Skip to main content

Will China Attack Taiwan? Is There a Justification for It?

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

MG is a senior service officer and now a senior corporate advisor. A prolific writer with varied interests and hobbies



This is an extremely contentious subject but as a historian one has to let sentiments be in cold storage and interpret the harsh facts of history. The island of Taiwan was under the control of Japan from 1895 and remained under their control till 1945 when Japan surrendered after the dropping of the atomic bombs by American president Truman and his generals.

Towards the end of 1945, vast areas of China were still under the occupation of Japan but perforce the imperial army had to surrender. A Civil War between the communist party and the Nationalist party led by General Chiang Kai Shek erupted after the surrender of the Japanese army. The Americans threw their lot with the Nationalists and supported them with weapons and money. The Civil War ended in 1949 resulting in the defeat of the Nationalists and nearly 2,000,000 of them escaped to Taiwan and set up a government there.

The United States vowed to support the Taiwan government and recognized it as the government of entire China. This state of affairs continued till the 1970s until there was a rethink in the American think tank and it was decided to dump Taiwan and accept the Communist party as the de facto and de jure government of China.

Much water has flown down the river since that time and China thanks to American benevolence is now a global power. It is flexing its muscles and would like to reclaim what it terms as the renegade province of Taiwan back to the mainland. To achieve this the Chinese have not ruled out the military option and the United States is now faced with Hobson's choice of what to do and how to defend Taiwan.


Claims and US blunder

Let us have a look at this scenario as it has developed now and for this if anybody's to be blamed it is the United States. Firstly, Taiwan was a part of Japan for close to half a century and the Japanese had developed the island. But after 1945 the United States in a misconceived sense of fair play detached the island from Japanese control and handed it to China. In the defense of the Americans, it can be said that they were not probably aware that their protege General Chiang Kai Shek would be completely routed in the Civil War with the communist party under Mao-Tse- Tung. At that time if Truman had looked into the crystal ball he would've allowed the Japanese to retain control of Formosa or Taiwan and the present problem would never have arisen.

The Americans vowed to protect Taiwan and for two decades despite some sporadic attempts by China, the island was safe. Things really began to happen when President Nixon became the chief executive of the United States. Before him, in 1964 President Johnson in another misconceived strategic concept wherein the Americans thought China would be their ally against Russia allowed the Chinese to go nuclear.

The cake for the present problem must go to President Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Both of them sold America down the drain when during his visit to China, Nixon accepted the one-China policy and promised the Chinese that they would never recognize Taiwan as an independent country. This was the Chinese condition for the normalization of ties. So desperate were Mr. Nixon and his sidekick Mr. Kisinger that they caved in, to the Chinese demand. That assurance of one China is now like an anchor around the American neck.

The Americans also dumped Chiang Kai Shek and for the next 50 years, no American president ever visited Taiwan. The Americans also began to pour billions of dollars of investment and technology into China. I am unable to fathom the reason for it except for some romantic notion that China would be on their side and would help them against Russia.

Scroll to Continue

The blunders committed by the United States have had a profound effect on the geopolitical situation in the South China Sea. Now China legitimately claims Taiwan as a part of China and I do not know which international law states that a country cannot claim back its renegade province. If Nixon had stuck to his ground and recognized Taiwan as an independent country and then normalized with China, the present crisis would never have taken place.

As things stand China would be within its right to attack Taiwan and integrate it back into its own country. After all the West and the USA have recognized the one China principle that Taiwan cannot be an independent country.

Hobsons choice

The American presidents who followed Roosevelt were extremely mediocre individuals who could not see beyond their noses. I can't think of a single American president who had a geopolitical vision that China would ever threaten the United States.

China is now threatening to invade Taiwan and not a week passes without aggressive actions by the People's Liberation Army -Air Force, and Navy. The Americans and Japan have vowed to defend Taiwan but any military historian and student of warfare can tell that the Americans and the Japanese just do not have the capability to defend Taiwan against a full-scale Chinese assault. The Chinese have a preponderance in defense hardware and manpower in the entire region and one or two aircraft carriers (that may be sunk within the first 24 hours of the battle) are not going to change the result.

The Chinese intention can be assessed from the fact that they abrogated the Hong Kong agreement with Great Britain, and integrated the island with the mainland.

The Americans are now caught on a sticky wicket because of their own blunders. They have recognized Chinese suzerainty over Taiwan and at the same time, they do not have the military muscle to defend Taiwan. If and when a military conflict commences it is a moot point how much American blood will the US leadership risk to defend Taiwan.

If the Americans had been wise they would not be needling Russia on Ukraine and would have looked for a way to break the monolith Russia -China Axis. I once remember reading a myth from ancient Norse mythology and one line stands out when Zeus states that those whom the gods wish to destroy, make them mad. I wonder if the United States fills the bill.

Further reading

Related Articles