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By Jeff J. Brown
Pictured above: Peter Man’s excellent novel, “The Unconquered”, which I read and highly recommend.
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Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China, Jeff
Note before starting: this is the second article by Peter Man that has been published on China Rising Radio Sinoland,
What do you think about the trade war between China and America? By Peter Man.
I also reviewed the first version of his book, “The Unconquered”,
When and how will Mainland China reunify with Taiwan?
Disclaimer: This answer does not take any political stand between mainland China and Taiwan and does not advocate for war, peace, or status quo. Furthermore, it is entirely based on public information, reasonable logical deductions, and a bit of personal insight. The answer is not derived from any confidential information and is at best an educated guess. Many things could happen in the interim to change the outcome of this analysis.
In order for the readers to make their own judgment about the writer’s natural bias, which is inevitable, a short background bio is provided here. The writer was born in Hong Kong during British colonial rule. His parents were both staunch anti-communists. His father was an ex-communist who had written popular historical novels that excoriated the Chinese Communist Party. The writer was baptized at birth and had a mostly Westernized upbringing being educated by the Catholic Brothers at a boys-only English school (La Salle). The writer later went to university in Canada and became a Canadian citizen. Now fully half of his extended family in North America is non-ethnic Chinese or of mixed ethnicity. Despite his Westernized and Catholic upbringing, the writer has always been interested in Chinese history and Chinese literature. He can speak Cantonese and Mandarin, and can read and write Chinese both in the traditional and simplified forms. In his youth, the writer was a pioneer of Chinese language television in Canada, establishing the first national Chinese language television station in the country. His position as a licensed broadcaster required neutrality and balance, which was also necessary for bringing harmony to the Canadian Chinese communities served by the licensee’s programming service. The writer later lived in China for nearly two decades working in the broadcasting and digital media technologies industry, personally experiencing business and social life in China, and directly witnessing China’s meteoric rise. He has written a sci-fi adventure novel “The Unconquered” which spans across the entire history of China. His other Quora articles include “What is China?” and “Who is Sidney Rittenberg?” Visit author website at https://stone-man.weebly.com/ or contact him at Stoneman.email@example.com (Subject: Blog reader).
With the long introduction out of the way, I would like to outline the following observations:
- American actions in the west Pacific are not a Trump phenomenon. As early as 2009, Obama had already started this major strategic change known as Pivot to Asia. As with most American foreign policy, this has strong military undertone and may have originated from a combination of military, intelligence, and Washington think tanks stacked with China hawks. Since Trump himself is arguably a China hawk—his anti-China rhetoric of “China raped us” is not new—and he has been surrounded by China hawks such as Bannon, Bolton, Lighthizer, Navarro, and Pompeo, among others, the conflict between China and the US could only worsen, especially after the US Department of Defense and the White House in 2018 issued reports to Congress officially stating China as an adversary. Since the Democrats (probably with the exception of Dianne Feinstein) support the GOP and Trump in their attacks on China, and Biden now campaigns with the premise that Trump is too soft on China, we know that this anti-China position has much deeper roots. To assume that the US would not act on this position is to be delusional. Judging from American government’s behavior in the past several decades regarding international relations, America is the hammer and everyone else is a nail. American carriers passing through the South China Sea is a show of force for its allies, but China should expect serious challenges from America on the Taiwan issue. There is palpable pressure for China to resolve the Taiwan problem as soon as possible.
- China’s general position regarding the rest of the world has been mostly trying to maintain peace. China needs trade to improve its production capabilities, which are the main pillars of its economy since its “opening up” under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership. This has been changing for the last ten years when China began to slowly move up the value chain. Without peace, China’s development would be hampered. The US has very different concerns and prerogatives. The US for example can create the world reserve currency (USD) from thin air while the rest of the world must earn it in order to trade. This started in 1971 when the US went off the gold standard, basically defaulting on its Bretton Woods promise to pay international transactions in gold. The Petrodollar system that replaced the gold standard and America’s control of the international currency transaction system known as SWIFT give the US overwhelming advantages in international trade as well as dominating influence in the world economy. Consider which nation of the world other than the US can go into debt by scores of trillions and create trillions at a whim without suffering some negative consequences. This reserve currency advantage of the US no doubt contributes to the country’s GDP growth and an unrestrained budgetary expansion for the military. America’s usage of USD’s reserve currency status for unilateral sanctions has caused some countries to develop alternatives. China has probably been working out the scenarios of the US completely blocking China from SWIFT and USD transactions. With guaranteed energy supply from Russia and Iran, China is well placed to counter America’s threats of decoupling. China also has a huge foreign currency reserve of 3.4 trillion dollars, as well as controlling over 80% of the world’s supply of rare earth minerals needed for manufacturing of high end technology products, including military hardware.
- From day one, US-China relationship has never been one between peers. The US may create any amount of capital in the form of international reserve currency whenever needed; China cannot. Most if not all of the international trade rules are written by the US and her allies. The US owns all of the most advanced technologies, all of the mainstream media, and controls all the trade routes. The US has the world’s strongest military, her bases and soldiers are everywhere, her fighters and bombers patrol the skies, while her fleets sail the seven seas. America also has military alliances all over the world. China’s capabilities have been steadily improving over the years, but it is never close to where America is in terms of military prowess, power projection, and media influence. In the US, there has probably always been a palpable concern in the rise of China to become a near peer competitor of America. China is probably the only country in the world with that potential. Consider that China has always been barred by America and her allies from participating in international collaboration in the research and development of advanced technologies. For example, China has had to develop its own homegrown space program, its own satellite GPS system, and its own advanced military hardware because they are basically banned from collaborating with the West in these areas. China is also barred by the US from developing and manufacturing the most advanced microchips. When a Chinese company gains predominance in a particular sector that may challenge America’s power, the US government will certainly not allow that to happen. America’s attacks on Chinese companies so far are rather one-sided affairs. China has not retaliated because retaliation at this time would be counter-productive.
- All is however not well in America. Vitriolic politics has polarized the people, journalism is colored yellow, inequality is becoming more extreme, a large proportion of the population is in debt, sick, homeless, hungry, desperate, and angry, gun violence is skyrocketing in the cities, young people are taking to the streets for better or worse, people are arming themselves, while the legislators continue to feed the Military Industrial Complex and the financial institutes with unlimited budgets and trillion dollar bail-outs, and the White House is destroying the international order that depends on America for leadership. There is another election reality show in three months and people are preparing for chaos in case Trump loses. Trump cannot afford to lose because of the many lawsuits waiting for him when he steps down from the presidency. This election is an existential struggle for Trump. There may also be chaos if he wins. Maybe there will be an October surprise; maybe there will be funny business with the ballots; maybe the Supreme Court will have to decide on who’s the winner. Indeed, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The arrival of Covid-19 is an unpredictable external event that will probably tip the apple-cart over and change the world order for good. There is actually no big secret for how to stop the spread of the virus. But America will not implement it. China is a big country with four times the population of America, and they have been very successful in stopping the spread of the virus. Americans do not want to examine what China has done. When they do, they call China’s measures draconian or even tyrannical. America will therefore continue to be sick, die in large numbers, and ruin their economy. Creating trillions of dollars to prop up a crumbling house will have consequences this time. Consider that America enjoys the power of the USD because other countries support it by trading with it. China is in fact a big supporter of the USD by trading mostly with this currency, keeping over a trillion dollars as its foreign currency reserve. The Chinese RMB and Hong Kong dollar are also pegged to the USD. This is a trade-off for peace, so that China can develop into a country that provides a middle-class lifestyle (xiao-kang) to all of its population. Now that America is attacking China with the full court press and threatening China with a complete decoupling, watch for China to give up its support of the USD. This USD is increasingly becoming useless to China, as they cannot use it to purchase valuable assets in America, and they cannot invest in valuable businesses in America. Washington is also cooking up some schemes to make China pay for Covid-19 or some such nonsense.
- Taiwan is a big problem for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). According to the PRC, reunification is the only option. The answer to the first part of the question of whether mainland China and Taiwan will reunify is therefore a resounding “yes.” Now we’ll have to answer how and when. China (PRC) would prefer the reunification to be peaceful. It does not want bloodshed and it does not want to destroy its own properties in the process of taking possession. There is always the danger that a military takeover would spiral out of control. Neither does China want to drag this out forever. We should expect to witness reunification between mainland China and Taiwan during Xi’s tenure. He had said so or at least hinted of it himself. In 1992, the PRC and the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan—at that time under Kuomintang (KMT; i.e. Nationalist Party) rule—came to a consensus on the principle of one-China. This created the path forward for peaceful reunification. Unfortunately, Lee Teng Hui (1923-2020) who advocated for independence took power in KMT, causing a schism which weakened KMT. Today, ROC in Taiwan is completely run by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). KMT is a shadow of its glorious past and does not appear to have anyone with the ability to revive its political fortunes. Neither is there anyone in Taiwan with the political power, will, and courage to negotiate with the PRC for a peaceful reunification. One should not be delusional to hope that it is still a possibility. While the DPP is not declaring independence, they have revoked the 1992 consensus which effectively broke all official communications between PRC and ROC. The DPP government is removing the name China on the island and acting as if Taiwan is never going to be a part of China. Peaceful reunification is dead; long live peaceful reunification. The PRC is therefore left with only one option—reunification by military action. That is the answer for how; the only question left is when.
- In my opinion and based on evidence available to the general public, America is unwittingly creating a strategic opportunity for the mainland China-Taiwan reunification. My rationale is outlined as follows:
(i) Fallout from the West: Given that under normal circumstances, China would have to place strong consideration on the fallout from America following a reunification by military action, that consideration is now greatly reduced due to America’s full spectrum assault on China and the threat of total decoupling. At this time, China can ask itself what does it have to lose. China can thank Trump, Washington, the mainstream media, and the DPP for creating this situation. Some may say this could trigger the Third World War, but strategic thinkers such as Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015) even ten years ago said that the US and their allies would not get involved in a shooting war with China over Taiwan, just as what happened with Crimea. This position is widely held even among the US military, their allies, and their think tanks. They may sanction China but they are already doing it now. The strategic importance of Taiwan to America is insignificant, while it is everything to China. Taiwan is 80 miles from China’s east coast but 5,000 miles from Hawaii and 6,000 miles from the American west coast. Reunification is inevitable. People may want to ignore reality but reality will not ignore them
(ii) Concerns of Hong Kong: China had always supported Hong Kong’s development and wanted Hong Kong to be the vanguard of China’s own development. The success of Hong Kong SAR self-rule and Hong Kong’s reintegration with the mainland would also be a good example for solving the Taiwan problem. Unfortunately, foreign intervention poisoned the heretofore peaceful society of Hong Kong which turned some youngsters into violent extremists. Being myself a citizen of Hong Kong with family and friends living in the city, I have first-hand knowledge of the inveterate hatred towards all things China held by some Hong Kong people. They are visible in schools, among teachers, the media, the press, and even among government officials. Many of these people also receive salaries and funding from the Hong Kong government. While some Hong Kong people are truly concerned about their society and want to express their concerns in the form of peaceful protests, others have engaged in highly racist and violent acts. There are restaurants in Hong Kong with signs saying they do not serve Mandarin speakers (hint, mainland Chinese). Others have engaged in violent secessionist activities. For these people, no other narrative exists about China other than that China is evil. My mother has been a teacher all her life, which in Hong Kong is a government job, and I hear this kind of extreme anti-China vitriol from her every day. No wonder most of her students hold similar views, and now their children will do the same. For a long time, like about twenty-three years, China had been patient and waited for the Hong Kong government to establish the National Security Law according to the Basic Law of Hong Kong SAR. Unfortunately, foreign operatives accustomed to wreaking havoc at other countries with regime change forced China’s hand. After waiting a whole year for Hong Kong to quell the street violence and calm the political waters of the SAR on its own, but seeing a downward spiral instead, China had to step in. Again, by that time, China had nothing to lose except the covert CIA and MI6 operatives. Edward Snowden called the American Embassy in Hong Kong the home-base of CIA agents. As the nations of the West wag their righteous fingers at China and cut ties with Hong Kong, China (PRC) once again arrives at the situation whereas their reunification with Taiwan will not create too much concern of fallout from the West vis-a-vis Hong Kong SAR.
(iii) China vs. Taiwan military: Is the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) strong enough to cause the fall of the ROC government? I remember watching a video from perhaps ten years ago of Taiwanese author and politician Li Ao (1935-2018) pressing a minister of defense of Taiwan on how long ROC’s army could withstand a PLA attack. The answer was two weeks. The idea was that a knight in shining armor would come to the island’s rescue during the two weeks of unyielding defense. China’s PLA is ostensibly much stronger today with two operational carrier groups and hyper-sonic missiles. Although some analysts say that China should wait for at least three carrier groups to be operational, and some say that China should secure its trade routes across Central Asia, Pakistan, and Iran, which may take another ten years, before taking military action, other developments are pushing the schedule forward. Purely in terms of military abilities, there is no question that China is ready today. In a civil war such as this, one should not think only in terms of carriers and landing crafts or missiles and bombers. I do not want to speculate on tactical details, as I believe there are career soldiers and qualified tacticians who may have already laid out the plans. Why should China move its reunification schedule forward? If we remember the American full court press, China’s red line on Taiwan is in the process of being crossed. US Congress just approved sales of military equipment to Taiwan. China hawks are talking everyday about decoupling from China and recognizing Taiwan. They are forcing Taiwan’s top electronics and microchip manufacturers to establish production facilities in America and to stop supplying Chinese firms. The longer China waits, the higher likelihood that there will be more complications in the event of a reunification by military action. China’s hand is forced, and again, it has nothing to lose and it should act fast.
(iv) The optimum period: There have been of late quite a few articles surfacing on Asian news websites and videos posted on YouTube talking about the Taiwan reunification issue. Most of them are however sensationalist and talk about military action in August or September without strong reasons. Other pundits, especially from Taiwan, refuse to name a date because of the sensitivity of the subject. In my opinion, if China decides to make a move on Taiwan reunification, the most likely timing should be from the day of the presidential election on Nov. 3 until the end of the year. The issue should be settled swiftly, precisely, and with minimal casualties. Whether Trump wins or loses the election, America is expected to undergo some turmoil. This will be in addition to the Covid-19, the street protests, the economy, the gun violence, etc. And we’re only assuming it’s going to be all quiet on the other fronts. Look for China’s friends and allies to light up some low intensity fires at other parts of the world as diversion. There is major upside for China if they succeed in their reunification with Taiwan. Aside from Taiwan’s strategic location, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer Foxconn and the world’s most advanced microchip manufacturer TSMC will become Chinese companies. Coupled with the fact that China already makes everything else for the world, it may be very difficult for countries in the West to sanction China or wage trade/technology wars against Taiwan, TSMC, China without hurting themselves. China’s successful military action will also demonstrate to the world that the country will not be trifled with. This strategic message may make life a lot easier for Chinese companies doing business in other parts of the world. It may also be easier for China to maintain peace and develop its Belt and Road Initiative from a position of strength. Everything of course depends on successful execution.
Conclusion: This is the speculation of an individual made with the intention to provoke thought. Regardless of whether the analysis makes sense or not, it will certainly make no impact, as the world is a complicated place, and no one can predict the future. Even if this analysis turns out to be prophetic, it will still suffer the Cassandra syndrome because no one will believe it.
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Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History
JEFF J. BROWN, Editor, China Rising, and Senior Editor & China Correspondent, Dispatch from Beijing, The Greanville Post
Jeff J. Brown is a geopolitical analyst, journalist, lecturer and the author of The China Trilogy. It consists of 44 Days Backpacking in China – The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass (2013); Punto Press released China Rising – Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations (2016); and BIG Red Book on China (2020). As well, he published a textbook, Doctor WriteRead’s Treasure Trove to Great English (2015). Jeff is a Senior Editor & China Correspondent for The Greanville Post, where he keeps a column, Dispatch from Beijing and is a Global Opinion Leader at 21st Century. He also writes a column for The Saker, called the Moscow-Beijing Express. Jeff writes, interviews and podcasts on his own program, China Rising Radio Sinoland, which is also available on YouTube, Stitcher Radio, iTunes, Ivoox and RUvid. Guests have included Ramsey Clark, James Bradley, Moti Nissani, Godfree Roberts, Hiroyuki Hamada, The Saker and many others. [/su_spoiler]
Jeff can be reached at China Rising, firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, Twitter, Wechat (Jeff_Brown-44_Days) and Whatsapp: +86-13823544196.
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