By Francis P. Sempa for RealClearwire

Last month, Professor Donald Stoker of the National Defense University wrote a thought-provoking article Article for Real Clear Defense which examined China’s actions in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and concluded that “China will be extremely difficult to contain with respect to Taiwan” and for a successful US strategy of deterrence with “strength, capability, credibility and will is required” .” A grand strategy of deterrence affects the mind of the enemy—in this case, the mind of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the minds of Xi’s top advisers. Stoker writes, the United States and its allies must “instill overwhelming doubt in the minds of China’s leaders” that they can control Taiwan “at an acceptable cost”.

China under Mao Zedong in Korea in the early 1950s did not stop from fighting US forces there, even though the United States had nuclear weapons and China did not, and even though the US had China at the time. Had a much stronger and technologically advanced army than the . Stoker points out that China, which its leaders perceived as a threat to its security, was prepared to “endure escalating risks and pay a heavy price in blood and treasure” to protect it. China also had the advantage of geographical proximity in the conflict. In short, China was willing to risk a nuclear strike and spend countless lives and treasure to ensure that the northern half of the Korean Peninsula was governed in a manner conducive to China’s interests.

Stoker states that China was far less involved in the fighting in Vietnam than in Korea, but attributes this to the American decision not to invade North Vietnam. Stoker writes that Mao told the leaders of Hanoi that his forces would fight the Americans if they invaded the northern sector. If Mao had been serious – and we have no reason to doubt this – Chinese forces would have intervened in North Vietnam, as they did in Korea, if US forces had been deployed with the explicit objective of unifying the country (such as in Korea). in) entering the northern region under non-communist, pro-American rule.

In both Korea and Vietnam, China had a single political goal – to maintain friendly rule along its southern border. America’s nuclear weapons and its superior military power were insufficient to prevent China from achieving its political goals. China’s political goal with regard to Taiwan is to reunify the island under Communist Party rule. It is the unfinished business of the Chinese Civil War. China’s leaders have been unclear about that goal. What would it take to stop China from achieving that political goal, asks Stoker?

Stoker does not believe that China can be stopped regarding Taiwan. China considers Taiwan a “lost province”. Its value to China’s leaders, writes Stoker, is “enormous”, indeed exceeding the independence of North Korea and North Vietnam. The only thing China values ​​more than Taiwan, writes Stoker, is “regime survival.” Which means that in order to prevent China from taking over Taiwan, the United States would have to threaten the existence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime on the mainland. We must convince Chinese leaders that if they attempt to conquer Taiwan, we will not only successfully defend Taiwan, but also force the CCP to effect a regime change in China.

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One aspect of US-China history that Stoker did not examine were the two Taiwan Strait crises of the 1950s. In the first crisis in 1954–55, China seized offshore islands, shelled Qimoy and Matsu, and publicly called for the “liberation” of Formosa (Taiwan). President Eisenhower persuaded Congress to pass a resolution authorizing the deployment of armed forces to defend Taiwan—the so-called Formosa Resolution. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles warned China that the US was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend Taiwan. By mid-1955 the crisis was over. Resistance worked.

Three years later, China again shelled Quemoy and Matsu, sent warplanes to bombard the islands, and imposed a naval blockade. Eisenhower sent the Seventh Fleet to the Taiwan Strait, increased the number of aircraft carriers and warplanes in the area, and told Chinese leaders that he was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend Taiwan. Once again, resistance worked.

Why did deterrence work in the mid to late 1950s, but not in Korea and Vietnam? This is answered by Stoker at the end of his article: “A deterrent strategy requires strength, ability, credibility and will.” Under President Eisenhower, the United States demonstrated “strength, capability, credibility, and will”. We had tremendous nuclear dominance over China (which then had no nuclear weapons) and significant nuclear superiority over China’s Soviet ally. We also had naval dominance in the western Pacific and a huge technological edge over China. In Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles, we had two politicians whose will was undeniable.

Today the situation is very different. We no longer have significant nuclear superiority over China, especially in theater nuclear weapons. We no longer have naval supremacy in the Western Pacific. Unlike in the 1950s when we projected strategic clarity to defend Taiwan, today we continue to follow a policy of “strategic ambiguity” that has long served its purposes. Finally, one doubts that even partisan Democrats will admit that Joe Biden and Antony Blinken are no match for Eisenhower and Dulles when it comes to gauging credibility and will, and that Biden and Blinken are no match for Eisenhower and Dulles. Playing with a very weak hand in comparison. 1950s.

China’s top leaders have not hidden their belief that China will replace the United States as the world’s leading power in the near future. it’s part of Xi “China’s Dream” Which will put the last nail in the coffin of China’s century of humiliation. Unlike in the 1950s, China rivals the United States economically and militarily. China is modernizing the PLA Navy and its nuclear weapons force. It has also formed a “strategic partnership” with Russia which deploys nuclear power at least equal to that of the United States. President Xi exudes confidence, while an aging President Biden exudes confusion.

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Perhaps a better historical analogy than the Korean or Vietnam Wars is West Berlin during the Cold War. West Berlin was an “island” of freedom surrounded by the East German state and Soviet forces. The United States and its European allies could not defend West Berlin in the event of a Soviet conventional attack. Yet West Berlin survived. It survived because Soviet leaders believed that the United States would give up Washington and New York for West Berlin. Presidents from Truman to Reagan projected strategic clarity about it, and in Reagan’s case the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear weapons and cruise missiles in West Germany in the 1980s despite widespread protests in the US and the West This increased clarity, and a significant propaganda effort on the part of the Soviet Union to cancel the deployment of the missiles.

China can be successfully deterred from invading Taiwan if it believes that US leaders are willing to sacrifice Washington and New York for Taiwan. Strategic ambiguity must give way to strategic clarity. But strategic clarity must involve more than words. Which brings us back to Stoker’s requirements: strength, ability, credibility, and will.

Syndicated with the permission of realclearwire,

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