America is a diplomatic fox, while Beijing is a hedgehog
fixated on the big idea of reunification.
June 1, 2021
This article was published as an opinion piece by Bloomberg on March 21, 2021. We bring you here the few last paragraphs which, hopefully, will stimulate you to read the whole piece at Bloomberg. The analysis’ central message is what the headline hints at – namely Taiwan as an exceptionally important issue for China that the United States ought not to deal lightly with and provoke (more) conflict around. It is not the style of Bloomberg to publish such pieces with an understanding of Chinese concerns and it is not every day an analysis like this comes out of the Hudson Institute.
Perhaps Taiwan will turn out to be to the American empire what Suez was to the British Empire in 1956: the moment when the imperial lion is exposed as a paper tiger. When the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, Prime Minister Anthony Eden joined forces with France and Israel to try to take it back by force. American opposition precipitated a run on the pound and British humiliation.
I, for one, struggle to see the Biden administration responding to a Chinese attack on Taiwan with the combination of military force and financial sanctions envisaged by Blackwill and Zelikow. Sullivan has written eloquently of the need for a foreign policy that Middle America can get behind. Getting torched for Taipei does not seem to fit that bill.
As for Biden himself, would he really be willing to jeopardize the post-pandemic boom his economic policies are fueling for the sake of an island Kissinger was once prepared quietly to trade in pursuit of Cold War detente? Who would be hurt more by the financial crisis Blackwill and Zelikow imagine in the event of war for Taiwan – China, or the U.S. itself? One of the two superpowers has a current account deficit of 3.5% of GDP (Q2 2020) and a net international investment position of nearly minus-$14 trillion, and it’s not China. The surname of the secretary of state would certainly be an irresistible temptation to headline writers if the U.S. blinked in what would be the fourth and biggest Taiwan Crisis since 1954.
Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He was previously a professor of history at Harvard, New York University and Oxford. He is the founder and managing director of Greenmantle LLC, a New York-based advisory firm. His latest book is “Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe.”
Other readings for self-study
History of Taiwan 1945 to present
VOA – Voice of America
Will US Make Clear-cut Commitment to Defend Taiwan From China?
Review: The Contested Political History of Taiwan
Tyler Cohen, Bloomberg
China’s War Against Taiwan Could Come Sooner Rather Than Later