Taiwan held elections. Hadn’t broken out. That’s good news for California and the world

(ChiangYing-ying / Associated Press)

Taiwan held elections. Hadn’t broken out. That’s good news for California and the world

Doyle McManus

January 22, 2024

Good news has been in short supply in world affairs this year

think of Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen or Ukraine

. So it is worth pointing out an area of ​​conflict where the worst-case scenario has not occurred: the long standoff between China and Taiwan.

Just over a week ago

[Saturday, January 14]

Taiwan has held free and fair elections.


China’s least favorite candidate won

but the response from Beijing was unexpectedly muted.

Chinese officials reiterated their long-standing vow that Taiwan will be partially absorbed into China

day. They warned Taiwan’s newly elected president, Lai Ching-te, against moves toward a formal declaration of independence. And they resumed air and naval combat patrols across the median line between Taiwan and the mainland.

According to recent standards, t is T



hardly qualified as sabre-rattling

by recent standards

and was much less than many China watchers expected.

It was a dog that didn’t bark, said Jude Blanchette of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Newly elected President Lai, a Harvard-educated physician,

(who uses the name William Lai in English),

was also necessarily restrained.

As president, I have an important responsibility to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, he said in his victory speech. He added that he has no plans to declare independence because the island is already autonomous in practice.

The United States also played a role by providing guarantees to both sides.

When reporters asked President Biden for his response to the election, he responded with just five words addressed to Chinese President Xi Jinping: We do not support independence. Meanwhile, a US delegation visited Taipei to reaffirm the US

position that Taiwan’s status cannot be changed without the consent of the Taiwanese people.

There is no guarantee



family member

the peace will last. Xi and China’s other communist leaders are still committed to that

their purpose of

extension of Beijing’s sovereignty to Taiwan.

Newly elected President Lai and a growing majority of the Taiwanese people, an A

after watching China extinguish democracy in Hong Kong,

Lai and a

growing majority

of the Taiwanese people

want to avoid that outcome.

But for now,

at least,

all parties have moved one step away from military conflict. There is a clear reason for this:


The costs of the war would be far too high,

also for China.

This month, Bloomberg Economics assessed the economic situation

impact costs

of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and concluded that this would cause a massive global recession. below

those Bloombergs

It is estimated that a war would shrink the Chinese economy by almost 17%, the US economy by almost 7% and the world economy by about 10%.

If China imposes an economic blockade on Taiwan


a step away from a shooting war


That could have an adverse effect on Beijing


. A year

According to Bloomberg estimates, a prolonged blockade would shrink China’s economy by almost 9% and the US economy by about 3%.

In either case, California, which trades more with China and Taiwan than any other state, would take a disproportionate hit. Technology companies like Apple and Intel depend on Taiwan for advanced semiconductors and China for manufacturing. California’s agriculture industry relies on China and Taiwan as two of its top export markets.


Viewers say Xi


His top priority is to restore his country’s sputtering economy to the rapid growth it enjoyed in the years before the COVID-19 crisis.


pandemic. China reported last week that its economy grew by 5.2% last year.

“That would be an enviable number for most countries, but m M

every economist believes

that number is his

artificially inflated:


It does not seem to reflect China’s challenges of youth unemployment, deflation and a collapsing real estate bubble.

Their economic problems at home influence the way they approach Taiwan, said Bonnie Glaser, a China scholar at the German Marshall Fund. Xi Jinping appreciates the fragile stability achieved in the US-China relationship. A crisis over Taiwan would disrupt that.

Another factor: Xi does not seem confident that China’s corruption-ridden military will achieve a major victory



All these factors have led them to recognize that there are very real risks to using force against Taiwan, she said.

That doesn’t mean the standoff over the Taiwan Strait is over

or even stable

. The status quo works quite well for Taiwan and the United States, but still not for the Chinese Communist Party, which views the island as a renegade province.

Chinese military pressure will continue, Glaser predicted. The only question is,

: One one

which level?

Meanwhile, she added, China will continue to exert economic and political pressure on the island

what she called

carrots and sticks

to reward China-friendly figures and punish critics.

Last year,

For example,

China abruptly blocked the import of Taiwanese mangoes, which are mainly grown in southern Taiwan, a stronghold of Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party.

One of Beijing’s goals will be to widen the rifts in the Taiwanese government. Lai won the presidency with only 40% of the vote, and his pro-independence party lost its majority in parliament;


if Lai wants to increase defense spending, he will need support from other parties.

Blanchette said China is focusing on gray zone measures, short of military strikes or blockades that would provoke a US response. A ban on mangoes, for example.

The goal is to create situations in which the United States is unable to respond.

to convince Taiwan that it stands alone and that US support is very limited, he explained. The challenge for the US is to find ways to counter such moves.

That’s a recipe for more years of tension and instability. But a look at the world map shows that it is often better to put things aside than to start a new war.


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