This blog began 12 years ago in Taiwan, 2010. I was living there and had just got the Panasonic GH1 from the local family run dealer on a street I called “Camera Avenue” because it had about 40 camera stores all independently run and all in one place in downtown Taipei. Learning about the fascinating history of the island from my girlfriend and her father, who served in the military under the rule Chiang Kai-shek, I shot the four pieces you see on this page. Make sure you have the sound on.
Had Chiang Kai-shek won the civil war in China, modern-day history would look very different. There would be no communist party of China.
A delicate truce exists today and close economic ties between the two warring sides. Taiwan is a flourishing democracy with one of the major parties wanting closer ties to Beijing and the other fiercely independent and rejecting any overtures to be assimilated into a communist system.
Taiwan is also an economic powerhouse vital to the world’s semiconductors industry. Home to companies such as AMD, Foxconn, Asus and TSMC, with numerous manufacturing facilities including ones owned by Canon and Sony. The island also has a thriving filmmaking scene.
What could possibly go wrong?
I learnt in Taiwan that although the majority of the island’s people are fiercely democratic and identify as Taiwanese, not Chinese, they are wary of US interference and political shenanigans. The US is there as a military guarantor of security, nothing more.
The status-quo has worked for decades under a delicately balanced ambiguity. Making a big statement doesn’t do anybody any favours. Such grandstanding and posturing leads to unintended consequences and even war. Right now the US President’s authority and trust is completely undermined in the eyes of Xi Jinping in China. Undermined by his own party in Congress.
There’s also a sizeable bunch of Taiwanese people who emigrated from China and settled on the island who consider themselves both Chinese and Taiwanese. Some identify only as Chinese and would support unification. Because Taiwan is a democracy, it follows the wishes of the majority and they do not want to be ruled by China as Hong Kong now is.
Nancy Pelosi has driven a horse and cart through this delicate ambiguity and nuance. Along with a hysterical media they are forcing the issue at a time when the world’s economy is already reeling from a global pandemic and war in Europe. They are baiting China into settling the issue once and for all. Both sides trying to establish a legacy before they die of old age. Selfish to the hilt.
It is all as mad as a box of snakes and as dangerous as a box of snakes.
The US have no clue about what the balance of power is within the Chinese communist party and how much personal pressure there is on Xi Jinping to act over Taiwan from his military and party members, nor what his internal psyche is like. How much he is prepared to risk to unify China and go down in history? If there was a state in the US owned by the Chinese, you could be sure it would be a big issue for the US government and that they’d want to take it back. Anything less would be seen as failure.
The stakes for the world could not be higher. The only way for China to take control of Taiwan is by nuclear force and long range missiles. The strait makes a landing by sea virtually impossible without huge losses for the Chinese navy and airforce. There are thousands of long range Chinese missiles pointed at the island every day to make a political point. Does the world need this right now? Does the world need Pelosi defying Biden, undermining his already brittle authority and even defying the US military who said it was a terrible strategy and a huge risk?
This 82 year old geriatric woman motivated purely by self interest and ticking off a virtuous bucket list before she retires seems to think it is a risk worth taking.
This is why we have a retirement age at work.
It is why politicians should undergo psychiatric assessments every 4 years and when they are re-elected to important positions.
Sadly none of this seems to apply to the US government, both sides of congress doing huge damage to the world in recent times.
Like it or not, the US needs stable links with China and open dialogue. Countries like Ukraine and Taiwan will thank us for it.
However the more likely outcome is spelt out by somebody with the actual life experience to speak on such matters. Harry Patch, the British World War I veteran recited by Thom Yorke in the video below…
“They will never learn, the next one will be chemical”