Taiwan Winds

I have just had dinner with friends who have extensive interests in China and Serbia. As we broke open the Grey goose vodka, conversation turned to Taiwan, and to acquaintances who had knowledge of that island.

I have to say that after our chat I find myself drifting a little in and out of memory, and am tempted to take the blog into the discussion of the Quemoy-Matsu controversy between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960; but then again, I may simply have been inspired by the Formosa restaurant I passed.

The important thing is that everyone I speak to seems to think that a push by the People's Republic on Taiwan could come this year. The Vice Chairman of China's Central Military Commission certainly thinks so. The Pentagon--not the one in Indonesia-- seems to be worried about that too. The People's Republic has even declared an invasion of Taiwan perfectly 'legal'.

Well we should all be worried. I've blogged before (on September 6 last year) about how Chinese Naval capacities are now advanced enough to make a mockery of American military exercises. China also holds a huge amount of US debt (almost $1 trillion), and is engaging of active co-ordination of East Asian currencies so as to form a bloc. The Chang Mai Initiative and the Asian Bond initiative -- a sort of Asian IMF-- have been accompanied by a remarkable stability over the past months in the exchange rates of all East Asian countries except Taiwan and Japan.

Previously, when China has threatened Taiwan, America has sent some press-friendly battle group like that led by the USS Enterprise to the Taiwan Straits and the situation has calmed. What if it ever flared? The truth is that no one really knows. Taiwanese business interests in China are now extensive. Vital parts of the European airbus aircraft are being built by Taiwanese firms in China. Taiwan has also reached out to allies of the USA like the new region 'state' of Kosovo and has argued for a 'one country three systems' approach. China is historically friendly with Serbia.

The day may come, however, when Taiwan rushes to independence. Then the new, high-technology forces of the People's Republic will simply overwhelm the island, and many businesses will just leave. The number of short-term leases in Taiwan, for instance--not a wholly glib figure--is apparently narrowing by the day as long-term agreements are dumped. Business in the Strait is very diversified.

The only people who will be defeated in any confrontation in the Straits of Taiwan are those who think that the best way to defend sovereignty, liberty and democracy is to pour the acid of war upon it. If the West in its present condition confronts China, we face not a Cuban Missile Crisis but a financial and diplomatic Tsushima.

Is Taiwan the place where the USA, a country that I have loved in my life, is to be humbled? It would take some doing. The Seventh Fleet is currently in the Pacific with around 60 ships under Admiral Crowder. Any collapse would have to be diplomatic, financial, or political.

Here's Teresa Teng singing an 'ode to China' in Taipei. I make no pretence to know what the words say; I simply feel like an alien from a distant world in Rick's Bar in Casablanca in 1941. I can sense the song foreshadows something, but quite what I can not know. She had a lovely voice, may she rest in peace.

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