Communist China is under pressure from the Trump Administration – and they do not like it. After decades of military modernization, abusive trade practices, theft of US intellectual property, cyberattacks, militarizing artificial islands, propagating COVID-19, and crushing human rights – not to mention deals with Joe Biden’s son – Trump is calling China out. China is writhing.
The latest example is China’s overreaction to US sale of defensive Patriot missiles to Taiwan. After the ho-hum deal was announced, China last week slapped sanctions on the American company for selling Patriot missiles to Taiwan. That act signals China’s growing frustration. Trump is getting to them.
Historical context is important. China’s overreaction is obvious by reference to history. First, US relations with Taiwan – a freedom-loving people with enormous admiration for America – are governed by the so-called Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). That act, signed in 1979 by President Carter, is deliberately ambiguous on Taiwan’s status.
The TRA allows Communist China to maintain the fiction that Taiwan is part of China, while allowing the United States and Taiwan to conduct de facto diplomatic and trade relations as with all “foreign countries, nations, states, governments …” The ambiguity preserves cross-strait peace, in effect delaying any determination that Taiwan is either China or independent.
Truth is, having spent time in Taiwan, the island is physically, politically, economically, and militarily independent. It has been for decades – and China knows it. Military sales are allowed under the TRA: “The United States will make available to Taiwan such defensive articles and defensive services … necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities.” So, China is overreacting.
Beyond that, US military sales to Taiwan are not novel. Jimmy Carter sold more than $500 million in military armaments to Taiwan, including missiles and aircraft. Ronald Reagan sold Taiwan fighter aircraft parts, C-130s, armored personnel carriers, and other military equipment. George H.W. Bush sold Knox frigates and 150 F-16s.
Not to be outdone, Bill Clinton initiated military deals with Taiwan in 34 categories, selling everything from Patriot missiles to frigates, minesweepers to Chinook and Cobra helicopters, logistics for F-5s, F-16s, F-104s, T-38s, C-130s, both hellfire and stinger missiles.
After George W. Bush sold air-to-air, air-to-ground, and other missiles, plus P-3s, more Patriot upgrades and 30 attack helicopters, Barack Obama sold 60 Blackhawk helicopters, various ships, more Patriots, and military addenda in 17 categories.
Even before the latest deal for Patriots, Trump sold Taiwan missiles, parts for fighters, battle tanks and more F-16s. The historical record is crystal clear: The US has a longstanding military sales relationship with Taiwan. That relationship is not going away.
So, why the sudden imposition of sanctions on a US company for sale of defensive Patriot missiles? Answer: Communist China is feeling the pressure. They are pushing back against Trump’s push-back against decades of Chinese overreach in trade, cyberattacks, economic intimidation, militarization of trade routes, spread of COVID-19, and human rights suppression in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
Like Ronald Reagan’s decision to call out communist illegitimacy in the Soviet Union, Donald Trump is calling out China’s communist illegitimacy. He is saying – no more illegality.
On July 12, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to recognize China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, where China created a military hub in trade lanes. On July 13, Trump signed legislation imposing sanctions on officials who undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy. On July 14, Pompeo banned employees from Huawei who suppress human rights in the Xinjiang region.
Where does all this lead? Likely to a period of increased international focus on Communist China’s illegitimate behaviors, hopefully greater accountability to international norms and law, and a greater sense that what is wrong cannot persist.
Does sale of Patriots to Taiwan and China’s overreaction mean a war? Hardly. Does Trump’s effort to make China accountable mean tension? Possibly, but that is the cost of accountability.
For decades, Communist China has run roughshod over Western interests, allies, and international law. For the first time in three decades, China is being forced to answer.
To be clear, America has an ardent ideological, economic, and potential military adversary in China – even if Joe Biden thinks they are a pushover. China thinks Biden is the pushover. In 2013, his son notched a billion-dollar deal with China – while his father served as Vice President. Even in Communist China, that looks like corruption. See, e.g., https://nypost.com/2019/05/11/the-troubling-reason-why-biden-is-so-soft-on-china/.
In any event, the latest sword-crossing is not unexpected. It tells us Trump is getting to China. Trump is hard as nails on China’s dishonesty. He is using a combination of carrot and stick to get fair trade, reduced military overreach, regional peace, and accountability under law.
As Reagan called out Soviet Communists, Trump is calling out Chinese Communists. Bottom line: Communist China is under pressure from Trump – and they do not like it. Anyone who believes in the rule of law should.