In an exclusive interview with Nikkei, John Mearsheimer, a professor of international affairs at the University of Chicago and author of “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,” stated that if China uses force against Taiwan, the U.S. will intervene.
As Mearsheimer put it, “We’re not going to take a vote on whether or not to defend Taiwan if Taiwan is under threat. The leaders in the White House, State Department, and Pentagon will make that decision.”
Mearsheimer indicates that if China threatens Taiwan, the U.S. political elite will disregard popular opinion and defend the island.
The U.S. is defending Taiwan for two reasons. One of the reasons is that it is pretty strategic. The Chinese navy and air forces must be contained within the first island chain.
As every Japanese strategist is well aware, it is critical that they maintain control over Taiwan and do not allow it to fall into the hands of Beijing. That is the primary strategic justification for their willingness to fight and die for Taiwan.
The second reason is that abandoning Taiwan would send a dreadful message to all of the region’s friends. Japan, for instance, would lose its reliance on the American security umbrella, particularly the nuclear umbrella.
In response to Chinese authorities’ frequent assertions that the time has come to reunite Taiwan, John hints that if China maintains a faster rate of economic development than the U.S., it will be more aggressive in 30 years.
According to Mearsheimer, if China wishes to capture Taiwan, it would be prudent to wait until it gets stronger.
However, China is facing difficulty in forecasting China’s economy for the next three decades.
Indeed, it is difficult to predict how the Japanese and American economies will do in the future.
The U.S. has wrongly pursued an engagement policy openly to assist China’s economic development.
Of course, when China’s financial strength expanded, it turned that strength into military might, and the U.S., as a result of this misguided engagement strategy, aided in creating a peer rival.
Not only did the U.S. assist China’s economic growth, but Taiwan, of all nations, assisted China’s growth recklessly, as did Japan, South Korea, and all of Europe. They were all pursuing an astonishingly stupid policy.
Until President Donald Trump took office, the United States maintained an engagement strategy to increase China’s riches, as we all know.
Trump became the president and declared, “We’re going to pursue a fundamentally different policy of containment.”
President Biden has taken a page from Trump’s playbook committed to keeping the containment.
There is no doubt that the United States and Japan are committed to China’s containment.
As to the question, ‘can they contain China?’
According to Mearsheimer, containment has two primary facets; the military and economic.
China’s determination to destabilize East Asia’s status quo is self-evident. To begin, China thinks it “owns” the South China Sea in its entirety.
Second, China is adamant about Taiwan’s reunification.
Thirdly, China is adamant about regaining the East China Sea control and “taking back” the disputed Diaoyu Islands (the Senkaku Islands in Japan).
China is without a doubt a revisionist force, and the U.S. and its allies, including Japan, are determined to prevent it from reclaiming the South China Sea, reclaiming Taiwan, and upsetting the status quo in the East China Sea.
There is also an economic part currently; there is no mechanism for the United States to slow China’s economic progress meaningfully.
The U.S. will attempt to contain that expansion to the greatest extent feasible while also accelerating economic development in the West.
The two powers’ fight will be centered on cutting-edge technologies such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, semiconductors, and 5G, among others.
Mearsheimer, a realist in international relations theory, stated in his 2001 book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, that the United States’ engagement strategy would fail as an economically more assertive China pursued regional hegemony.
The U.S.’s notion that China would develop into a democracy after gaining prominence was a grave error.
The U.S. assumes, incorrectly, that as China advances in prestige, it will become a free nation.
The United States and Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea have all aided China in its rise to economic hegemony, creating a geopolitical threat.