TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Sun newspaper in the U.K. published an article on Aug. 9 suggesting that East Asia is a “ticking time bomb” in order to promote a recently published book by Dr. Brendan Taylor, a scholar of geopolitics in East Asia.
The attention grabbing article suggests that Korea, the South China Sea, and Taiwan may be the flashpoints responsible for turning Asia “into a powder keg,”with a headline that conspicuously excludes mention of the Chinese government.
Disappointingly, the article, and to some degree Taylor’s book as well, seems to tip toe around the fact that responsibility for any regional conflict of serious magnitude is most likely to start with China and the communist cabal in Beijing.
The Sun also demonstrates its weak understanding of Taiwan by labeling the island on a map with the caption "China wants to re-conquer rebellious island."
Screen grab from The Sun
While there are serious threats to stability and peace in the region, emanating mostly from China’s policies of expansionism, militarization, and economic coercion of her neighbors, the Sun’s article amounts to mostly fear-porn with its presumption of an inevitable World War approaching.
However, the article is correct in presenting the “four flash points” outlined in Taylor’s new book as areas for serious concern and potential conflict.
Taiwan is of course one of the four flash points, the others being the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, and the East China Sea, which are all geographically linked to one another stretching along what is known as the First Island Chain.
Taylor’s book is entitled “The Four Flashpoints: How Asia goes to War” and though he may offer some compelling insight into the current situation, he seems to put too much emphasis on the “Chinese Century” discourse, supposing that China is currently, or will soon be, both willing and capable of carrying out protracted conflicts on multiple fronts.
The following is from an excerpt of the new book, which is available to read at The Australian:
“As China’s economic and military strength grows, America’s ability to intervene in the Taiwan Strait is receding, while an attempt to re-engage carries the risk of sparking “a war like no other.” Similarly, Washington will find it increasingly harder to stare down Beijing in the South China Sea; geography favors China too strongly.”
However, there are navy strategists that would argue precisely the opposite that China’s geography puts it at great risk to being engaged directly at its coasts, with the First Island Chain creating a pen for China’s own navy, restricting their maneuverability while providing multiple bases of supply and defensive battlements nearby for potential adversaries.
Taylor’s assertion, like many others before him, appears to be that the geographic and political interrelations of the “four flash points” could lead to a domino effect, or a chain reaction, sparking conflict in multiple areas all at once, or in short order.
While such a turn of events may indeed be a possibility, it is worth noting that the wider the conflict spreads, the less likely the Chinese government will be able to manage a favorable outcome in any of the flash points that become involved.
It is in China’s interest to manage each of the flash points in isolation from one another, and since China is almost certain to be the aggressor in any given conflict in the region (assuming relations between North Korea and South Korea continue to improve apace), the likelihood of a region-wide conflict is not only slim, but would also heavily favor China’s adversaries in direct proportion to how large the theater of conflict were to become.
China’s leaders know this, and understand they must tread carefully. Taylor’s book “The Four Flashpoints” appears to be one of a genre that aims to spark reader interest and make sales by predicting worst case scenarios for the region.
While Taylor is correct that military conflict is very likely in the years ahead, it remains in the interests of all, especially Beijing, to ensure that stability in the region is maintained, which is a major mitigating factor in the development of "World War" as the Sun alarmingly suggests, or even a region wide conflict, which would almost assuredly result in China's defeat.