TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- As tensions rise across the Taiwan Strait, China in its state-run media mouthpiece the Global Times earlier this month threatened to turn Taiwan into another "Lebanon."
In response to reports that Chinese fighter jets crossed the Taiwan Strait median line on Sunday (March 31), President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton on April 1 said that Beijing's saber-rattling would not "win any hearts and minds in Taiwan" and that the U.S. commitments to the Taiwan Relations Act "are clear." At a press conference on April 2, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said, "The United States opposes unilateral actions by any party that are aimed at altering the status quo, including anything related to force or coercion."
The next day, on April 3, China's state-run tabloid, the Global Times issued an editorial in which it criticized Washington for accusing the PLA of damaging the status quo, while "the U.S. and the Tsai Ing-wen administration are continuously breaking the status quo in the Taiwan Straits." The tabloid then claimed that the U.S. is playing the "Taiwan card" because it views China as a strategic rival.
The government mouthpiece then wrote that the U.S. had overestimated the ability of its military to deter China and "Taiwan's wish to always serve as a U.S. pawn." The newspaper then wrote that the U.S. has underestimated China's resolve and its ability to take countermeasures.
The article indicated that the crossing of the median line could be the first in a series of escalating countermeasures, which could culminate with Taiwan becoming another Lebanon: "The PLA has many choices, including crossing the ‘middle line,’ flying over the Taiwan island and even turn Taiwan into a Lebanon-like situation,”
The reference to Lebanon could be the Lebanese Civil War which raged from 1975 to 1990 and claimed the lives of 150,000 people. Another possible interpretation of could be that, like Lebanon since the civil war ended, Taiwan could become constantly subject to military incursions from its more powerful neighbor, Israel.
Still another interpretation could be that like present-day Lebanon, it is not in a state of war, but the country has been divided into rival factions controlled by foreign powers.
The Lebanon analogy could also be a threat of the consequences of any U.S. military involvement in a conflict between China and Taiwan. Lebanon was the scene of the deadly U.S. Marine barracks blast in which 241 soldiers were killed in 1983, as well as the fatal bombings the U.S. embassy earlier that year and the U.S. embassy annex in 1984.
In response to the recent transit by three successive waves of U.S. warships through the Taiwan Strait, Beijing issued a warning in the article: "Washington is choosing the wrong place, time and opponent to flex its muscle in Taiwan Straits." In an apparent reference ill-advised moves in quagmires such as Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, the article closes by saying that if the U.S. "fails to understand the complexity of the Taiwan question and acts aggressively, it is bound to pay the price."