Just as the the United States and its allies created an existential threat to Russia through the transformation of Ukraine into a highly militarized proxy of Western military power – so too is such a threat being deliberately and systematically created on the island of Taiwan vis-a-vis Beijing.
From 2014 onward, the United State had installed into power regimes in both Ukraine and Taiwan disrupting the status quo both territories had with Russia and China respectively.
While much attention in 2014 was focused on Nazi militants seizing power in Kiev, the US-sponsored “Sunflower movement” likewise paved the way for a US-backed political order to take power in Teipei.
Since then, the US has poured additional billions of dollars into interfering and overwriting the political structures of both Ukraine and Taiwan as well as pouring in billions in weapons. In addition to this, both Ukraine and Taiwan have hosted US forces to train the military in both territories.
While US military training in Ukraine was done more or less openly, US forces placed in Taiwan, a territory the US acknowledges is Chinese or acknowledges is perceived as being Chinese by Beijing, was done relatively quietly.
By the end of 2021 however, Voice of America in an article titled, “US Nearly Doubled Military Personnel Stationed in Taiwan This Year,” would admit:
The United States has doubled its unofficial military presence in Taiwan over the past year in what specialists describe as the latest signal to China that Taiwan’s future remains a priority.
The increase from 20 personnel to 39 between December 31 and September 30 came with little fanfare, but it did coincide with a rare public acknowledgement by President Tsai Ing-wen in October that the US military maintains a small presence in Taiwan.
Active-duty deployments now include 29 Marines as well as two service members from the Army, three from the Navy and five from the Air Force, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Manpower Data Center.
The United States, like virtually all other nations on Earth, recognizes Beijing’s “One China Policy.” The US State Department’s own official website under a statement titled, “US Relations With Taiwan,” explains:
The United States and Taiwan enjoy a robust unofficial relationship. The 1979 US-PRC Joint Communique switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. In the Joint Communique, the United States recognized the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.
Illustrating that the United States does not recognize Taiwan as any sort of nation, the US maintains no embassy on the island and instead maintains unofficial relations with the administration there through what is called the “American Institute in Taiwan” (AIT).
The US State Department also claims:
The United States does not support Taiwan independence.
The United States insists on the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences, opposes unilateral changes to the status quo by either side, and encourages both sides to continue their constructive dialogue on the basis of dignity and respect.
Despite these claims and the US government being fully aware of how sensitive Taiwan is to Beijing, it is deliberately provoking a crisis between the Chinese mainland and its island territory of Taiwan. While the US does not officially promote Taiwan “independence,” it is creating the conditions through which it will be pursued.
Another Deliberate Provocation
Just as the US did regarding Ukraine, crossing over red lines the US and its allies had for decades recognized and were fully aware of, the US is once again planning to fully cross Beijing’s red lines over Taiwan. The US will do so, knowing it will precipitate yet another deadly conflict, but is utterly confident in its ability to manipulate public perception so that if and when China reacts, Beijing will be depicted in a similar or worse light as Russia is now regarding Ukraine.
Toward this end, the number and variety of weapons the US is sending to Taiwan not only pose a direct threat to China’s national security, but fit into a wider strategy of military encirclement threatening Chinese territory created by the US throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
Bloomberg in mid-2021 in its article, “First Taiwan Arms Sale in Biden Administration Is Approved,” would note:
The Biden administration has approved its first arms sale to the island democracy of Taiwan, a potential $750 million deal, amid rising tensions with China.
It calls for selling Taiwan 40 new M109 self-propelled howitzers and almost 1,700 kits to convert projectiles into more precise GPS-guided munitions, according to a State Department notification to Congress on Wednesday.
The article would also remind readers of other relatively recent US arms sales to Taiwan:
The new package follows high-profile sales to Taiwan approved in the last year of the Trump administration, including 66 new model F-16 Block 70 aircraft from Lockheed Martin Corp. and a potential $2.4 billion sale of Boeing Co. Harpoon antiship missiles for coastal defense.
Another package late in the Trump administration includes 135 SLAM-extended-range land attack missiles from Boeing valued at $1 billion if the entire sale goes through, $436 million for Himars mobile artillery rocket systems made by Lockheed and $367 million in surveillance and reconnaissance sensors from Raytheon Technologies Corp. to be mounted on aircraft. Since 2010, the US has announced more than $23 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.
More recently, Reuters in its 2022 article, “US approves $100 million sale for Taiwan missile upgrades,” would report:
The United States has approved a possible $100 million sale of equipment and services to Taiwan to “sustain, maintain, and improve” its Patriot missile defense system, the Pentagon said on Monday, drawing an angry threat of retaliation from Beijing.
While these arms sales are presented as “defensive,” they are part of Washington’s wider militarization of the region and, more specifically, the military encirclement of China itself.
US State Department-funded outlet Radio Free Asia (RFA) in a 2021 article titled, “US Indo-Pacific Command Proposes New Missile Capabilities to Deter China,” would admit:
The US military has advised the US Congress that it needs new precision-strike, air missile defense, and other capabilities to counter China in the Indo-Pacific, a sign of deepening military competition between the two rival nations.
The article would go on to explain:
The assessment calls for “the fielding of an Integrated Joint Force with precision-strike networks” along the so-called first island chain — referring to missile strike capabilities — and integrated air missile defense in the second island chain, USNI News reported. The document also calls for “a distributed force posture that provides the ability to preserve stability, and if needed, dispense and sustain combat operations for extended periods.”
The first island chain is a term used to describe land features in the western Pacific stretching from Japan, to Taiwan, and through states lining the South China Sea like the Philippines and Indonesia. The second island chain extends further to the east, starting in Japan and running through Guam.
Thus, US arms sales to Taiwan have nothing to do with Taiwan’s actual defense. If Beijing desired to reunify Taiwan by force, there would be nothing Taiwan could do to prevent it militarily. However, Taiwan as part of a larger US-controlled integrated precision-strike network is an open admission by Washington about not only its desire to threaten Chinese territory with an immediate positioning of offensive weapons across the region, but an all but open admission to use Taiwan as part of these preparations.
While the US officially recognizes the “One China Policy” and denies officially that it supports Taiwan “independence,” its continued militarization of Taiwan is all but a declaration otherwise.
Compounding the seriousness of this immediate threat to Chinese national security created by the US through its arming of and political control over Taiwan, is the political, economic, and even covert military campaign by the US to attack and rollback China’s Belt and Road Initiative, leaving Chinese trade highly dependent on maritime routes America’s military encirclement of China in the Indo-Pacific could threaten and potentially cut off.
US policy papers like a 2016 RAND Corporation paper titled, “War with China,” would lay out how a conventional military conflict focused on disrupting Chinese shipping including through a maritime blockade is one of America’s few options in preventing China’s surpassing the US economically and in turn, militarily and politically. The 2016 paper noted that the window of opportunity to do so closed in 2025. It may be closing even sooner than that – which helps explain increasingly provocative moves by Washington regarding Taiwan.
The recent visit by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo to Taiwan helps illustrate the increasingly aggressive posture of US policy and the urgency with which Washington seeks to provoke Beijing.
Taiwan News in an article titled, “Pompeo urges US to help Taiwanese prepare to defend themselves now,” would actually cite the crisis in Ukraine, linking it to US relations with Taiwan, and how a similar process may play out.
The article claims:
Pompeo criticized the Biden administration for being “too late, too slow, too small at every turn” in regard to Ukraine’s defense. He described Biden’s apparent weakness and slowness to respond as “provocative.”
He then turned to Taiwan, reasserting his belief that the US ought to recognize Taiwan’s independence. “Everybody knows they have never been part of mainland China, communist China. They don’t want to be,” he added.
Pompeo argued the US must not make the same mistake of delaying support for Taiwan. “We ought to be doing the things that we failed to do last summer for the Ukrainian people.”
While many are content to tell themselves that Pompeo’s visit was “personal” and does not reflect US foreign policy, it is clear that Pompeo is testing the waters by announcing publicly a policy the US has obviously pursued for decades regarding Taiwan, spanning multiple presidencies, including those of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and now of Joe Biden.
The resolution of Ukraine’s crisis will greatly determine Washington’s next move regarding Taiwan. Washington may – at some point if it believes time is not on its side – act against China via Taiwan in the same way it did against Russia via Ukraine as the current crisis continues to play out. It is no secret that US planners in the Pentagon have maintained US military capabilities to manage multiple crises across the planet at one time. Though it may seem like an extreme proposition for Washington, the notion of China surpassing the West and the center of global power shifting indefinitely to the East is viewed by Washington as not only extreme, but unacceptable.
Analysts, policymakers, and ordinary people dismiss this threat at their own folly. While Washington wonders what it can do differently when it provokes Beijing over Taiwan, the rest of the world should be thinking about what they did wrong in preventing Washington from provoking Russia over Ukraine to prevent a repeat of this process in Asia.
Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.