There is something terribly wrong with this paragraph from Nikolas Kristof’s lament at MSN over the possibility of China’s subduing Taiwan by force of arms:
There are steps the U.S. can take that might reduce the risk of a crisis. Washington can emphasize to Beijing that Taiwan will not take any unilateral action, such as declaring itself an independent country — unless China makes a military move, in which case it will do so at once. The U.S. can also caution Beijing that if the electricity goes out in Taipei, the same may happen in Shanghai, and that if Taiwan-bound ships are harassed, they may be reflagged as American vessels.
The first and most egregious is that Taiwan is not the United States. Washington cannot “emphasize to Beijing that Taiwan” will not declare independence. It does not have that authority. That’s up to the Taiwanese.
The second is that the Taiwanese are not without agency. If they do not have the ability to defend themselves, they should cultivate it quickly.
For the last three generations the United States has maintained a precarious policy of declaring that the political situation of Taiwan was a matter to be settled between Beijing and Taipei not by the United States. We should continue that policy.
I presume that Mr. Kristof’s reaction was prompted by the situation in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a part of China. That “one country two systems” could not be sustained was obvious 25 years ago. If we did not want Hong Kong to be subsumed into the mainland, we should never have granted China most favored nation trading status and vetoed China’s admission to the WTO when we had the chance.
If I were President Xi and if I were intent on taking control of both Hong Kong and Taiwan and the United States were to make the pronouncements Mr. Kristof proposes, I would make a pre-emptive nuclear strike, presumably an EMP attack, to neutralize the United States in one master stroke. I doubt that any of us including President Xi are prepared for that.