The Asian Tinderbox

One of my favourite writers and political analysts, Eric Margolis presents an interesting topic in his column this week: the China-Taiwan powderkeg. A news mainstay in the 1970s and 80s, we haven’t heard much of this conflict since the region’s economic renaissance in recent decades. The assumption has always been that enormous wealth, enjoyed by both the Taiwanese and the Chinese, would smoothe over differences and that the promise of lucrative commerce would trump dangerous territoriality. According to Brother Margolis, though, a military stand-off is nonetheless inching nearer; he ends with these dire words:

“There’s even an outside chance China might decide to gamble on a quick war to grab Taiwan while severely over-stretched U.S. military forces are bogged down in Iraq.”

The Asian tinderbox has been simmering for some time. In his wonderful book, War At The Top Of The World, Margolis warns of other strained relationships between India and Pakistan, India and Iran, and of course India and China. The latter is confounded by the presence of Russia, which maintains military friendliness with both powers, and by renewed Indian interests in Nepal, which is too close for comfort to disputed borders with China.

It has been said that the biggest difference between the politics of the East and the politics of West is that the West makes plans only as far as the next election, while the East makes plans lasting generations. Russian and Chinese foreign policies have not changed in 1000 years; the Russians still seek a warm water port and buffers against future invasion and enslavement, and the Chinese still seek to reclaim and hold their traditional (medieval) borders, hence their occupation of Tibet and their 1962 defeat of India which resulted in expanded frontiers. If these patterns hold, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan seems likely, as perhaps is renewed militarism against both India and Nepal. Behold the dawning of the true New World Order!