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Lai's transit to be disastrous for Taiwan

By Martin Sieff | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-08-02 10:58

Night view of Taipei 101, Taiwan, China. [Photo/VCG]

The Joe Biden administration would do better to take Beijing's advice and prevent Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party leader Lai Ching-te from transiting through the United States on his way to Paraguay. Beijing has already issued a sober warning to Washington that it regards granting a Taiwan politician to transit through the US as a dangerously provocative behavior. Washington should respect and heed that warning.

Unfortunately, US policymakers and almost all Congress members are obsessed with posturing against both Russia and China so they can present themselves to the US public as crusading knights for a so-called democratic ideal they conspicuously fail to practice in their own country.

In reality, some US politicians are fanning the flames of fear and hatred toward China, Russia and other countries that do not bow to its diktats in order to distract the US public from the US domestic manifest failures.

However, history is clear: such bluster always provokes a disastrous collision that cannot be avoided. War ensues, with the desperate adventurers pulling their countries down to ruin. It has always been so. But the fact that we now live in a world full of nuclear weapons raises the risks to unimaginable new levels. Wisdom and restraint are called for. The precepts of Confucius and Sun Tzu cry out to be sensibly applied in the US. But so far, the US has been deaf to reason.

Instead, US leaders, policymakers and media pundits remain trapped in their empty, posturing rhetoric about the inevitability of a decades- and even half century-long "competition", or worse conflict, with China. This talk is now so common in Washington's political circles and the discredited mainstream US media that it threatens to drown reality and common sense in a wave of jingoistic madness.

The US administration has embarked on a drive to destroy the almost 50-year-understanding between Beijing and Washington over the Taiwan question. That understanding, so beneficial for all the peoples of the Asia-Pacific region, is not being assaulted by China. It is being relentlessly attacked and eroded by the US and its acolytes in Taiwan.

Lai's intended transit through the US is a disastrous step in this reckless, irresponsible and ultimately suicidal process.

There is no need for this to happen. But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and soon-to-be acting deputy secretary of state Victoria Nuland seem to be pushing it through.

Lai Ching-te is abetting this process without realizing its dangerous consequences for the Taiwan island. After 20 years of sustained ambition, Lai has risen through the power structure of the DPP and now wants to become the next leader of the island. And he is betting on the support of "Big Brother" US to put him there, in return for being the US' obedient pawn.

Lai, like so many other ambitious, power-hungry demagogues and power-seekers before him, expects the imagined superpower to propel him to the top, regardless of the dangers to which he exposes Taiwan residents as well as the American people.

Lai's background and political history are highly revealing. He did not study economics, business, history or politics in college. He is a medical doctor, and spent some years studying at Harvard Medical School. Back in Taiwan, he propelled himself to important political positions for 20 years, and made his political assumptions and loyalty clear early, while showing no aptitude for restraint or wisdom whatsoever.

Lai is indeed existentially American in an alarmingly superficial way. The restraint, caution, balance and wisdom of Confucius and the strategic genius of Sun Tzu are both alien to him. He sees the world as a chess board where the US and its acolytes are destined to win under the banner of democracy, regardless of the more sordid realities that really propel them. He is alien to the philosophy of playing go.

Such a man can only give rise to crisis and confrontation, and ruin all those who support him, whether in Taiwan or the US. That's why Beijing's recent warning to Washington to prevent Lai from transiting through the US was timely and wise. US leaders would benefit by heeding the warning.

The author is a senior fellow at the American University in Moscow.

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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