Two thoughts on China and Taiwan


I hope Taiwan can continue to be peaceful, prosperous, and democratic. I also hope that China can continue to be peaceful and prosperous, if not democratic.

I believe Taiwan should be officially recognised for what it has been for over seven decades: an independent country. Nevertheless, China has claims to Taiwan that must be addressed. It is my belief that this is an issue that should be worked out between Taiwan and China. The United States had a legitimate claim to a seat at the China-Taiwan table in 1945, and perhaps for some time thereafter, but that time has passed.

The independence of Taiwan or reunification with China is something that should be worked out between these two countries without interference from anyone else.


I don’t think China will attack Taiwan within the next few years – provided the international situation remains more or less as it is now.

Three reasons: 1) A Chinese invasion is the situation that the American Deep State and arms manufacturers desire the most. It would serve the American government’s geopolitical goals and ensure billions of dollars profit for the weapons manufacturers. The Russian military operation in Ukraine also served the American Deep State’s goals, yet Russia went ahead. Why wouldn’t China do the same? One reason is because Taiwan has not been bombarding ethnic Chinese people close to the Chinese Mainland but within the borders of Taiwan and destroying their homes. And at least for now, NATO is not building bases in Taiwan and is not training Taiwanese forces for a conflict with China [by December 2023 one can’t be so sure about the factual accuracy of this statement]. 2) A Chinese invasion would lead to serious disruptions for the Chinese economy and civil society. 3) A military invasion is not China’s only option for gaining control over Taiwan. Encirclement, blockades, and economic sanctions could possibly put enough pressure on the Taiwanese government to at least consider Chinese terms for negotiation.


A solution to the Taiwan issue


The pro-Taiwan independence argument:

1. According to the UN Charter, all nations have a right to self-determination. The population of Taiwan represents a nation different from that of Mainland China – different history, different values. The fact that Taiwan and China share the same ethnic group doesn’t matter – Canada and the United States, New Zealand and Australia, Germany and Austria are all examples of countries where large parts of the population at one point shared common roots, or still do.

2. The Qing government ceded Taiwan and other islands to the Empire of Japan in 1895. After World War Two Japan renounced their claim to Taiwan but did not specify to whom Taiwan belonged, or who should take over the administration.

3. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has never controlled Taiwan.

4. The PRC was not a signatory to the Treaty of Taipei in 1952.

The argument for reunification with China:

1. The People’s Republic of China is the successor state to the Qing government, as well as to the KMT government that had ruled China until 1949 and has inherited control of all areas previously under the control of those states or governments.

2. Yes, the Qing government ceded Taiwan, but the Treaty of Taipei in 1952 nullified all previous treaties signed by Imperial Japan with regards to China, including the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.

3. Yes, Taiwan has had de facto independence for seven decades, but the PRC has tolerated this for the sake of peace as long as no de jure independence is declared.

4. Yes, the PRC was not a signatory to the Treaty of Taipei in 1952, but the Republic of China has since seized to be the legitimate government of China and is not recognised anymore as the legitimate government of China by the vast majority of countries in the world. See Point #1.

* * *

I have come up with a solution to the Taiwan issue that should make everyone reasonably happy, except maybe the arms manufacturers and the aggressive faction of the Deep State in America.

The solution is as follows:

Taiwan and China agree to forge closer economic and other ties for a ten-year period – things like re-admitting tour groups, exchange students, cooperation in academic and other scientific fields, music and theatre groups from both sides of the Straits of Taiwan holding performances on the other side.

Then, the big thing: After ten years, a referendum is held in Taiwan with two options: reunification with China, or independence.

Taiwanese who dedicate themselves to independence will have ten years to convince the population that independence, and looser ties with China, is the best option for Taiwan.

China will also have ten years to invest in Taiwan and use the proverbial carrot to cultivate the Taiwanese population for the idea of reunification.

This should lead to a flourishing of cooperation in scientific, medical, technological, and cultural fields. Small-business owners and big companies will all make money. New economic opportunities would benefit workers in China and Taiwan.

If things go well for the pro-reunification faction, Taiwanese would not be willing to give up all the advantages they had accrued over the preceding decade. More than 51% of the adult population would vote for Taiwan to become a province of China with certain special benefits, such as its own flag (which will hang together with the flag of the People’s Republic), as well as its own monetary unit.

On the other hand, if things go right for the pro-independence faction, Taiwan can get its de jure independence after almost a hundred years, minus of course certain advantages that had accumulated in the previous ten years.

Problem is convincing China to accept the possibility that the majority of Taiwanese would choose independence. The question can also be asked what guarantee Taiwan would have that China won’t still attempt to incorporate Taiwan by force if the majority of Taiwanese reject reunification. Would America stand on the side-lines for ten years only to suddenly be Taiwan’s friend again?

If after ten years the majority of Taiwanese adults decide it would be more beneficial to re-join the Motherland, the case would be closed for Taiwanese independence. They would then have had their opportunity to state their case, and the people would have decided otherwise.

This also applies to the other side. If China could give Taiwan an idea of the benefits of a closer relationship for ten years, but the majority of Taiwanese still choose to have their independent state – which they would by then have enjoyed in practice for almost a hundred years anyway, then China must simply give up on the idea of reunification. Just ask Germany, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, France, Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Serbia, and Britain, who have all had to cede territory at some point in their histories. All survived and thrived afterwards. It’s not the end of the world.

For the process to work, rules would need to be laid down, and guarantees would need to be given. Taiwan and China can negotiate the rules, but who would ensure compliance? Who would ensure that guarantees are honoured?


Fact of the matter is that Taiwan has a dual identity – the anachronistic identity of Republic of China, and the de facto but not de jure identity of Republic of Taiwan. Only time will tell if the latter would eventually replace the former, or whether both would be swept away in a wave rolling in from the People’s Republic of China.


It is not difficult to see that China is the party with the most to lose. As things stand now, Taiwan is independent in practical terms, but there is a possibility that China could regain control of the island. If such a referendum goes against reunification, China loses, as does perhaps one-fifth of Taiwanese who support the idea of reunification.

If the numbers are against Beijing from the start, why would they participate in such an exercise in democracy, and undertake to accept the results?

Would it work if Taiwan is willing to pay a price for formal independence?

In the Taiwan Strait, between the Chinese coast and Taiwan, lie a number of pieces of valuable property. About 10 kilometres east of the Chinese city of Xiamen, and more than 180 kilometres from the island of Taiwan, lies the group of islands known as Jinmen (lower red arrow). The Matsu archipelago (top red arrow) is about 190 kilometres from Taipei, and about 20 kilometres from the Chinese coast. The Penghu Islands (blue arrow) are just 50 kilometres away from Taiwan, and 150 kilometres east of the Chinese mainland. Would the government in Taipei be willing to give up these island groups in order to gain formal independence for Taiwan, and other smaller islands on its west and east coasts? Will Taiwan further pledge not to host any US or NATO bases? (They would, of course, be free to forge defensive alliances with Japan and the Philippines.)

Or – and we’re just playing around with possibilities here – Taipei keeps the islands in the Taiwan Strait, but Beijing takes control of two islands on the east coast of Taiwan, namely Green Island and Orchid Island (top and bottom green arrows, respectively).

Another possibility: Taiwan gives up control over the two islands in the Philippine Sea and the two island groups closest to the Chinese coast but retains control over the Penghu Island group. In this way, China gets precious pieces of land where they have not had land in more than a hundred years, but they lose any possibility of gaining control over Taiwan; and Taiwan loses a degree of security, but gains formal independence, and all the benefits that go with it. Would the Taiwanese public be in favour of such a settlement? Would the government in Beijing find this acceptable?

Whatever the details, the bottom line is that Taiwan would pay for a referendum that is likely to end in formal independence by giving up several strategically valuable pieces of land, and with that a degree of security.


The split personality of the government in Taipei


On 10 October 1911, a series of uprisings started that, over the course of the next few months, led to the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the birth of the Republic of China. After a decade of violence and political tug-of-war, the Chinese Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek ended up in control of the republican government.

The island of Formosa is about 200 kilometres from the Chinese coast. The island was ruled by Qing China between 1683 and 1895, when it was ceded to Japan. A few weeks after Japan’s surrender in 1945, officials from the Republic of China stepped of a boat in the north of Taiwan with a United Nations mandate to administer the island until a final peace treaty was signed with Japan.

In his authoritative report of the period, Formosa Betrayed, George H. Kerr narrates that the officials of the Chinese republic saw Taiwan (or the island of Formosa) as a warehouse full of luxuries that needed to be plundered as quickly as possible. Factories were dismantled and shipped to Shanghai. Furniture, ornaments, bicycles, money, jewellery, and anything else that looked like it might have value was looted and robbed either by government officials, or by soldiers brought in to terrorise the local population.

By early 1949, it was clear that the republican government, then based in Chengdu in southwestern China, was going to lose the civil war against Mao Zedong’s Communists. Between January and December 1949, most of the republican politicians and institutions, a lot of cultural treasures as well as financial resources under the control of the Republic of China were moved to the island of Formosa.

The six million inhabitants of Taiwan were not consulted about this takeover of their island by the Nationalists. For the next four decades, the population’s complaints about everything from the denial of human rights to the corrupt expropriation of property were brutally silenced.

By the early 1990s, enough of the Civil War era politicians had died out, and supporters of the idea that the government in Taipei would eventually retake power in Mainland China became fewer and fewer. In 1996, the first Taiwan-born person was chosen as president of … the “Republic of China”, because calling it what it really was – the Republic of Taiwan, was a controversy that would send the missiles flying across the Strait of Taiwan.

On 10 October 2022, several hundred thousand people in Taiwan actively celebrated the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China (millions, of course, enjoyed the holiday without attaching any political value to it). The president of the “Republic of China”, Tsai Ing-wen, also solemnly celebrated the day with a speech. Although she referred to Taiwan as the “Republic of China”, most of the speech was about the island of Taiwan.

In a speech on 4 August 2022 in response to live-fire drills by the Chinese navy and army around Taiwan, she referred to the threat to “our nation’s sovereignty”. The question remains: What nation was she talking about? Taiwan? China? If she was talking about the island of Taiwan with surrounding smaller islands under Taipei’s administration, and the 24 million Taiwanese (and other long-term residents), then why at all celebrate the founding of the Republic of China – which for all practical purposes is a decayed relic of Chinese history? I understand that the government in Beijing threatens to go to war the moment Taipei officially declares independence, but is that reason enough to still solemnly party on October 10th every year?

It is clear that to be able to distinguish between the official independence of Taiwan and de facto independence requires a lesson in political doublespeak. But that the government in Taipei still uses the flag of the losers of the Chinese Civil War, the flag of the looters of Taiwan and the oppressors of freedom and human dignity, and still after seven decades actively celebrates the founding of a state that has long ceased to exist, is sometimes difficult to grasp.

Flag of the Republic of China, 1912-1928, before it was replaced by the government of Chiang Kai-Shek with the flag below
The flag of the Republic of China, 1928-1949, after which it served as the flag of the ROC on Taiwan

* * *

The dream of independence of millions of Taiwanese (not all, but a large proportion of the adult population) is understandable. Even in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Taiwan was only an afterthought for the Qing government in Beijing. Then for fifty years the island was part of Japan, and for the last seventy years, it has been ruled separately from Mainland China. Generations of Taiwanese have been born and have lived their entire adult lives with the daily reality that the island is governed separately from China.

On the other hand, I also understand the argument of Greater China supporters, who consider the majority of the population of Taiwan to be part of the same ethnic family as the majority of the population of Mainland China. Language and cultural roots are also shared. Thousands of families in Taiwan have relatives in China whom they visit regularly.

I also understand that the government of the People’s Republic of China has an argument for reunification. They see themselves as the inheritors of Chinese history, with the responsibility to the ancestors and descendants of the Chinese population to make whole what had been broken by the end of the Qing Era.

Whether the People’s Republic can make a legitimate argument about jurisdiction over Taiwan requires a deep dive into the murky waters of treaties signed after World War II between Japan and America, and between Japan and the Republic of China. It was, for example, not spelled out specifically who Taiwan belonged to after Japan had ceded control over the islands.

Arguments aside, what sometimes irritates is the split personality of the government in Taipei. I appreciate the thorny problem that if independence is officially declared, the government in Beijing will have little choice but to carry out its decades-long threats. The Taipei government nevertheless walks a fine line. Passports are issued these days with “Taiwan” in large Roman letters, and “Republic of China” only in Chinese characters. Statements are made about Taiwan’s independence, but under the name “Republic of China”. Says President Tsai Ying-wen in an interview with the BBC after she was elected in 2020: “We don’t have a need to declare ourselves an independent state. We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China (Taiwan).”

Taiwan passport

If Taiwan were truly independent, would the president not refer to her country as the Republic of Taiwan? And how much does it matter that Taiwan is officially only recognised as independent by fourteen countries and doesn’t have a seat at the United Nations? Most countries do maintain diplomatic offices in Taipei, but none are official embassies, in deference to the People’s Republic of China that considers Taiwan a province of China.

The fact of the matter is, there are three actors in this play: The group advocating for Taiwanese independence, who make pretty strong arguments; the government in Beijing (and supporters of reunification in Taiwan), which also makes points that cannot be dismissed out of hand; and then there’s the government in Taipei which officially upholds the One China policy, but also makes no claim to being the legitimate government of Greater China, and – at least for the last two or three years – also claims that Taiwan is independent, but under the banner of the Republic of China. Can anyone be blamed for being confused?

* * *

What do I see as a more honest situation than the current shuffle closer to the abyss? I reckon: A cooler relationship with America – an unreliable “friend” at the best of times; a warmer relationship with Beijing – albeit with a government dominated by a political party that was not appointed by the Chinese people and cannot be removed by the Chinese people except with extreme violence; and increasingly less emphasis on the symbols of, and less reference to, the obsolete relic of history, the Republic of China.

Naive and unrealistic? I guess so.


A few useful links: “In 1950 […] United States President Harry S. Truman said that […] ‘the determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations.’ This statement of Truman is generally regarded as the origin of the Theory of the Undetermined Status of Taiwan. In 1951, Japan concluded the Treaty of San Francisco with the Allied Powers. It renounced all right, title and claim to Taiwan and the Pescadores without explicitly stating the sovereignty status of the two territories.” “President Ma expressed that the Treaty of Taipei has voided the Treaty of Shimonoseki” “Article 4: It is recognized that all treaties, conventions and agreements concluded before December 9, 1941, between China and Japan have become null and void as a consequence of the war.” “The governments of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) oppose Taiwanese independence since they believe that Taiwan and mainland China comprise two portions of a single country’s territory. For the ROC, such a move would be considered a violation of its constitution.” Specifically look at the “Arguments for the Republic of China and/or People’s Republic of China sovereignty claims” and “Arguments for Taiwanese self-sovereignty claims and its legal status”


The birth of the Republic of China is celebrated on October 10th, and 1911 is seen as the first year of the Republican Era. Yet the Republic of China was not actually founded on 10 October 1911. A quick timeline:

1894-1895: War between China and Japan

1899-1901: The Boxer Rebellion

14 November 1908: Emperor Guangxu dies; one day later his aunt, the powerful Empress Dowager and Regent Cixi, dies (the suspicion is strong that she had her nephew poisoned)

2 December 1908: Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the two-year-old son of the Manchu Prince Chun, is crowned as the Xuantong Emperor, the last of the Qing Empire

10 October 1911: The Wuchang Uprising leads to a series of uprisings across China

November 1911: fourteen of fifteen provinces in China reject the Qing government

1 January 1912: The Republic of China is established

12 February 1912: Empress Dowager Longyu signs the abdication decree on behalf of the now six-year-old Puyi. This ended more than 2,000 years of imperial rule in China.

Empress Dowager and Regent Cixi; the Xuantong Emperor, better known as Puyi; Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek


A change of opinion about China and Taiwan

Sunday, 7 August to Thursday, 11 August 2022

Chinese military exercises and encirclement of Taiwan

Sunday, 7 August 2022 was the day I changed my opinion about Taiwan and China. As recently as last Friday, I had a conversation with a Taiwanese businessman about the possibility that China could invade Taiwan. I mentioned that there are people who can explain in detail why such a military endeavour would fail.

After this week’s visit by the US Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and China’s live ammunition military exercise around the island, I realised that Taiwan only enjoys her de facto independence because China has not yet decided to formally incorporate Taiwan.

Barring the Chinese Communist Party losing its governing power over China or changing its dogma, Taiwan cannot do much to change her inevitable fate. China will eventually pull Taiwan into its sovereign territory, most likely without firing so much as a single missile.

The reason? The island has woefully inadequate resistance to encirclement and blockade. (That’s not to mention the power outage that left a third of Taiwan without power and Internet for almost an entire day in March because an employee forgot to do something before he turned on a switch. How hard would it be for a saboteur to do something similar in the future?)

Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in America, reckons that the current Chinese military exercise, which includes more than sixty aircraft and fourteen warships surrounding the island, is indeed a pre-blockade demonstration. According to him, a full blockade would include threats to shoot down aircraft, the placement of sea mines in ports, and the deployment of air and naval forces in a full circle around Taiwan. He adds that this episode is the first opportunity for the Red Chinese Forces to prove to themselves and to Taiwan that they are indeed capable of enforcing a full blockade.

Then there are some other inconvenient facts: 1) According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Taiwan has oil reserves for about four and a half months, but only 12% of Taiwan’s energy is generated locally. About one-third of Taiwan’s electricity was generated by liquefied natural gas in 2021, which must be imported. If China blocks these imports, it could bring Taiwanese manufacturing to its knees within days. 2) Although Taiwan is almost self-sufficient in aquatic products, fruit, meat, vegetables, and eggs, it can meet only 35% of its population’s food needs. (The government did launch a program in the last few years to address this problem, though. The Borgen Project indicates that in 2018, Taiwan spent $4 billion importing agricultural products, but has since built up stocks of essential items sufficient for about 28 months.) 3) Thousands of other types of products are unloaded from cargo ships daily to stock store shelves – items such as clothing, shoes, cat litter, cooking oil, toothpaste, cheese, shampoo, baking soda, medicine, and a wide range of electronic devices and medical equipment. These products make life liveable and enjoyable for Taiwanese citizens and thousands of foreign residents. Life on the island will become increasingly uncomfortable if these products are no longer imported.

Bernhard Billmon writes in a recent article on Moon of Alabama, “China indeed has the capability to completely blockade Taiwan. As the whole area is also under cover of China’s land-based ballistic missiles and in reach of its airforce a blockade is easy to establish and hard to breach.” (My own emphasis) He further writes: “A total blockade of Taiwan would likely bring it to its knees within a few weeks or months. Time that could be used to defeat its air force, air defenses and missiles and prevent attacks from Taiwan on China’s continental assets. China does not have to invade the island. It just has to wait until it is invited to come in.” (Again, my own emphasis)

The New York Times quotes Bonny Lin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington as follows: “If a military exercise transitions to a blockade, when does it become clear that the exercise is now a blockade? Who should be the first to respond? Taiwan’s forces? The United States? It’s not clear.” According to the same article, Eric Sayers, a former senior adviser to the U.S. Pacific Command reckons: “Instead of announcing a military blockade [the Chinese government] may instead announce an extended military exercise around Taiwan that closes or disrupts shipping routes for 30, 60, 90 days. This makes it less a military operation and more a form of legal warfare to justify an indirect blockade for a duration that Beijing can manipulate.”

One of the points that Taiwanese people often make in discussions about Taiwan’s ability to defend itself is that Taiwan might be defeated, but at great cost to China, given that Taiwanese missiles could hit at least one major city, such as Shanghai or Shenzhen, doing great damage to it before the Chinese Red Army silences the weapons.

But will Taiwan start firing her missiles ending thousands of lives on the Chinese mainland because she is surrounded by the Chinese navy? It’s highly unlikely. If it does happen, China will have no problem convincing the world that they had no alternative other than a military response.

Will America or Japan send their warships to force the Chinese navy to end the blockade? Again: A low probability of this happening.

A few weeks or a few months of dwindling gasoline and food supplies will bring hundreds of thousands of people in Taiwan to the streets to force the government to start negotiations. Remember: Between ten and fifteen percent of Taiwan’s population supports unification with China. After a few weeks of empty store shelves, I have no doubt that that number will be a few notches higher.

Despite the fact that encirclement and blockade will cause problems for the population in the short term and will lead to problems in the international supply chain of computer parts, the Taiwanese economy will not be harmed in the long term. I reckon (off the cuff, no data to back it up) that Taiwan will be back to 100% two years after the blockade ends. This undermines another argument that people make about why China will not launch any aggressive actions.

I believe that a large majority of Taiwan’s population is willing to fight for the preservation of the status quo, or for de facto independence. As a long-term resident of Taiwan who is grateful for the home the island and her people have provided me, I also hope that the island and her people will continue to manage their own affairs as they see fit, as they have proven over decades that they are fully capable of doing so, and that they deserve it as much as the people of Japan or South Korea or any other country in the world.

But we live in a world with certain realities. One of these realities is that the Chinese Communist Party believes Taiwan belongs to China, and that they have the right to formally incorporate Taiwan into Chinese territory whenever and however they see fit. Until recently, I thought it meant Chinese soldiers on Taiwanese beaches, and thousands of missiles raining down on Kaohsiung and Taipei and other cities.

The past week has proven that a Chinese takeover of Taiwan need not be nearly as violent. Which makes the likelihood of that happening uncomfortably high.

To summarise:

1. Advocates for Taiwanese independence can make good historical and legal arguments why Taiwan is none of China’s business. More important than their arguments: The Chinese Communist government doesn’t care. It is part of Communist Party dogma that Taiwan is part of China. End of story. Microphones turned off. Debate is over.

2. China can start to take over one small island under Taiwan’s control after another and justify it as part of a new strategy to defend China against “enemies of the Motherland”. After that, they can surround Taiwan for months at a time and call it military and naval exercises. No one to be taken seriously doubts that they have the military capacity, the economic capabilities, and the political will to do so.

3. Taiwan can defend itself against an invasion where Chinese troops storm the beaches, and where the Chinese air force rains bombs on Taiwanese cities. But how does Taiwan defend itself against a salami technique where China takes one small island after another with overwhelming force, and then surrounds the island with perhaps three dozen warships and a thousand missiles on the Chinese coast to protect the ships? How long will Taiwan be able to hold out? How long before raging Taiwanese hunger forces the government to negotiate with Beijing?

Any solutions?

Who am I? A fellow at some international think tank, or a senior academic at a renowned university? No, and no. Nevertheless …

Taiwan has spent a fortune in the last few decades on weaponry in the hope that they can do something when Chinese troops storm the beaches on Taiwan’s west and north coasts. There are the high-accuracy missiles that could wipe Shanghai and maybe one or two other Chinese cities off the map. (Let’s ignore for the moment what Chinese propagandists and an all-too-willing Western media will do with video clips of burning children in the rubble of a crushed apartment building in Shanghai. Not to mention cries of revenge among the Chinese population.) There are also ultra-modern warships, military drones, and brand-new F-16 fighter jets.

What value will this advanced military equipment have if Taiwan is encircled for months in extensive “military exercises”? Are all these fighter jets and warships and drones and missile systems going to convince international airlines not to cancel flights to Taipei? Will it convince shipping companies to take a chance to try and break through the blockade to deliver toilet paper and cat food and baking powder and olive oil?

The problem is that Taiwan, and the US government pushing the Taiwanese government to spend billions of dollars with US arms manufacturers, are preparing for a battle that will probably never be fought. Why would China risk thousands of Chinese troops, billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry, and possibly a few Chinese cities if they can succeed in their decades-long goal with blockades, encirclement, and the sabotage of infrastructure? Then the Chinese Red Army is also guilty of what the deputy head of the Taiwanese Ministry of Defence’s Political Warfare Bureau calls, “cognitive warfare, disinformation campaigns, and rumor spreading”, as well as “‘fake news’ or misinformation, mostly seeking to lower public trust in Taiwan’s government, [to] undermine public morale and build momentum for unification by force”.

Aljazeera reports that Taiwan has a defence budget of more than $20 billion for 2022. What percentage of this budget is allocated to the development of more agricultural land for food production? How much has been budgeted to teach city dwellers to plant vegetable gardens on the roofs of thousands of apartment buildings? How much money is spent on protecting infrastructure from sabotage? (Remember again: in March, a third of the island was without power and large parts without Internet for most of the day because someone made a mistake with a switch.) How much money is spent combatting cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns and other cognitive warfare?

The fact is, Taiwan is a David spending billions of dollars on a highly advanced slingshot with a pile of explosive stones in preparation for a fight against a Goliath who is not stupid, and who probably won’t do what David wants him to do so that he can sling a stone into his forehead. What will David do if Goliath unleashes dozens of wild dogs that surround him and cut him off from his food supply and other resources? What will David do when he has swallowed his last crumbs of bread with the last drops of water in his sachet? And Goliath still refuses to come closer so that David can hit him on the head with a stone as the story is supposed to go?

If Taiwan wants to continue to exist as an independent state in practice, they will have to start spending those billions of dollars much better than just filling the pockets of American arms manufacturers.

Afterthought: Thursday 22 September 2022

Taiwan has three options:

1) Declare independence, wait for China’s response, and hope for the best.

2) Contact Beijing and say: “Enough is enough. Let’s work out the technicalities of reunification.”

And 3) Adhere to strict status quo, meaning Beijing does not interfere, but Taiwan makes no declarations of independence nor does anything beyond practical arrangements, such as maintaining trade offices/embassies, to disturb the status quo – this includes no high-profile visits from American politicians.

As it is now, the Tsai Ing-wen administration is walking on the edge of formal independence, and if China protests, the Taiwan government accuses Beijing of violating the precarious peace.


11 February 2004

It’s a beautiful day.

I stick my head out the kitchen window, look down into the alley, over the roofs of old houses in the adjoining block. The alley, just wide enough for two scooter drivers to pass each other, is filled with the orange glow of the late afternoon sun.

The apartment buildings are grey, but the paint peeling of burglar bars here and there gives the neighbourhood an optimistic colour. The potted plants in the windowsills bear witness of faith in a good life, even if things didn’t always work out as the residents had hoped years ago.

It’s not cold, but something in the air predicts it will be a cool evening. A light breeze starts picking up. An old war veteran emerges to collect his laundry from the balcony.

A perfect day it is not – what day is? – but it’s a nice day. It is Wednesday, 11 February 2004 – a winter’s day in Taiwan.