Perhaps the only country not having a horrible 2020 might be Taiwan. Taiwan was one of the few countries to fight the spread of COVID-19 well, despite its proximity to Communist China. Later in the year, multiple US Navy vessels transited the Taiwan Straits, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that the US is “a good partner for security” for Taiwan.
Now, on the day that is celebrated as Taiwan’s Independence Day (10 October, or “Double 10” day), #TaiwanNationalDay is trending throughout India. Communist China tried to snuff it out in advance with a strongly worded “reminder” that there is only one China. Not long ago China and India were fighting each other along their mountainous border, so its no surprise that this “reminder” found its way to the press. The reaction by Indians is telling. Even better, the timing is great, with Secretary Pompeo meeting with top Indian officials at the end of the month to discuss how to deepen ties between India and the United States.
After taking Hong Kong, China showed the world it will weather any storm of protests to achieve its own goals. Anything short of hard military and economic power doesn’t work. People continue to protest the horrible maltreatment of Uighurs and development of South China Sea artificial islands, and yet nothing has changed. The only reason China hasn’t grabbed Taiwan is the risk it faces of US military action. To get over this, China has built a navy now larger than the US (at least in terms of number of ships) and modernized its ground and rocket forces.
Traditional thinking would condemn the US to build an even bigger military, and recently Defense Secretary Esper called for just that: a 500 ship Navy. That’s currently a pipe dream, because we can’t even man the Navy we have now. The Navy currently has roughly 350,000 Sailors; an increase to 500 ships would require gaining at least 200,000 more, not to mention ships and Sailors take time to build and train.
But India? India is already worried about China. India is already in conflict. If Taiwan brings India into any future conflict with Communist China, its a winning move. China doesn’t want to fight on two fronts. It might be able to hold off the US long enough to cement gains in Taiwan, but its not going to do well if India pushes into its western territories. Worse still, if a place like Tibet or Xinjiang decides to not rejoin China, that could drag any conflict out for years, dragging down the economy and the Chinese middle class in the process. That’s a double whammy, because Communist China has to provide a good economy in exchange for not being a democracy. If the economy goes south for too long, it risks revolt.
Deepening ties with India is a smart move for Taiwan and the US. Let’s hope we get more of this diplomacy to stave off future conflicts.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.