The Chinese Communist government gave a nice, warm welcome to the new U.S. administration by threatening war with Taiwan if they declared their independence.
Taiwan is not planning on declaring independence in the near future, so China’s warning is not directed at Taipei but at Grandpa Joe in the White House. China is pushing back — hard — at American efforts to stymie Beijing’s hegemonistic designs in Asia and is putting Biden on notice that the American presence is not welcome in their neighborhood.
It’s unusual for the usually polite and restrained Chinese government to threaten war in any case.
Reuters reported that Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian was holding his monthly press conference when the subject turned to regional tensions.
Taipei accused Beijing of flying a dozen military jets in its airspace on Sunday in an act of intimidation. U.S. observers said China was intent on testing President Joe Biden, who had been sworn in just days before.
Wu said the “military activities” in the Taiwan Straits “are necessary actions to address the current security situation” there and then he warned, “Those who play with fire will burn themselves, and ‘Taiwan independence’ means war.
China is almost finished completely subjugating Hong Kong and it’s widely expected in the diplomatic and military communities in the Far East that it’s Taiwan’s turn next. President Xi appears to feel confident enough in China’s conventional forces that he could eventually take Taiwan even if America were to intervene on the island’s behalf.
At least the Biden administration is going into the coming conflict with its eyes open.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a confirmation hearing Tuesday there is “no doubt” China poses the greatest threat of any nation to the U.S. and the Trump administration was right to take a tougher stance against the Asian power.
“President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China,” said Blinken, who served as then-Vice President Biden’s national security advisor before being elevated to deputy secretary of state under Barack Obama. “Not the way he went about it in a number of ways, but the basic principle was right.”
In truth, the tariff war with China damaged both sides about equally. Trump never did get many concessions from the Chinese Communists on trade and the Chinese failed to discourage America from taking an active interest in the western Pacific.
This coming decade will be a dangerous one as China will probably supplant the United States as the world’s number one economic superpower by mid-decade. Worse, the Chinese believe the 21st century will be their century — not America’s. This has emboldened them to begin to take chances on the world stage they never would have done before.
The danger of miscalculation or error is growing and a major confrontation between the U.S. and China becomes more likely. But it’s not inevitable. Intelligent leadership can guide both nations through this transition. That’s a lot to ask for, but it’s necessary in order to avoid the unthinkable.