The World Today for October 19, 2021


Of Flyovers and Squid


Chinese President Xi Jinping recently called for the peaceful unification of his country with Taiwan, a country that China has viewed as a breakaway province since nationalist forces lost a civil war to the communists and fled to the island in 1949.

“Compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should stand on the right side of history and join hands to achieve China’s complete unification,” said Xi, according to the Washington Post. “The historic mission of achieving the complete unification of our country must be realized, and can be realized.”

Yet Xi spoke after China conducted one of its largest military drills near Taiwan, an American ally. Those and other maneuvers – China has flown more than 150 warplanes into Taiwan’s defense identification zone in one week earlier this month – have led some to fear that China is preparing for an imminent invasion of the island. “To us, it’s only a matter of time, not a matter of if,” said US Rear Admiral Michael Studeman, according to the New York Times.

Studeman is not fearmongering. China has been pursuing a significant military buildup in recent years, raising concerns that Xi could believe his new military might defeat the US and others in the region opposing a takeover of Taiwan, Politico wrote. Taiwanese officials believe China will be capable of mounting an invasion in four years, added Reuters.

Russia recently announced that it recognized Taiwan as a part of China, too, Newsweek reported, showing how Xi has been lining up diplomatic support for potential military action.

Then there are the Chinese squid boats: Hundreds in recent months have appeared near Matsu, a chain of Taiwanese islands near China’s coast – emitting an “eerie, fluorescent glow” of green across the sky, to attract squid but making locals feel uneasy, the Post wrote in a separate article. “I felt like the whole island was under siege,” Chang Liang-Wei, 58, a fisherman from Matsu’s Beigan island, told the newspaper, of first seeing the lights.

Meanwhile, Xi has also been cracking down on Hong Kong, a former British colony where pro-democracy activists say China has not lived up to the “one country, two systems” policy that was supposed to ensure Western-style civil rights in the city while eschewing them on mainland China.

A democracy with its own elected government, Taiwan has long rejected the thought of merging with communist China – an affront to the autocrats who control China’s central government.

The US has cautioned Xi and others not to put too much pressure on Taiwan lest they precipitate a conflict between the globe’s two biggest powers, Voice of America explained.

But some Americans such as retired US Marine Colonel Grant Newsham, a researcher at the Tokyo-based Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, have called on American officials to make clear they will use nuclear weapons to defend Taiwan, according to Stars and Stripes.

The US and Soviet Union managed to avoid that catastrophic fate in the 20th century. The hope is, the world can repeat that success.

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