Face Value

Most of Indian TV channels have developed a habit of creating war hysteria even in areas where the possibility of immediate war doesn’t exist. They love to generate war scenario with imagination while ignoring the ground reality. They don’t sell military hardware but their war propaganda helps the global military-industrial complex market their products. They display their wares to potential buyers, mostly in third world countries. The Russia-Ukraine war is a grand occasion to whip up nuclear panic as if Russia is going to detonate nuclear bombs anytime. They present Russian nuclear alert vis-a-vis American response with counter preparations in such a way that recreation of Hiroshima horror is just a few weeks away. But the Russian threat to resort to nuclear options in case its survival is at stake is repeatedly dismissed by the White House experts as a bluff. After all nuclear war cannot be won. Russia knows it. America knows it. Even Ukrainians don’t think they are going to face nuclear holocaust despite the current stalemate and Russian set-backs on the front.

Then they frequently dramatise the military drill by America and its allies in the Pacific to such an extent that one may think that a war between China and America-backed Taiwan may break out any day. How many times China has violated Taiwan’s air space is their regular staple. Even an accidental crash of a helicopter of any side is viewed as a symptom of impending war. And how America is arming Taiwan with sophisticated arms gets priority on their daily discourse on the Taiwan crisis. They predict a war between China and Taiwan any time soon.

For one thing China is unlikely to attack Taiwan despite its military exercises in the region. To keep Taiwan as an American post is beneficial to Beijing. Many people have forgotten the history of Taiwan or Formosa or Kuomintang China. Mao’s People’s Liberation Army failed to liberate this island from the Kuomintang and in due season it became an independent entity. It was part of China before the Chinese revolution and the Chinese policy of treating it as ‘one country, two systems’ seems to be working well. Major portion of foreign direct investment [FDI] to China comes from Taiwan. Beijing has a lot to learn about capitalist intricacies from Taipei because capitalism came late in China. Their much touted ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ has been turned into ‘capitalism with Chinese characteristics’.

China has developed a unique device called the ‘China-Taipei Forum’ to maintain people to people relationship. And it matters in global diplomacy. In other words China doesn’t look too eager to deploy force against Taiwan.

‘China may have just banned the import of Taiwanese mangoes but two sides have had some fruitful exchanges this summer, including the travel of Taiwanese athletes to Chengdu for the World University Games, albeit under the Chinese-Taipei banner’. Last month Taipei’s Mayor Chiang Wan-an visited his counter-part in Shanghai for a city-level meeting—the first time the annual conference was being held in-person since 2019.

The Shanghai-Taipei City Forum began in 2010 as a channel to promote cross-strait trade but grew in political significance after Tsai Ing wen became president in 2016. Of late Tsai has extended an olive branch to Beijing by announcing an end to travel restrictions imposed on Chinese businesses during corona virus pandemic. With this type of mutual cooperation and cordiality between them it may be wild speculation to see a war between China and Taiwan or for that matter between China and America in the near future. To talk of war is one thing and to go to war is quite another. Even if there are no tensions they can always create ones to keep the pot boiling. Asked about the possibility of a war Andy Huang, a restaurateur in Taipei said somewhat sarcastically, ‘‘I have been hearing China invading for 30 years’’.

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Vol 56, No. 12, Sep 17 - 23, 2023