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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Taiwan’s fair-weather friend

Taiwan is a mouse trapped between feline claws. The cat is China, of course. Content, for now, to play with its terrified prey, the animal instinct to kill and consume isn’t likely to remain at bay for long. That is unless the lurking presence of a brawnier challenger gives the tormentor a fright of its own. The United States has played that daunting role for decades, but one look at an infirm President Biden tells the aggressor there is no longer reason for fear. He could prove to be Taiwan‘s best fair-weather friend.

Last summer, Mr. Biden earned a loser label with his precipitous surrender in Afghanistan, which left Taliban enemies in command and hundreds of Americans behind enemy lines. In two short months, China has reacted to the U.S. retreat with energetic military muscle-flexing that portends growing uncertainty for Taiwan‘s continued independence.

China‘s recent acknowledgment of the launch of two nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles signaled an unstoppable ability to annihilate any target on earth at any time. The missiles constituted a shot across America’s bow, alerting the Pentagon that U.S. Navy ships plying Pacific waters supporting China‘s breakaway island province are sitting ducks.

It’s a sad state of affairs when a nation considered “the world’s sole superpower” must hear White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki assert the president “welcomes stiff competition” from China in the race for space-based military supremacy. Americans and Taiwanese alike might have assumed she was referring to the upcoming winter Olympics in Beijing. Alas, she was not – China isn’t playing around.

All this preceded a CNN report last month in which Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen acknowledged that U.S. troops are currently deployed to assist Taiwan‘s defense forces in upgrading their defenses. The news prompted the Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times to publish a blistering response: “The more these people collude with external forces, the faster the punishment from the mainland will arrive. As the secessionist forces on the island seek support and protection, at the same time, they are also pushing the mainland to decide to resolve the Taiwan question by force.”

These are bullying words that would likely have remained unwritten if Beijing were taking incoming pro-democracy vibes from a U.S. president. The spectacle of Mr. Biden teetering at the outer edge of the G20 leaders’ photo-op stage serves as an apt, though unfortunate, symbol of a weakening U.S. grip on global leadership. It could only validate Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to skip the gathering in Rome and the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow.

Having unleashed a pandemic that has killed 5 million without repercussion, China now has Taiwan trapped between its claws and no one to challenge its reabsorption of the island. Until a bold American leader re-emerges from the 2024 presidential election, forlorn Taiwan will have to rely on President Biden as its fair-weather friend.

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