Following on from yesterday with former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s suggestion for how to contain China without stating an all-out shooting war, he says that amongst Xi Jinping’s goals are:
- First, he wants “to remain in power until 2035, by which time he will be 82, the age at which Mao passed away. Xi’s determination to do so is reflected in the party’s abolition of term limits, its recent announcement of an economic plan that extends all the way to 2035, and the fact that Xi has not even hinted at who might succeed him even though only two years remain in his official term;”
- Bringing dissident minorities, especially the troublesome Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region and the even more dangerous, in diplomatic terms, sophisticated and unhappy people of Hong Kong, und control;
- Fending off American economic (trade) sanctions; and
- Achieving “self sufficiency” by 2035 to forestall any threat of American “decoupling” from China.
“The trouble with this … [Xi’s]… approach,” Kevin Rudd explains, “is that it prioritizes party control and state-owned enterprises over China’s hard-working, innovative, and entrepreneurial private sector, which has been primarily responsible for the country’s remarkable economic success over the last two decades. In order to deal with a perceived external economic threat from Washington and an internal political threat from private entrepreneurs whose long-term influence threatens the power of the CCP, Xi faces a dilemma familiar to all authoritarian regimes: how to tighten central political control without extinguishing business confidence and dynamism.”
That’s just one of many challenges that are common to authoritarian regimes. As Xi Jinping is all too well aware, I am sure, the leadership is always contested, but it’s almost never visible. His goals are quite public; if he doesn’t met them there will be some political repercussions.
Getting to the main point, Mr Rudd says that in the matter of securing China’s total control over Taiwan, “Xi appears to have concluded that China and Taiwan are now further away from peaceful reunification than at any time in the past 70 years. This is probably correct. But China often ignores its own role in widening the gulf. Many of those who believed that China would gradually liberalize its political system as it opened up its economic system and became more connected with the rest of the world also hoped that that process would eventually allow Taiwan to become more comfortable with some form of reunification. Instead, China has become more authoritarian under Xi, and the promise of reunification under a “one country, two systems” formula has evaporated as the Taiwanese look to Hong Kong, where China has imposed a harsh new national security law, arrested opposition politicians, and restricted media freedom … [and, therefore] … With peaceful reunification off the table, Xi’s strategy now is clear: to vastly increase the level of military power that China can exert in the Taiwan Strait, to the extent that the United States would become unwilling to fight a battle that Washington itself judged it would probably lose. Without U.S. backing, Xi believes, Taiwan would either capitulate or fight on its own and lose. This approach, however, radically underestimates three factors: the difficulty of occupying an island that is the size of the Netherlands, has the terrain of Norway, and boasts a well-armed population of 25 million; the irreparable damage to China’s international political legitimacy that would arise from such a brutal use of military force; and the deep unpredictability of U.S. domestic politics, which would determine the nature of the U.S. response if and when such a crisis arose. Beijing, in projecting its own deep strategic realism onto Washington, has concluded that the United States would never fight a war it could not win, because to do so would be terminal for the future of American power, prestige, and global standing. What China does not include in this calculus is the reverse possibility: that the failure to fight for a fellow democracy that the United States has supported for the entire postwar period would also be catastrophic for Washington, particularly in terms of the perception of U.S. allies in Asia, who might conclude that the American security guarantees they have long relied on are worthless—and then seek their own arrangements with China.” The key point here is that America does not have to fight a war it cannot win; it just needs to stop China from wining the war it must win.
America, supported, actively, by the US-led West, CAN defend Taiwan. President Biden doesn’t have to defeat China; America, and the US-led West, wins if China fails. But, the US must not fail to protect Taiwan, if it hesitates then all is lost including America’s stature in the wold. But if China fails then it is irreparable weakened in Asia and Xi falls.
Canada must be an active partner in the US-led West when it comes to defending Taiwan and that means that Canada must have a more robust foreign policy and armed forces to give weight to it.
Tomorrow: America’s weaknesses, including its timid allies, like Canada.