Friday, January 21, 2005
What will the United States do if China invades the island nation of Taiwan and wipes out the pro-Western democracy there? That question no doubt hung over meetings in Washington this month between U.S. officials and the director of China’s "Taiwan Affairs Office."
If China attacks Taiwan, will the United States go to war with the most populous nation on Earth, as our treaty obligations seem to require? Will it satisfy the American conscience with a tongue-lashing? It would be a good idea for the Bush administration and Congress to take steps now -- while there is still time -- to make sure that decision doesn’t have to be made.
China’s present leaders are not known for their adherence to the rule of law, but they have been working on that of late. Guided by the Chinese Communist Party, the National People’s Congress is preparing something called an "anti-secession" law. Its text won’t be known for a month or so, but its intent is clear: to give the Chinese military a legal-sounding excuse to invade Taiwan, which it has claimed as its own territory ever since a government was established there in 1949. For the past 15 years, that government has been a vigorous democracy.
In preparation for an attack, the Beijing government has whipped its population into a frenzy of sanctimonious indignation over Taiwan’s alleged treasonous claim of sovereignty. They say that the United States should butt out, that this is an internal matter for Chinese to decide.
We don’t know what U.S. officials told the visiting Chinese envoy the other day, but we do know what they and members of Congress should be saying.
First, they should not be threatening all-out war. That’s not credible. President Bush has enmeshed the country in a tragic, counterproductive and apparently endless war in Iraq. This is no time to be proposing any new military adventures. The dictators in Beijing are well aware of the timing.
But if Beijing wants new laws about Taiwan, how about this? How about a U.S. law that would immediately end every scrap of U.S. trade with China in the event of a Chinese aggression? If someone in the U.S. Congress were to propose such a law, then representatives of American business and industry would presumably start warning their suppliers in China that, contrary to what their government is telling them, Taiwan is not a purely internal matter after all.
Tell the Chinese that if they want Taiwan, they may well get it. But if they do, then no more plastic junk for the United States. No more being a subsidiary of Wal-Mart. Let them find another country with which they can run a $17 billion monthly trade surplus.