A NUMBER of defence analysts are convinced that the United States of America, supported by Britain and Australia, is goading China to go to war over Taiwan. They point to constant statements by officials from the three countries pledging to come to Taiwan’s defence if it is attacked by China, and the actual presence of US warships in the region as evidence of “an aggressive stance”.
The game plan of the US and its allies, according to these observers, is to create an atmosphere that will compel China to retaliate to these provocations and fire the first shot.
There are certain underlying motives that may tempt the US to pursue this game plan. There are hawks in Washington and elsewhere who believe that a short, quick war against China at this stage will benefit the hegemon and its global agenda.
One, since the US is militarily stronger than China, a humiliating defeat for the latter will be a huge setback. At a time when the peaceful rise of China has made such an impact upon nations everywhere, a defeat will prove to all and sundry that the US is still the master of the planet.
Two, a US victory over China will undoubtedly strengthen the Taiwan independence movement and encourage the separatists to expand their activities and intensify their demand. This will impact adversely upon Chinese sovereignty and undermine its national resilience.
Three, a war over Taiwan will force China to divert its resources from much-needed economic and social development to an unnecessary war on its doorstep. This is what the US and some of its allies would want to see.
China will not allow this to happen. The Chinese leadership has always been aware of the dire consequences of war and violence for the nation and people. Yet it is deeply cognisant of the imperative necessity to defend its sovereignty and integrity as a nation and the dignity of its people.
It will therefore respond to provocations by resorting to measures that do not lead to violence and war. These could be political moves or diplomatic manoeuvres or even trade sanctions.
The US leadership does not seem to understand this. For many decades now, leaders in the US and indeed of many other Western countries do not seem to appreciate the importance of respect as a value in interstate relations.
The controversy over Taiwan illustrates the point about respect in international relations. Taiwan is part of China, and is recognised by 180 countries as such. Since 1979, the US government has acknowledged that there is only one China represented by Beijing. This is contained in documents such as the famous three joint communiques.
Beijing has always objected to US officials sometimes treating Taiwan as if it were an independent, sovereign state. This is apparent not just in US-Taiwan military ties but also in politics and economics.
The time has come for friends of the US in Asia to remind it in a firm but courteous tone that living up to the One China policy is fundamental for the rest of the world. There must not be the slightest hint that the US or Britain or Australia or anyone else is trying to encourage separatist, anti-unification with China movements in Taiwan.
By advocating strict adherence to the One China policy, we are not suggesting that we kowtow to Beijing. If we have to disagree with Beijing on a matter of principle, we should. For instance, many countries in Asean are at odds with China on its claim of suzerainty over almost 85% of the area perceived as the South China Sea. Asean governments, and indeed Asean civil society groups as a whole, should continue to reiterate our sovereign maritime rights over the South China Sea in accordance with our historical claims and international law.
We should never cease to persuade the authorities in China to accept our legitimate demands. In other words, we should ask China to respect our rights vis-à-vis the South China Sea just as we want the US to respect China’s position on Taiwan.
DR CHANDRA MUZAFFAR , President, International Movement for a Just World