Contrary to the conventional wisdom in Western and Taiwanese mainstream mass media in our time, the "unthinkable thought” may not be so unthinkable (and politically incorrect) after all: Why is it better for Taiwan to be reunited with China in the years (or decades) to come?
The first reason is "economic,” which is that Taiwan is becoming more and more dependent on its economic ties with China. As China is already the world's largest economy (overtaking the U. S. in 2014, as measured by GDP Purchasing Power Parity), both mainland China and Hong Kong are already the first and second largest trading partners of Taiwan. And this economic dependency will increase all the more, as China further grows (at a rate 3 times faster than the growth rate of the U. S. economy) and consolidates its status as the world's dominant superpower in the decades to come (as already predicted in my 1999 book The Future of Human Civilization, and my 2007 book Beyond the World of Titans, and the Remaking of World Order).
The second reason is "military,” which is that China's decades-long military buildup has already shifted the balance of power in East Asia to China's favor, at the expense of the U. S. in the region. According to the U. S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China already has the world's largest navy (in terms of the number of ships). Although the U. S. still maintains technological superiority in some areas, the gap is closing (alarmingly) fast, as China is working on "next-generation hi-tech” weapons of all varieties (including the recent testing of the nuclear-capable around-the-world hypersonic gliding vehicle, which stunned the U. S. military as a "Sputnik-like” moment). It will eventually reach a point when the U. S. will no longer have the ability and the will to sacrifice potentially enormous losses to fight China (for Taiwan) far away from home, with no major benefits in return.
Besides, the majority of Americans have no inherent love of ethnic Chinese (in Taiwan and elsewhere on Earth); worse, even many Chinese Americans themselves, not just ethnic Chinese from East Asia, have suffered from "racist discrimination” in the states from the 19th century to this day, with the rise of "hate crimes” against individuals of Chinese descent in the last few years, both during the Trump administration and now the Biden one, as an excellent reminder of this "inconvenient truth.” Bluntly put, the majority of Americans have no stomach to defend "ethnic Chinese” (who are foreigners to them) in Taiwan (so far away from home), while they cannot even defend "ethnic Chinese” (who are Americans) inside their own country (due to the centuries-long history of "racism” against them unto this day and age).
The third reason is "political,” as there are roughly only a dozen countries (out of more than 200 countries in the world) which still recognize Taiwan (with the rest recognizing the PRC instead) -- and these few countries are poor and small places in the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, Central America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The diplomatic isolation of Taiwan is so serious that it has no political clout in international organizations. The diplomatic benefit of these handful poor and tiny countries to Taiwan is therefore insignificant, but the financial cost is simply beyond what a small economy like Taiwan can afford to pay, and nothing illustrates this realistic point more clearly than the rejection (by Taiwan) of the exorbitant amount of money that Panama asked for recognition in 2017 (before finally switching to the PRC), as the money would be better spent at home to improve the ailing economy that Taiwan has suffered in the last two decades.
Moreover, the Western political meddling in the "Taiwan question” has unintentionally brought back the painful memory of the "100 years of national humiliation” so intensely experienced by Imperial China at the hands of foreign (mostly Western) powers in the 19th and 20th centuries and so deeply ingrained in the modern political imagination of many Chinese in mainland China (and also those in the former colonial enclaves of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao). This is one of the most important driving forces of contemporary "Chinese nationalism” against "foreign” meddling into China's "internal” affairs.
And the fourth reason is "cultural,” which is that it is historically "false” for some nationalists (though with their own political motives) in Taiwan to call themselves "Taiwanese” (not "Chinese”), not only because the peoples on the two sides are both "ethnic Chinese” (and had been part of the same country for millennia until the end of the civil war in 1949, with the "Nationalists” being defeated and having to flee to Taiwan) but also because the culture and society in Taiwan are many times more "Chinese” than the ones in mainland China (due to the Communist Revolution under Mao which had fought hard for decades to eradicate the traditional "feudalistic” Chinese cultural values and social fabrics in the mainland -- whereas the "traditional Chinese” culture and society have continued to grow to this day in Taiwan).
Now, after four decades of "opening up” to the outside world, China experiences the return of many (though not all) of its traditional cultural values and beliefs as "national pride,” especially in regard to Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist legacies as cultural treasures -- even at a time when the Chinese Communist Party is struggling to reinvent itself with "Chinese characteristics,” so as to maintain power in a new China which has little in common with the outdated "Marxist orthodoxy” of "class struggle” in the bygone "Maoist” era during the Cold War (in spite of the "Marxist rhetoric” of Xi Jinping in 2018 to celebrate Marx's 200th birthday, as a political "window dressing” for an increasingly irrelevant ideology).
In fact, many in our time do not realize that China nowadays is not "communistic” at all, just as it has never been really so in its entire history -- and the brief (self-destructive) "Communist” experiment by radical Red Guards during the "Cultural Revolution” had failed miserably and wreaked havoc on Chinese society and culture to the breaking point in the 1970s, which then led Deng Xiaoping to initiate anti-Maoist "market reforms,” making a new capitalist China of today (in a version of state capitalism with the world's highest number of billionaires, even surpassing the one in the U. S.).
Each of these 4 (illustrative) reasons is already substantive enough for reunification, but when all four are combined together, a clear sober mind would suggest that a reunification (under some conditions to be worked out in any negotiation process) is the better choice, as Taiwan has much to gain from it than to lose because of it. Of course, as the historical case of German reunification (between East and West Germany) has taught us, any reunification negotiation will take years to work out the terms of agreement, and there will be trials and errors in the implementation process. So, no one can realistically say that it will be an easy cakewalk.
Unfortunately, Taiwan has its own internal "politics” to play out, as different political parties and social groups struggle for their own parochial interests, hardly with any commitment to the "common good” in a messy political system (with "Chinese characteristics” unique to the island) -- although there is plenty of "sound and fury” in their rhetoric about the future of Taiwan. As the old saying goes, "It is politics, stupid.”
But how long can this internal political drama in Taiwan continues, before the "hard external reality” of a new historical era will come and crash it? Indeed, the new historical era is already arriving much sooner than what Western and Taiwanese mainstream mass media would like to admit. So, the real danger now is that Taiwan would have much to lose and regret if it indulged itself in being carried away by the "forever independent” lofty rhetoric for too long. Just look at what has currently befallen Hong Kong next door (under the "National Security Law”) after some protesters played "hard ball” against mainland China for months by soliciting foreign (mostly Western) support for their lofty "independence” fairy tale, in the name of liberal democracy -- until the patience of China with them ran out. And China's patience with Taiwan is already running thin.
In the end, a lesson un-learned from the past is a mistake re-made in the future, as the history of power has not been kind to lofty "quixotism” of any type.
About the author:
Dr. Peter Baofu is an American visionary and author of 173 scholarly books and numerous articles (as of November 2021) to provide 139 visions (theories) of the human future in relation to the mind, nature, society, and culture -- and had been (or lived) in more than 111 countries around the world (as of September 2021) for his global research on humanity. He was interviewed on television and radio as well as by newspapers around the world about his original ideas and visions of the human future. He had taught as a professor at different universities in Western Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Balkans, Central Asia, South Asia, North America, and Southeast Asia. He received more than 5 academic degrees, including a Ph. D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), was a summa cum laude graduate, and was awarded the Delta Sigma Pi Scholarship Key for being at the top of the class in the College of Business Administration, with another student.
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