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The US would never tolerate an independent California, so it should not criticize China over Taiwan

Walter Block
Walter Block

American economist and libertarian theorist who holds the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics at the J. A. Butt School of Business at Loyola University New Orleans, and is a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and is the author of two dozen books, including his most famous, Defending the Undefendable

American economist and libertarian theorist who holds the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics at the J. A. Butt School of Business at Loyola University New Orleans, and is a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and is the author of two dozen books, including his most famous, Defending the Undefendable

The US would never tolerate an independent California, so it should not criticize China over Taiwan
As tensions continue to rise over the future of Taiwan, its potential as a global flashpoint is obvious. Any US involvement, though, would be hypocritical to say the least, given its own attitude towards preventing secession.

Would it be justified for China to invade Taiwan, conquer it, and turn this island nation into a province of the Middle Kingdom? No. One of the basic foundations of any civilized society is free association. No one should be forced to associate with anyone else against his will. This applies to both interpersonal relationships as well as national, political ones.

So, would the United States be justified in stopping the heirs of Mao Zedong from overrunning the heirs of Chang Kai-shek through military means? Even though the status of Taiwan is hotly disputed between Beijing and Taipei, if America did so, it would be with particular ill grace. 

For the US would not be doing so with clean hands. When, for example, in 1861 the South wanted to secede, Washington, DC was adamant that this should not occur, and was willing to use force of arms to prevent it. Some people call the conflagration that ensued a ‘civil war’. But this is a misnomer. This phrase, properly used, depicts a situation in which each of the two contending sides wishes to rule over the other – to become the official government of the entire territory.

There was indeed a civil war in Russia in 1917, with the communists and czarists each determined to rule over the entire country. Similarly, there was also a civil war in Spain in 1936, when the fascists and the communists both wanted to form the official government of that country.

In sharp contrast, there was no civil war in 1861 in the US. Yes, while the North did indeed wish to become the sovereign of the entire region, the goal of the South was far different. Rather, it merely wished to secede, and have no control whatsoever over its northern neighbor (we abstract from the ‘runaway slave’ issue, but only slightly, in saying this). A more accurate appellation for this war then, would be, the War to Prevent Southern Secession.

Now, suppose California wanted to secede from the other 49 states at present. How would the central government of the United States look upon such an initiative? With great askance, as can easily be imagined. Would those in Washington, DC attempt to prevent the Californians from doing so by using violence? One can readily contemplate that they would.

Yes, the comparisons between the two countries are not perfect. The slavery that occurred in America 150 years ago is not occurring in Eastern Asia. Taiwan is now independent, California is not. But, still, there are relevant parallels.

Thus, the US, if it intervenes, is following the ‘philosophy’ of “don’t do what I do, do what I tell you to do.” China, too, is a sovereign nation. This type of talking down to, as if an adult were haranguing a child, does not go down well.

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In contrast, Canada would be in a far more philosophically justified position to take on this role. When Quebec has made noises about seceding and setting up as a country, Ottawa has only insisted, not totally unreasonably, that a fair election take place in that province to determine what is desired. It does not utilize violence against the would-be seceders (as Spain does against Catalonia separatists for example). 

I am not suggesting that Canada would want to get involved, or have anything like the power to stop China from invading Taiwan. However, if the Chinese and the Taiwanese were ever to call upon a mediator to settle their differences, the Great White North would be in a far better position to perform this role than the US. At least they could not validly be accused of hypocrisy. Nor is there any lack of precedent for this sort of thing. Canadians have served in this ameliorating capacity on numerous occasions, including perhaps most famously between the Greeks and the Turks in Cyprus.

Americans would do well to remember this.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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