China’s military began encircling Taiwan last week, a reaction to U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s two-day visit. At least 11 Chinese missiles landed in waters to the north, south and east of Taiwan on Thursday, and Chinese aircraft and ships continued to cross the Taiwan Strait through the weekend. The People’s Liberation Army of China report, “we’ve precisely hit all our targets.”
Beijing’s four-day military drills — which China has said will be held in six zones encircling Taiwan — appear to be a trial run for sealing off the island as part of a potential invasion. "The Chinese Dream is the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" said President Xi Jinping in 2012, who insists Taiwan must eventually be brought under Beijing’s control — by force if necessary. While Pelosi’s “unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan's vibrant democracy" seems admirable, her flying into Taiwan on Tuesday for a civilian honor — the Order of Propitious Clouds — seems, well, ‘auspicious’ at best.
Why would a Maryland native, Washington insider and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives be receiving Taiwan’s most prestigious civilian honor? Perhaps, as the medal states, it was her “outstanding performance for the country” that sent Chinese warships and precision missile strikes into the Taiwan Strait, and left the U.S.-China relationship at its lowest warding in decades.
Following the Chinese Civil War, communists gained control of mainland China establishing the People's Republic of China (PRC), and forcing the democratic leadership of the Republic of China (ROC) to retreat to the island of Taiwan. Both claimed authority over all China, but most countries recognized the PRC over the ROC by the 1972, including the United States.
The One China Principle holds the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China, including Taiwan. However, the One China Policy denotes a shift. When Taiwan evolved from a one-party government to a democracy in 1991, the U.S. began bypassing the PRC to do business with Taiwan, directly.
This neatly coincided with the development of Taiwan’s semiconductor business, and the creation of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer in the world. Their chips are found in most electronics including; smartphones, computers, vehicles, even weapons systems that rely on artificial intelligence. TSMC and other companies within Taiwan are responsible for more than 70% of the revenue generated by the world’s semiconductor contract manufacturers in 2021, an extraordinary monopoly for an island nation of 23 million people.
Following a breakfast meeting at the American Institute in Taiwan on Wednesday morning, Pelosi visited the Legislative Yuan with her delegation to address their legislature in a muffled speech advocating U.S.-Taiwan Relations including; climate change, COVID-19, democracy of course and the Chips Act.
The United States CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 will channel $54.2 billion into and FDR style rebuild of American infrastructure, granting massive loans to the public for which they’ll ultimately be beholden to the federal government. This amount includes; $39 billion in financial assistance to build, expand, and/or modernize domestic facilities; $11 billion for DOC research and development; $2 billion to the Defense Fund; $2 billion to the Wireless Supply Chain. Oh! And an additional $200 million to kick start a semiconductor workforce via the National Science Foundation.
The act will exploit Taiwanese innovation in the U.S. and alleviate a persistent shortage that’s affected everything from cars, weapons, washing machines and video games. Thousands of cars and trucks, for example, are bogged down in Michigan’s auto industry awaiting chips as the semiconductor shortage continues to impact automakers and disrupt supply chains.
"The bill will supercharge our efforts to make semiconductors here in America," Biden said, when signing the legislation into law this week on August 9, 2022.
*Note: No U.S. company will be considered for a grant if they do business with China.
The Last Empress
It was first awarded to Chiang Kai-shek, Taiwan’s founder, long before he ever retreated to island in 1949, declared martial law and persecuted critics during the White Terror. Presiding over a period of social reforms and economic prosperity, the Order of the Propitious Clouds award has gone to civil servants who’ve outstanding performances in the country, and to non-civil servants and foreigners who’ve made contributions to the country. It’s the Republic of China’s formal token of “auspiciousness,” and with 9 descending categories Pelosi grabbed the highest honor, Special Grand Cardon, on her way out the door, even missing the fireworks.
In addition to a four-day military display, China has cancelled all dialogue with the U.S. on climate change, military relations, and anti-drug efforts in retaliation for Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and even imposed sanctions on her personally.
If the term “auspicious” first appeared in the 16th century, originally denoting “the observation of a bird in flight to divination,” by the 18th century it was muddled into meaning “a divine prophetic token.” By the 21st century it had been mangled even further into meaning “conducive to success.”
Madam Chiang Kai-shek, the original First Lady of Taiwan, once said, “there is no shadow of protection to be had by sheltering behind the slender stockades of visionary speculation or hiding behind the wagon wheels of pacific theories.”
“We’ll write our own destiny,” she told U.S. President Harry Truman in 1949. “We’ll become what we do. Despite," she added, "all those who fly on borrowed wings."