Vladimir Putin is certainly not the only despot capable of reading the writing on the wall. After Joe Biden’s historically inept response to Russia’s unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation, is it any wonder that Xi Jinping is calculating the slim odds that China will face any US resistance stronger than harsh language if and when he moves against Taiwan?
Even as Russian troops and tanks rolled into Ukraine Thursday, eight Chinese fighters and a technical reconnaissance plane breached Taiwan’s airspace, provoking a warning from Taiwanese forces. The US Defense Department acknowledged the incident and called it a “provocative military action.”
Biden’s America is getting very familiar with “provocative military action.”
Unlike Russia, which at least bothered to give lip-service denials to what was evident to the whole world, China has no such qualms. The One-China Principle holds that Taiwan is merely a breakaway republic and is an inalienable part of mainland China, which is the bedrock of Chinese foreign policy. Any country that seeks diplomatic relations with China must break official ties with Taiwan.
In what would be an embarrassing leak if the Chinese Communists could feel embarrassment, a state-run media outlet revealed instructions on covering the Ukrainian invasion, noting the need for Russian support on the Taiwan issue. The senior editor of the Xinhua News Agency urged the restrained use of pro-Russian wording and emphasized that China has to provide Moscow with “emotional and moral” backing while not blatantly antagonizing the US and EU.
Even more interesting than the tepid way the Chinese Communists approach the Russian invasion, such as refusing to call it an invasion, is how social media has exploded with reactions to the West’s inaction over the crisis. Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, is inundated with users mocking Western leaders’ “toothless” response, and it doesn’t come close to stopping there. Many commenters draw parallels to what much of the populace sees as the inevitable reunion of China and Taiwan, by force if required, and the great experiment unfolding in front of the watching world in Ukraine.
For months on end, Putin played his hand and watched the ensuing hand-wringing by Biden and the EU. Not once did anything more than a few small arms and a heartfelt “good luck” go to the victims, and those who opposed the loudest were content to move a few defenders around and implement a few tepid sanctions.
Xi Jinping doesn’t need to lose one moment of sleep wondering what the US response will be if and when he decides to reunite the family. He now knows. And the West has no one to blame but ourselves.