The UK must respect sovereignty when it comes to Taiwan
Updated 20:54, 11-Jul-2022
Keith Lamb
The sky view of Taipei City in China's Taiwan region. /CFP

The sky view of Taipei City in China's Taiwan region. /CFP

Editor's note: Keith Lamb is a University of Oxford graduate with a Master of Science in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research interests are China's international relations and "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The UK was recently urged, by Congressman Steve Chabot to provide help to China's Taiwan region amid "a growing threat of Chinese invasion." Chabot is the co-sponsor of legislation calling to streamline arms sales to Taiwan region amid supply chain issues, because of the pandemic and demand for weapons due to the Ukraine conflict. Britain's Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace said that Britain's arming of Taiwan is an issue of debate.

Considering ex-serviceman Wallace has been reported as "among the favorites" to replace British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, let us hope that his insight into military affairs gives him the foresight not to follow his colleague Liz Truss, who believes the West should learn from its "mistakes" in Ukraine and sell more weapons to Taiwan, early on, to prevent conflict.

This advice is flawed since it misrepresents facts on the ground. The West was supporting Ukraine early on going so far as to train neo-Nazi militias, which were brought into Ukraine's official army. Secondly, this threat of NATO expansion has led to Russia's security dilemma, which expanded the conflict. Britain should maintain world peace and not repeat this mistake.

And unlike Ukraine, Taiwan is not an independent country. It is legally recognized by the UK and the U.S., under the One-China principle, as an inalienable part of China.

For Beijing, unification represents the pushing out of imperial powers from their territory, while for the U.S. this represents a challenge to its hegemony. 

China's rise and its vision of a future world order, based on joint development and the rise of the Global South, clashes with the U.S. imperial strategy of keeping the majority of the world's landmass in chaos. This strategy bolsters trans-oceanic power leading to the building up of the continental rim-lands, such as Taiwan, to face off against continental power. It also feeds the military-industrial war economy.

Considering, the amount of U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan, as well as its interference in the "democratic will" through Washington-funded NGOs, one could argue that Taiwan operates almost as a U.S. semi-colony where tax dollars in the region feed the U.S. war machine while their "democratic" space is colonized. Wanting to maintain this control in service of the above-mentioned strategy means the U.S. will do everything to prevent peaceful unification.

If a conflict does break out between the Chinese mainland and its Taiwan region, it will be the people in Taiwan who suffer the most as their army is insignificant compared to the Chinese mainland. This is why Washington is stepping up its sales of asymmetrical weapon systems to Taiwan. Furthermore, the U.S. wants to rope the UK into this game as it also develops such weapons.

State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference and announced on the same day that it approved the arm sale to Taiwan which worth $100 million at the State Department in Washington, D.C., February 7, 2022. /CFP

State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference and announced on the same day that it approved the arm sale to Taiwan which worth $100 million at the State Department in Washington, D.C., February 7, 2022. /CFP

The selling of assymetrical weapons, along with news that U.S. war simulations would lead to a U.S. defeat should it intervene in a conflict between Beijing and Taipei may suggest that the U.S. would, like Ukraine, refrain from entering the war directly but instead happily sit it out and profit from the chaos.

Nonetheless, reports of U.S. war games must be taken with caution as they may act as sophisticated propaganda hoping to embolden Beijing into conflict. Not that Beijing would willingly do so, but as weapons sales increase and various acts of U.S. Congress look to bring Taiwan into the U.S. informal liberal empire, through closer recognition of independence, Beijing just like Russia might feel its back is against the wall.

Over time, as Beijing's growing military strength increases, outside powers will be dissuaded from sovereign interference. More importantly, China's soft power emanating from its prosperity, its international development model that opposes the current warring hegemony, and China's cultural prestige will tip the balance toward peaceful unification.

With this in mind, regardless of the suffering to the people in Taiwan, perhaps the U.S. would like to sacrifice its Taiwan "pawn" on the geopolitical chessboard as soon as possible. By doing so, Washington could still profit from an early proxy war and block Chinese trade, which comes through sea lanes. In the coming decades, as China develops Eurasia through the Belt and Road, this "Taiwan sacrifice" will be less effective.

Instead of joining in on this madness, Britain, the former naval hegemon, with a history of gracefully withdrawing from China, could teach the U.S. a thing or two. Yet, this would require an independent foreign policy, and unfortunately, as shown by London's actions over the past couple of decades, it's also an island that needs to respect its own sovereignty and break away from semi-colonial control.

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