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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 28-Jun-2021
28-Jun-21 World View -- Japan's plans for defending Taiwan from an attack by China

Web Log - June, 2021

28-Jun-21 World View -- Japan's plans for defending Taiwan from an attack by China

China's Dong Jingwei defects to the United States

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Japan's relations with Taiwan

Japan's Self-Defense Forces (KYODO)
Japan's Self-Defense Forces (KYODO)

When we discuss China's planned invasion of Taiwan, we generally (tacitly) assume that the US will be Taiwan's only foreign defender. While it's not clear how South Korea, Vietnam, Australia or India might react to China's invasion of Taiwan, Japan has been discussing how it would react, in increasingly explicit terms.

Taiwan was a colony of Japan, thanks to the Treaty of Shimonoseki, signed by Japan and China on April 17, 1895, after Japan's victory in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-95. China ceded Taiwan to Japan as a result of that treaty, and Japan controlled Taiwan until Japan was defeated in 1945. Japan's colonization of Taiwan was harsh, but there were numerous economic benefits to Taiwan, and improvement in living standards. When Japan declared war on China in 1937, Taiwan was an ally of Japan against their common enemy, China.

After WW II, Taiwan and Japan had cordial relations, but there was little talk of joint security and defense planning, since Japan had adopted its "Pacifist Constitution," which made it illegal for Japan to deploy armed forces for any reason other than to defend an attack on Japanese soil.

Defending Taiwan as 'collective self-defense'

Finally in 2015, Japan reinterpreted the constitution to permit "collective self-defense," which would permit Japanese military forces to deploy armed forces for an attack on an ally, such as the United States. (See "5-May-14 World View -- Japan debates 'collective self-defense' to protect America and Japan" for a detailed explanation of what was adopted in 2015.)

So a commitment to defend Taiwan from an invasion by China is not a simple thing as it would be in other countries, especially since the pacifist constitution is very popular among the Japanese people, who are still trying to figure out why they acted as they did in WW II. But the increasily belligerent threats from China are forcing the Japanese to look for a solution.

So with that reinterpretation of the Constitution, Japanese government officials are considering two possible paths by which they could militarily support the United States after a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Is Taiwan a 'nation'?

In a debate on Covid-19 in parliament earlier this month, Japan's prime minister Yoshihide Suga referred to Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan and said, "These three countries have been imposing strong restrictions on privacy rights" to curb the virus outbreak.

It's not known whether this was a slip or was intentional, but it drew the usual hysterical complaint from China's Foreign Ministry: "China expresses strong dissatisfaction with Japan's erroneous remarks and has lodged a solemn protest against Japan."

China claims Taiwan as a province of China, and has repeatedly said that they will invade Taiwan at a time of their choosing to force Taiwan to be part of China. As a result, both the United States and Japan have adopted a policy of "strategic ambiguity," in order to encourage both China and Taiwan to continue thinking that the issue can be resolved in time peacefully (which, of course, it cannot). In particular, the US has not committed to defending Taiwan, but is providing weapons to Taiwan for its own self-defense.

For decades, this strategic ambiguity has been debated in Washington and Tokyo. But now, with the growing military might of China and its growing belligerence, there is pressure on both the US and Japan to abandon strategic ambiguity and commit to defending Taiwan in case of attack.

These discussions are in process, and it's possible that something will be decided within a few months, or not.

China's plan for invading Taiwan

According to an analysis by Ian Easton, senior director at the Project 2049 Institute, China is preparing for an all-out invasion within five to ten years.

He says that Beijing’s optimistic version of events goes something like this:

Easton says that Taiwan has been preparing for just such an attack by fortifying defenses around key landing points and conducting drills to repel Chinese forces.

Japan provides vaccines to Taiwan

China has blocked Taiwan from getting doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine was co-developed by the German company BioNTech. Taiwan was negotiating with Pfizer to get the vaccine, but China was able to delay the deal indefinitely by pressuring BioNTech and the German government. The Chinese claim that they had offered to sell their vaccine to Taiwan, but Taiwanese law bans Chinese-made medical products, including vaccines.

So earlier this month, Japan delivered 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Japan. The Japanese foreign ministry said that that Japan was responding to a Taiwanese request, and that the donation reflects “Japan’s important partnership and friendship with Taiwan.”

On Friday, Japan it would send 2 million additional doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan and Vietnam, and arrangements were being made to send 1 million doses each to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In addition, the United States recently shipped 2.5 million vaccine does to Taiwan. Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted, “The Taiwan-U.S. relationship is rock solid, & we’ll keep cooperating closely in combating COVID19. Forces for good will prevail!”

Instability of the Chinese Communist Party

Analysts who talk about a Chinese invasion of Taiwan usually provide a time frame of five to ten years. That's pretty much what they have to say, isn't it.

But any such timeline assumes that the Chinese Communists are pursuing rational policies. As I've written in the past, crisis wars begin with a chaotic unexpected event. WW I began because a 12-year-old decided to shoot an Archduke in 1914. WW II began because a Japanese soldier had to pee and got lost in the woods in 1937. Those wars were a complete surprise, even to the belligerents. That's how WW III will begin. It will be totally irrational and unexpected, and it could happen any day.

A lot depends on the stability of the CCP government, and I've argued in the past that any dictatorship is fatally flawed and unstable, especially as compared to the US Constitutional government, with its federal system of checks and balances. The problem is that when a dictator does something really stupid, there's no one there to stop him, and anyone who tries is executed. This was true, for example, of Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward (1958-59), which was possibly the stupidest policy of any country in the history of the world, killing tens of millions of innocent people for no reason at all, destroying China's economy for decades.

So now we have Xi Jinping in that same position of dictator. If he appears weak, he'll be replaced. So he has to be strong, and if he makes a stupid decision, as Mao did, there will be no one to stop him, and the result will be disaster.

Xi reached the position of dictator by a brutal anticorruption campaign, begun in 2012, which targeted some two million officials in the Chinese Communist Party. This was popular with many Chinese, but alienated may elites.

China's Dong Jingwei defects to the United States

Xi Jinping is facing many problems. Domestic problems include income inequality, environmental threats, land grabs, food safety, Air pollution, water scarcity, and soil contamination. In addition, China’s aging population means that more retirees are supported by fewer young people.

Internationally, China is facing criticism about its brutal crackdown on the free press in Hong Kong, China's arrest and enslavement of millions of Uighurs, and illegal belligerent actions in the South China Sea. The Chinese Communists have made it abundantly clear that they don't care at all what others think of them, and what international laws they violate. What we're seeing is the millennia-old Chinese culture saying that the rest of the world are barbarians, and are to be treated as donkeys, with no purpose except to serve the Chinese Communists.

On top of all this, there have been reports that Xi Jinping and CCP officials have been shocked at the defection in February of Dong Jingwei and his daughter to the United States. Dong is China's Vice Minister of State Security in the Chinese Ministry of Defense. He is perhaps the highest-level Chinese defector the U.S. has ever had.

He is reported to be providing informtion about the identity of all the Chinese spies in the US, and methods used by the Chinese to infiltrate the US government, businesses and universities.

According to a report from Taiwan, this defection has triggered factional fights within the CCP leading to a period of unprecedented instability not seen since the Cultural Revolution.

The point of mentioning all this in an article on Japan's plans to defend Taiwan from Chinese invasion is that the invasion could occur at any time -- maybe in the 5-10 years as predicted by the analysts, but possibly much sooner than that with an overwhelmed dictator Xi Jinping in charge, and the possibiity that he'll order some military action in the Taiwan Strait to deflect from his personal or political problems.


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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Jun-2021) Permanent Link
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