President Joe Biden’s recent statement that the United States would intervene militarily if China tried to take Taiwan by force was not a blunder. The American policy of strategic ambiguity has outlived its usefulness.
Since President Richard Nixon went to China and put the two nations on the path to normalized diplomatic and trade relations, the United States has recognized a China. He has opposed Beijing regaining control of Taiwan by force, but has been ambiguous about whether it would intervene militarily if China invaded.
Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the United States provided Taiwan with defensive weapons, but retaining a firm guarantee that America would rush to its defense had two purposes.
First, it avoided directly antagonizing Beijing to cross the strait or take broader aggressive actions in the South and Western Pacific. Second, it discouraged Taiwan from provoking a confrontation, for example, how to declare its independence.
All of this is becoming increasingly debatable.
In response to a 2019 controversy over a sculpture at the London School of Economics depicting Taiwan as part of China, President Tsai Ing-wen claimed that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent state. In the absence of renting the Independence Hall and sending a letter to President Xi Jinping, this is as clear as it looks.
China has hardly been limited in its military buildup, efforts to intimidate Taiwan and its Pacific neighbors, or preparations for an invasion if it is willing to do so.
For the United States, securing our Pacific allies is as much a matter of credibility as it is of deploying the right kind of forces in sufficient numbers.
America, by ceding control of the Black Sea and Ukrainian ports, allows Russia to suffocate with the global supplier of wheat, oilseeds and perhaps other key agricultural commodities. Moscow has the ability to create scarcity in the developing world and bring food prices to levels of punishment.
In the long run, Western sanctions will stifle the development of the Russian economy, but Moscow’s sanctions on the supply of wheat and oilseeds are having quite immediate effects.
The allies of the United States and NATO have been restricted in the weapons supplied to Ukraine, because they have been unnecessarily intimidated by the prospect of President Vladimir Putin resorting to chemical or nuclear weapons.
The United States is holding back
This policy forces Kyiv to drive away a superior army in number and equipment in absurd conditions. Russians can bomb Ukrainian cities and civilians at will, but Ukrainian forces are not allowed to attack targets inside Russia so they do not lose access to U.S. and other NATO weapons and financial aid.
Biden has made it clear that the United States will not engage American forces unless they are attacked.
Taiwan supplies the world with 92% of the advanced semiconductors in the global supply chain. Consequently, a Chinese invasion or even a blockade would bring Western economies to their knees in a matter of months.
Taiwan’s defense spending has fallen from 5.2% to 2% of GDP since 1990, too many of the weapons it has bought will not be useful in an invasion and its reserves are not in the state of readiness. Ukrainian army has shown. to be.
U.S. policymakers insist on seeing the struggle with Russia in Ukraine or China in Taiwan in local terms, but in both places, the adversary enjoys the manifest advantages of proximity.
Let them kick their ass
The military literature indicates that the U.S. Navy and Air Force will face major challenges in supplying Taiwan now that China has modernized and expanded its forces.
To say Beijing unambiguously, cross the strait, and the United States will defend the island state is nonsense: American forces are probably kicking their asses.
Instead, tell Beijing, cross the strait and China is in a global war with the U.S. Navy and be prepared to sink Beijing’s dreams of glory into the Pacific in a week. President Barack Obama’s Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy has proposed plans designed for this capability, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has been unable to offer a credible strategy.
Even the most appropriate statement of policy and realignment of American forces sounds empty when in Europe, where the United States enjoys superiority, it refuses to even allow its replacement to lead the fight to the Russians.
In addition to prudent investments in U.S. Pacific forces, Biden can avoid a miscalculation in Beijing over U.S. determination now facing Russia.
This should start with the United States, through NATO or another coalition of willing nations, providing naval escorts for Ukrainian exports to break the Russian blockade. And provide Kyiv with offensive weapons to establish parity with the Moscow army or overcome the Moscow army and attack targets within Russia at will.
This would send a rather unequivocal message to Beijing.
Peter Morici is a economist and Professor Emeritus of Business at the University of Maryland, and national columnist.
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