No matter which way and from where – Washington, Beijing or Taipei – one looks at it, the 70-year-old off-now, on-again mating rites across the Taiwan Strait have decisively been militarised.
For decades, mainland China and its renegade province of Taiwan alternated between overtures towards unification and vowing eternal separation. The dubious romancing and distancing depended on whether the party ruling in Taiwan was inclined towards becoming a part of the mainland or asserting its independent identity.
Beijing for its part never made any secret of courting the political party that favoured unification, although all the noises have proved to be futile. Equally, it is futile for Taiwan to hold out the threat of fire and brimstone against Beijing. Not all the weapons it buys from the US can help Taiwan stand up to China’s military might.
Yet every now and then, invariably it is US sale of military equipment to Taiwan that triggers war-mongering across the Strait. Thus, less than a week after the US agreed to sell weapons worth $2.2 billion on the occasion of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to New York, China began breathing fire.
It talked of sanctions against US firms that sell military equipment to China and staged military exercises close to the Strait. Somewhat taken aback at the US, and Taiwan, resolutely standing their ground, China climbed down to say that its exercises were a “routine drill”.
That helps the US, which has already unleashed a trade war against China, to drive it deeper into a corner and step up the pressure. But, it is of little use to Taiwan which is a pawn in US military play when the pro-independence party rules; and, a potential mating object, when the pro-unification party holds the reins.
Any delusions of actual independence have no basis because it would be unsustainable in political, economic and military terms. Its assertions of independence, even when militarised, are useful as precisely that – assertions.
(Disclaimer: WION Edit is the channel's take on the big events of the world)