The article by Jared McKinney and Peter Harris in Parameters—a quarterly magazine of the U.S. Army War College—entitled “Broken Nest: Deterring China from Invading Taiwan” has reignited discussions about the importance of Taiwan to America’s strategic security against China.
The authors’ thesis is that “The United States and Taiwan should lay plans for a targeted scorched-earth strategy that would render Taiwan not just unattractive if ever seized by force, but positively costly to maintain.” Their article has been the most downloaded paper of 2021 at the U.S. Army War College.
McKinney and Harris get it right that it is a security risk to America to have American companies designing the world’s smallest and fastest chips, but no company in the country making them. They are made only by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company—which produces just over half of the world’s custom chips and about 90% of the world’s advanced processors—and Samsung Electronics.
In a previous article I warned that although the Biden administration would like to resume Obama’s extreme trade complacency with China, large American technology corporations were beginning to wake up to the fact that China was not a harmless factory with cheap labor and few environmental regulations for offshoring low-cost American production. Chinese companies had become formidable competitors thanks to forced technology transfers to which these entrepreneurs had attached little importance. Technology theft was an obvious target of the Chinese government and the patriotic Chinese “private” corporations, its active accomplice and beneficiary.
I anticipated that the nightmare of imagining Taiwan’s strategic semiconductor industry under Beijing’s control would push Silicon Valey to pressure Washington to do what was necessary to prevent it. China failed to develop its own semiconductor industry and is as critically dependent on Taiwan as the U.S., which also does not manufacture them. But what they are not properly assessing at McKinney and Harris is that upon coming to power, Xi Jinping referred to Taiwan.
“Looking further ahead, the issue of political disagreements that exist between the two sides must reach a final resolution, step by step, and these issues cannot be passed on from generation to generation,” he said of this in October 2013.
Michael Turton, a columnist for the Taipei Times responds to McKinney and Harris that dependency does not stop but drives an imperial power to conquer, clarifying that Xi’s China “wants Taiwan because, like Nazi Germany, it is an expansionist power driven by racist ideologies and racist history.”
Let us not forget that the first thing the Chinese Communist Party copied and adapted to its own needs when it adopted limited “capitalist” solutions to avoid a collapse like that of the USSR without compromising its totalitarian control, was the other great totalitarianism of the 20th century: German National Socialism. Taiwan is a triple challenge for Beijing because:
It is a successful democracy with a market economy and a much more prosperous population than mainland China, in a country with an almost exclusively Chinese population. It debunks the myth of the “cultural” need for authoritarian control as the only path to Chinese order and prosperity.
Beijing does not recognize Taiwan’s independence and considers it a rebellious province supported by foreign forces. To rise to the heights of the ancestral imperial historical myth it invokes, Xi needs to subdue this rebellious province.
Taiwan is indispensable in the arcs of containment to China that articulate U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific vis-à-vis Beijing.
Geography continues to determine geopolitics and Taiwan is at the point where the South and East China Seas meet, where it protects Japan’s southern flank. That is why Washington cannot surrender Taiwan to Beijing, either whole or in ruins. The United States needs to defend Taiwan from Beijing in order not to lose a strategic hegemony in the Indo-Pacific on which its own geostrategic security depends.