In this powerfully-argued piece on Black Agenda Report, Danny Haiphong exposes the US’s longstanding efforts to use Taiwanese separatism as a means of destabilising the People’s Republic of China. Danny connects this history to the present New Cold War being waged by the US and its allies, directed against not only China but against the entire Global South and the very idea of a multipolar future.
Mao Zedong often referred to U.S. imperialism as a paper tiger. This is truer today than it was in the mid-20th century when Mao frequently employed the phrase. No matter how bellicose the American empire becomes, its strength is more appearance than fact. Brutal violence and exploitation are thus signs of weakness, not legitimacy or credibility. The U.S.’s recent military maneuvers around the issue of Taiwan clearly signal a growth in the decay of the American Empire.
Taiwan has been a topic of conversation in the U.S. corporate media throughout the month of October. Headlines have circulated that claim China has escalated military tensions by flying military aircraft over Taiwan’s so-called Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The ADIZ was created by the United States after World War II and isn’t recognized by international law. In fact, Taiwan’s so-called ADIZ includes large portions of mainland China. This hasn’t stopped the U.S. media from beating the drums of war with China.
The U.S. Department of Defense under Joe Biden has affirmed its commitment to threatening war with China over Taiwan. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby has warned China that its so-called “pressure campaign” on Taiwan requires the United States to step up efforts to “protect” the island from “danger.” Just days after Kirby’s speech, U.S. and Canadian warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait in a show of joint military force not seen since the U.S. normalized relations with China in 1979. This blatant intensification of military aggression came just a week after reports surfaced that the U.S. had spent the last year secretly deploying special forces to Taiwan.
The American empire has a long history of using Taiwan to meddle in China’s affairs. After pouring heavy financial and military support into the Kuomintang’s (KMT) brutal war against the Communist-led revolution of 1949, the U.S. supported the KMT’s exile to Taiwan. The U.S. heavily militarized Taiwan and even threatened to use nuclear weapons in an attempt to undermine the Chinese revolution. More than two decades would pass before the U.S. cease the prevention of the People’s Republic of China to gain full recognition at the United Nations in place of the “Republic of China” government located in Taiwan. In 1972, the U.S. signed the Shanghai Communiqué —a document that stipulates U.S. recognition of Taiwan as part of China and clearly articulates that the U.S. will cease all attempts to military intervene in its affairs.
That Taiwan is part of China is not controversial outside of the parasitic lens of U.S. and Western imperialism. Taiwan has experienced centuries of colonial incursions. This includes a half-century of Japanese colonialism that ended only after Chinese resistance forces sacrificed more than fifteen million people to win historic victories against fascism in World War II. The return of Taiwan to China is thus an important victory for the anti-colonial movement. And it is this victory that the United States is currently working hard to reverse.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden have provided staunch support to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the separatist political party ruling in Taiwan. In 2019, Trump signed the TAIPEI Act into law which encourages the U.S. to facilitate deeper ties between international organizations and Taiwan’s separatist-led government. This blatant violation of the One-China policy has been followed up with billions worth in military arms deals to Taiwan. After Trump approved $1.8 billion in arms sales to Taiwan to end his administration, Biden signed off on $750 million more in military weapons transfers to Taiwan which included 40 M109A6 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer Systems. These maneuvers bolster the Western-oriented government in Taiwan led by President Tsai Ing-wen, a devout separatist who has openly called Taiwan “vibrantly democratic and Western.”
U.S. interference in China’s relations with Taiwan has made a profound impact on U.S. public opinion. More than half of Americans now support U.S. military intervention in Taiwan . Of course, the poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs added “if China invades” to the question for added anti-China effect. That the poll would promote the propaganda that China could invade its own province should come as no surprise. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is funded in large part by the Pritzker Foundation . The Pritzker family’s enormous wealth derives not only the from the Hyatt hotel but also from its deep connections to war profiteering and the CIA.
Taiwan is the clearest expression of the U.S.’s agenda to reassert neocolonialism in the Asia Pacific as a means to counter China’s rise. However, attempts to bully China over Taiwan have no legitimate end goal. China will not bow down to the claims that Taiwan is an “independent country” since no such thing is acknowledged by international law. The United States must think long and hard about escalating militarily with China. Despite an enormous shift of U.S. military resources to the Indo-Pacific Command, war strategists and profiteers alike would face heavy casualties in a direct conflict with China’s high-tech military armed with a nuclear deterrence.
Unlike the first Cold War, the American Empire is in precipitous decline. Economic immiseration is all the American Empire has to offer the vast majority of humanity. U.S. military policy only facilitates death, destruction, and displacement. U.S. domestic politics are mired in stagnation and lack the capacity to address any fundamental problem facing working class and oppressed people. The paper tiger of American Empire is being ripped apart by its own contradictions. Crisis is the only stable feature left remaining of the American Empire’s so-called dominance.
China does not possess such problems. China’s government has shown consistent respect for international law with regard to Taiwan. China’s stable, prospering socialist economy has eliminated extreme poverty and contained COVID-19. These achievements alone have gained China’s socialist model immense prestige both with the Chinese people and the people of the Global South. Still, the American Empire remains dangerous precisely because its desperation requires the escalation of a New Cold War that threatens to bring about a confrontation between two nuclear powers.
Taiwan is but one piece on a chessboard designed by the United States to undermine China and thus the world from charting a course of history free of imperialist domination. Anyone who calls themselves “the Left” would be foolish to follow the imperialist paper tiger into a trap of its own making with regard to Taiwan or any other feature of the U.S.’s New Cold War against China. Yet this is exactly what has happened. Most of the “left” has abdicated its responsibility to oppose U.S. imperialism and therefore shares responsibility with the right for the U.S.’s hostilities toward China. U.S. interference in China’s affairs regarding Taiwan should thus be seen as an opportunity to reverse this dangerous course and place the demand for the U.S. to respect international law at the forefront of the movement.