almost $2 billion, and imports from Taiwan at $5.9 billion. Canada’s priority sectors in Taiwan are aerospace, information and communications technology, agri-food and seafood products, biotechnology, clean technologies, and energy.“
In other words, Canada has good, friendly, productive relations with Taiwan and there is room for growth in all areas.
Neither Canada nor the USA nor any other Western nation should abandon the One China policy. That policy only recognizes the truth: Taiwan is Chinese.
But Canada and the USA and the whole of the US-led West should, as Richard Haass and David Sacks say, in an important article in Foreign Affairs, see that now is the right time “to introduce a policy of strategic clarity: one that makes explicit that the United States … [and the US-led West, including Canada] … would respond to any Chinese use of force against Taiwan. Washington … [and its allies] … can make this change in a manner that is consistent with its one-China policy and that minimizes the risk to U.S.-Chinese relations. Indeed, such a change should strengthen U.S.-Chinese relations in the long term by improving deterrence and reducing the chances of war in the Taiwan Strait, the likeliest site for a clash between the United States and China.” Sometimes, and this is one of those times, “strategic clarity” (the opposite of the current Western policies of “strategic ambiguity“) is what is needed. It’s what the allies did in 1948-49 when the USSR attempted to blockade and isolate Berlin …
… the Berlin Airlift demonstrated allied resolve and it was a textbook example of “strategic clarity.” It literally defined Cold War 1.0 and set firm limits of Soviet aggression. Stalin knew that the allies would not roll over in the face of his blustering. A clear, unambiguous position of support only for a peaceful and willing reunification of China would send a similar message to Beijing.
We, Canadians, are in Cold War 2.0 whether we like it or not. One of the things the Government of Canada can do, diplomatically, is to try to persuade the Americans that the benefits of “strategic ambiguity” regarding Taiwan are fading and it is time to move towards “strategic clarity” with Taiwan being the “line in the sand” and as Dr Haass and Mr Sacks say, “making [it] explicit that … [the US-led West] … would respond to any Chinese use of force against Taiwan.” That may be the best way to “define” Cold War 2.0.
Cold War 2.0 is not like Cold War 1.0 (1948-1993). Fist: China is a much more formidable adversary than the USSR/Russia ever was. Second: Cold War 2.0 was started by America ~ President Trump appears to believe, against millennia of evidence to the contrary, that trade wars are good things and that they have winners. But, as with Cold War 1.0, this Cold War can turn hot through miscalculation at a fairly low, tactical level. Bing unambiguous as to what we, the US-led West, will and will not tolerate might be a good way to lessen the chances of miscalculation.