Recently, Lucas Miner and Andrew DeWeese wrote an op-ed in response to my earlier op-ed titled “Avenge Ukraine by Protecting Taiwan.” I had hoped to instill a sense of urgency in the Yale community regarding the brewing crisis in Taiwan, but it seems that the article had the opposite effect. Indeed, these two Yalies even went so far as to publish an article assuring everyone that Taiwan will be just fine so long as America stays out of the way. The op-ed’s central claim — that American support for Taiwan will needlessly provoke China into punishing Taiwan — is essentially a recycled version of professor John Mearsheimer’s argument that America’s aggressive NATO expansion needlessly provoked Russia to invade Ukraine.
But even Mearsheimer himself wouldn’t extend his Ukraine argument to Taiwan. Mearsheimer acknowledged that a strong China poses an existential threat to Taiwan regardless of America’s actions: “the continuing rise of China will have huge consequences for Taiwan, almost all of which will be bad. Not only will China be much more powerful than it is today, but it will also remain deeply committed to making Taiwan part of China.”
This should surprise no one. China itself has made its intentions on the subject of Taiwan abundantly clear. Not only does China refuse to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, but they punish other nations who do so. China took significant military action against Taiwan three separate times in between 1954 and 1996. In fact, the only reason none of these three attempts actually succeeded was because America aggressively intervened on Taiwan’s behalf.
But don’t take my word for it: take the word of the Chinese government itself. Last month, China published a paper explicitly calling for a “One Country, Two Systems” policy in Taiwan, the exact same policy which China used to demolish Hong Kong’s liberal democratic institutions and impose brutal authoritarian rule. This is no coincidence. Both Hong Kong and Taiwan are thriving examples of East Asian liberal democracies: as such, their very existence threatens the legitimacy of CCP rule in mainland China. China already extinguished half of the threat by ruthlessly crushing Hong Kong, and there’s every indication that it will do the same to Taiwan the first chance it gets. If we took Miner and DeWeese’s awful advice and withdrew America’s “provocative” support for Taiwan, there’s no doubt that Taiwan would be off the map by the next morning.
Of course, Miner and DeWeese point to “the hardiness of the Taiwanese people” and the “vitality of the status-quo” as effective enough to thwart the inevitable Chinese military aggression. Not only do these fairytale statements evidence Miner and DeWeese’s total misunderstanding of the “History” they both claim to study, they are also insulting to the people of Hong Kong. Was it really for lack of “hardiness” that Hong Kong succumbed to Chinese rule in 2019? Would a more robust “status-quo” really have prevented Chinese secret police from disappearing Hong Kong’s protestors? Maybe, having never “spent three months in Taiwan” like Miner and DeWeese, I simply don’t understand just how “hardy” the people of Taiwan are. But I think China proved in Hong Kong that no amount of “hardiness” can ward off its territorial ambition, and the history of the China-Taiwan conflict clearly indicates that the only force China respects is American intervention.
A stronger version of Miner and DeWeese’s argument concedes both that Taiwan is in danger and that American intervention is Taiwan’s only chance for lasting independence, but still wonders which potential American strategic policies are indeed the “right move.” That question is way above my paygrade, but I do know that tepid public support for protecting Taiwan will slowly morph into American government apathy towards Taiwan. Conversely, public support for pro-Taiwan policies will incentivize politicians to take the initiative to support Taiwan. Thus, as someone concerned for the fate of Taiwan, I once again urge my fellow Yalies to use their voices and Op-Ed writing skills to support Taiwan, instead of using them to apologize for an oppressive regime.
Now to their credit, Miner and DeWeese actually provided some stellar options for Yalies looking to support Taiwan by providing links to various Taiwan-based language-study programs. I myself am quite interested in attending one of these programs, and I would echo their recommendation for anyone looking to do something meaningful over the summer. But I want to dispel the notion that the only way, or the most effective way, to support Taiwan is by physically going there. As a Yalie, you can effectively support Taiwan from the comfort of your own dorm room, by harboring pro-Taiwan opinions and encouraging others to do the same.
ARI BERKE is a sophomore in Branford college. Contact him at email@example.com.