In a situation, the Asian one, of strong tensions, it came like a bomb one statement by Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso which in fact opens up unprecedented and very dangerous scenarios, also taking into account that Japan after the Second World War had to renounce any pretense of using its army for offensive military purposes. In fact, they are called Japanese Self-Defense Forces: they cannot leave the Japanese borders, even if they have participated in peace and rescue missions during international emergencies. “If China were to invade Taiwan Japan would take sides with the United States to defend the island.
Any problem affecting Taiwan could turn into a dangerous situation for the very survival of Japan, ”said Taro Aso. Second Francesco Sisci, sinologist and former correspondent of La Stampa from China, “With these words a season of strategic ambiguity that lasted from the 1970s, when in exchange for the American recognition of the People’s Republic of China as the only reality, Beijing in turn guaranteed not to pursue reunification with Taiwan by force ”. This balance is now being blown up, he told us again, with very worrying consequences “since Kurt Campbell, former adviser to Barack Obama for the Far East and now with the same role for Joe Biden, has also intervened, saying that every Chinese move against Taiwan it would have catastrophic consequences ”.
A surprising statement from the Japanese vice premier, who invokes the right to take military sides with the United States in the event that China invades Taiwan. How are these words to be read?
It is not surprising, because it is the last step, in chronological order, of a drift that has lasted a long time. The political point is that with these declarations, probably also agreed with the US, the strategic ambiguity around Taiwan is put to an end. An issue that has been crucial for 40 years in relations between China and the United States after Nixon’s trip to Beijing in 1972.
Can we briefly reconstruct this junction?
After Nixon’s trip to Beijing at the beginning of 1972 for about eight years, a very long and laborious process began, in which the US and China, taking Japan with them, elaborated a strategic ambiguity in which People’s China was recognized. as the only China, but at the same time there was Beijing’s recognition of a de facto independence of Taiwan. This status was strengthened by the fact that Taiwan gradually no longer had access to all the armaments it could have in the previous phase and above all it did not have the very certain guarantee of an American commitment in the event of an attempted attack by Beijing.
And on the Chinese side?
China accepted that it would not force its hand with attempts at reunification carried out by force. They were all elements of an unwritten strategic ambiguity. This ambiguity, which had already frayed in recent years, is now broken, since Japan says Taiwan’s security is also a matter of its own security and that it would intervene in the event of an attack. This effectively makes reunification impossible without the risk of a world war. This ambiguity, as we said, had been unraveled for years due to growing tensions, but now it is over and another phase is opening.
What’s going to happen?
The fundamental point is that for Beijing this is a big setback, against which it can react in two ways.
One is to up the ante again by challenging these statements, which would further increase tensions and lead us into very dangerous terrain. The other is to make a strategic retreat, which in fact would mean renouncing reunification. This eventual retreat in turn could have two consequences, one internal for China and one relative to Taiwan.
As for China?
In China, a search for the culprit could begin: who led to this situation? The most superficial reaction would be to blame Xi Jinping, who suffers this setback today. But this analysis is perhaps not correct. I believe instead that this situation comes from afar, from an attitude perceived as “arrogant” of China after the financial crisis of 2008 in which Beijing did not realize the growing nervousness in America and Asia towards it. In those years there was a collective leadership maintained by the then president Hu Jintao but in which his predecessor Jiang Zemin also participated. This growing nervousness has been overlooked by all for over a decade.
How will Taiwan play this match?
Taipei could theoretically shut up or it could up the ante at this point to gain recognition of formal independence. This opens up even more complicated dynamics. We are in a very delicate situation, which could lead, if not a war, to moments of high tension.
Have Japan and the United States coordinated to corner China?
Certainly. They have increased the pressure on China, but it is important to understand that the US and Japan think that China has in turn increased the pressure on them. If a China integrated into the Western world had peacefully reunited with Taiwan, the global strategic balance would not have changed, above all there would have been no consequences for Japan. If, on the other hand, China, posing as an adversary, were to take Taiwan back, it would suffocate or could suffocate the Japanese economy, which, we recall, depends 70% on energy and 50% on food that passes through the Taiwan channel. So the increase in tensions with the US changes the sense of a reunification of China with Taiwan and therefore all the international consequences.
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