The game-theorists are furiously at work, mapping out decision-trees to assess what might happen if China invades Taiwan. Tension is rising. As Xi Jinping’s rhetoric grows bellicose, he gives every indication he’ll define his tenure by the reintegration, if needed by force, of the renegade province into the rest of China. But after more than seven decades of separation from China, and its evolution into a vibrant liberal democracy, Taiwan wants to set its own course. Thirty years ago most Taiwanese identified with China. Today, the longing for reunification is confined mostly to older people. As it distances itself from Beijing, the government in Taipei has been deepening ties to the United States-led alliance, which includes not only its NATO partners but regional powers like Japan, Australia and India. But talk of a confrontation between China and the West presumes the two sides will come to blows. What if the alliance instead used the approach it has employed rather effectively in Ukraine? What if it made it clear it would stand aside during the fighting, but give Taiwan all the weaponry and support it needed to defend itself?
See my column in today’s Globe and Mail, where I make a case for Western countries arming Taiwan but not fighting for it.