Trump and Xi and Taiwan … e=Homepage

[b]'The soldiers run through the forest, through the surf, through smoke and flames, ready to die for the motherland. The video, one of a series that has recently appeared online in China, climaxes with the launch of nine ballistic missiles and a fiery barrage of explosions.

'“If war breaks out,” a chorus sings, “this is my answer.”

'Chinese propaganda is rarely subtle or particularly persuasive, but the torrent of bombast online and in state media in recent weeks is striking and potentially ominous.

‘The targets are China’s main adversaries: the United States and Taiwan, which are moving closer and closer together.’[/b]


[b]'China is already facing pressure over Taiwan and is pressing other disputed territorial claims, from the South China Sea to the Himalayas. If China feels directly challenged on any of those fronts, Mr. Xi may not be able to back down, having primed the public for a combative stance.

'One video featured a simulated airstrike on Guam, the American territory in the Pacific, with clips cribbed from two Hollywood films, “The Rock” and “The Hurt Locker.”

‘Global Times, the voice of the Communist Party’s hawks, warned recently that the United States was “playing with fire” by supporting Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of a unified China. Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, the editorial went on, would be “wiped out” if she moved against Chinese sovereignty.’[/b]

What is always both fascinating and disturbing about situations like this is how it can play out on two levels.

First, there are the “institutional” factors/players embedded in the foreign policy of both the U.S. and China. A chain of command rooted in both the military and the government that evolves over the years in checks and balances that allow for a more “reasoned” and “thought through” reaction to events around the globe.

On the other hand, there are the “personalities” of those at the top. Individual idiosyncrasies that, depending on a particular context, are considerably more difficult to pin down. Who knows what Mr. Trump or Mr. Xi might do that others at the top might not do.

How stable are they? How entrenched in “the system” are they? How much actual power do they have to order the military to, well, imagine the worse.

As for Taiwan, that has always been one of those global situations in which I wondered if China would in fact attempt to invade it and take control. You know, in my lifetime.