A view of Taipei Photo: IC
There are increasing voices within the US calling on the country to change its “strategic ambiguity” toward the island of Taiwan. They believe, instead, Washington should be prepared to defend the island with force. Those who have called on such change said the Chinese mainland is becoming more capable and willing to realize reunification by force. They think the “strategic ambiguity” can no longer show the US’ determination and thus prevent Beijing from taking real action due to misjudgment based on this “ambiguity.”
The US has maintained a “strategic ambiguity” toward the island of Taiwan: It supports the island but declines to recognize “Taiwan secession;” it acknowledges there is only one China but it has also issued the so-called Taiwan Relations Act and has been maintaining closer unofficial relations with the island; it has kept providing the so-called protection to the island by selling weapons, but it refuses to compromise to interfere with military means when the island of Taiwan is under attack. The US “strategic ambiguity” has already become part of the status quo in the Taiwan Straits.
The Chinese mainland’s policies on the island of Taiwan have a clear goal of reunification as well as strategically ambiguous part. We advocate peaceful reunification but have never ruled out the possibility of using force. The Chinese mainland doesn’t have a specific timetable for the reunification. As for when force will be used, the Anti-Secession Law has determined three basic conditions. The verdict to confirm the three conditions are not only a legal issue, it also means a political determination of the Chinese mainland.
The island of Taiwan also has its strategic ambiguity. It has superficially maintained the laws and traditions of the “Republic of China,” but the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities are seeking “Taiwan independence.” The DPP has been engaging in salami-slicing tactics and has tried to gradually mix the concepts of “sovereign independence” and “keeping status quo” into one.
The cross-Straits peace has been impacted by two factors in recent years. For one, the DPP authorities have abandoned the 1992 Consensus based on the one-China principle and try to reshape the status quo. The US has profoundly changed its China policy and become inclined to support the DPP’s risky path in a bid to balance the Chinese mainland. The external environment of the cross-Straits situation has thus been changed.
To counter the destructive actions of the US and the DPP authorities, the Chinese mainland has enhanced its efforts to show its military presence in the region. This is, in the first place, a rectification of the unbalanced situation in the Taiwan Straits – it is a strategic rebalancing. The People’s Liberation Army’s preparedness is not the source of cross-Straits tensions, which are caused by political factors. Taiwan authorities are seeking secession while the US has infringed the one-China principle – this is the root cause.
Peace in the Taiwan Straits is fragile. If the US takes the initiative to turn its “strategic ambiguity” into a clear commitment to Taiwan, the pattern of strategic ambiguity in the entire Taiwan Straits will fall apart. The Taiwan authorities, once they get the US security commitment, would seek “Taiwan independence” relentlessly. The Chinese mainland will see no possibility of a peaceful reunification and will have to be fully prepared for a war.
It is worth pointing out that among the three means to completely solve the Taiwan question – Taiwan seeks “independence,” the US “protects” Taiwan with military means, and the mainland uses force, the mainland is the most determined. For one, the Taiwan question is a dilemma the US and the Taiwan authorities have imposed on the Chinese mainland and that has consumed much of its resources. The mainland would rather take the pain earlier. For another, the military mobilization ability of the mainland far exceeds that of Taiwan and the US in the Taiwan Straits and surrounding waters. The mainland has the upper hand in terms of wills and ability.
We would like to tell Washington not to make changes when it lacks resolve and ability. The US’ clear commitment to Taiwan will not scare the Chinese government and people, but will only prompt them to make a resolute decision to eradicate Taiwan secessionist forces. We don’t want to be engaged in a war, but we don’t fear a war, especially a just war that safeguards our sovereignty and territorial integrity. The US miscalculated China 70 years ago, and hopefully it will not repeat the same mistake.
The Chinese mainland will not bear Taiwan authorities to seek “independence” with salami-slicing tactics and to coordinate with the US’ China containment strategy. If the island of Taiwan and the US persist, the DPP authorities will be wiped out sooner or later. No matter whether the US adopts “strategic ambiguity” or “strategic clarity,” the Chinese mainland will shake off the burden of Taiwan at all costs.
If the US adopts a clear commitment to the island of Taiwan and leads to a sudden change in the cross-Straits situation and makes the Chinese mainland determined to settle the Taiwan question, Washington will then face a dilemma. It will either have to make some symbolic noise and accept the reality of being ashamed in front of its allies, or it will have to launch a highly risky large-scale war with China – if so, the US should start evaluating the price it will pay for that right away. They must be aware that the Taiwan question is the core interest of China, and we will never step back on it.