Why Should Americans Care About Taiwan?
It’s a tiny slip of an island, just 110 miles off the coast of China. But a narrow stretch of water isn’t the only thing separating Taiwan from its communist neighbors. There, floating in the Formosa Strait, is a surprising patch of democracy. To most people, the thought is astounding. A boat ride away from one of the most oppressive regimes in human history, 23 million people go about their days free. And China can’t stand it.
Most Americans probably don’t give a second thought to Taiwan — except maybe to marvel at how a country with a Florida-sized population managed to stave off the coronavirus so effectively. But otherwise, the average person doesn’t pay the area much attention. That, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) argues, is where they’re wrong. Taiwan is one of the most important pieces of land in the Pacific — and if the West wants to teach China a lesson, it had better wrap its head around that — and fast.
For years, the island nation has been threatened by China with “reunification,” which is just a euphemism, former State Department envoy Christian Whiton points out, “for military invasion and conquest.” A violent end, he warns, of the 71 years of virtual independence from China. But why should Americans care? Apart from the fact that China is in everyone’s doghouse over the coronavirus — does losing Taiwan to the communists really matter?
Yes, it turns out — a lot. In the long shadow that China casts over Asia, Taiwan is the one shining rebuke of its “fiction” that totalitarianism is necessary for order and survival, Whiton argues. They’ve shown the world that “an ethnically Chinese-majority country can achieve stability and prosperity through democracy and the rule of law.” It’s had three peaceful changes of power since 1996, grown its income to 28th highest in the world, elected its first woman head of state, and shown a surprising respect for religious freedom — while China, a few hours away, locks millions of Uyghurs behind their concentration camps’ barbed wire.
“Every time that Chinese officials rationalize or justify the subservience of law to the whims of the Party, every time they lock someone up for having the wrong views or worshipping the wrong God, every time they run over protesters with tanks in the name of social harmony, every time they threaten their neighbors with military force, Taiwan stands as an example of a different and better way for ethnically Chinese citizens to govern themselves… It represents the future everyone should want for China — a future that would be marked by collaboration rather than confrontation with America and the rest of the free world.”
So when China sends two aircraft carriers dangerously close to Taipei while the entire world is distracted with the pandemic, you’d better believe America cares. “…If Taiwan were to become part of China, as Beijing has insisted it must, China would instantly become a Pacific power.” But China needs to be “real careful,” Congressman Yoho warns. “They’re trying to control the narrative that Taiwan is a part of the [People’s Republic of China]. Make no mistake about it: Taiwan has never been a part of the People’s Republic of China… It’s a distinct culture.” So if China wants to overstep its boundaries and test the waters with Taiwan, Yoho explains, “they will pay for [it].”
Nobody wants a conflict, Yoho agreed, but they underestimate our president if they think he won’t respond. They think America will back down. Keep in mind,“ he explained, "that since President Reagan, we have an agreement to sell Taiwan weapons for their defensive… protection. They are our 11th largest trading partner, they’re a Western democracy, and they punch way above their weight, as far as a population…” And while China’s Xi Jinping wants the world to believe he’s in control “of everything,” Ted shook his head, “this is a strictly authoritarian power grab.”
No American — including President Trump — wants to drag America into another foreign conflict, but Taiwan isn’t just any other country. It’s one of the brightest lights of freedom and prosperity on Asia’s shore. If we want to get back at a regime that’s caused untold deaths and suffering, the best thing the world can do is lift up Taiwan as an example of what China should be.
In the meantime, Yoho warns, “Chinese leaders need to really understand what they’re walking into, because they will have crossed the Rubicon where they can’t go back… You know, China talks about reunification, but they never consulted the Taiwanese people. They don’t want that [as they proved in their last election]. They have their own military, their own government system. They’re a Western democracy. They have their own flag, and we can go on and on and on. They are an independent nation.” And it’s in everyone’s interest — including ours — to keep it that way.
Originally published here.
Mask Hysteria? Scientists Say No
We don’t know everything about the coronavirus, but we certainly know more than we did. And while we might have made different decisions with more information, America’s top medical experts agree: we did the best with what we had. But now, Dr. Martin Makary points out, it’s time to learn from those choices and move on.
The Johns Hopkins University professor, like a lot of health professionals, was an advocate of the lockdown. “We didn’t have good [information] going into this pandemic,” he explained on “Washington Watch.” “We had really poor data from overseas. Some of it was not recorded, honestly. We didn’t know the denominator. We didn’t even know how contagious it was. So we threw the kitchen sink at this, and we asked the country to make major sacrifices this March. I was one of those people calling for a shutdown of non-essential activities. But now we need to [adapt].”
Obviously, every situation — every locality — is different. There is no one-size-fits-all virus approach. But in many ways, “the country cannot tolerate a harsh lockdown any longer,” Dr. Makary warned. And unfortunately, the whole idea of reopening has become a polarized issue, he agreed. “And the answer is somewhere in the middle. We’ve got to reopen, but we’ve got to do it carefully… Not all reopenings are created equally.”
But there are, he writes in the New York Times, things everyone can do to lessen the risk until we have a vaccine. One of the things scientists have learned is that the virus is transferred more from airborne droplets and less from commonly touched surfaces. These are micro-droplets, Dr. Makary says, that spread when people sing, talk, or spit. And the number one thing we can do to reduce that transmission is wear masks. “It actually allows us to do a lot of activities that we previously didn’t think we could do with the virus in the background.”
Now, obviously, he joked, if you’re living in Palau or somewhere with almost no virus, then “live your life.” But right now, people should wear masks. Grocery stores, busy running trails — anywhere you’re close to people and can’t maintain a six-foot distance. But speaking of running trails, one of the best things people can do is spend more time outside. Early on, Dr. Makary shook his head, “we should not have told people to stay [inside] their home. We should have told them to stay on their property — or try to do things outdoors [where we’ve discovered it’s safer].” The virus doesn’t like the heat and humidity, which may be why southern states didn’t get hit as hard as places like Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.
In the meantime, businesses need to rethink their processes too. And that shouldn’t be a partisan issue, Dr. Makary agrees. “Instead of talking about whether or not something should be open or closed, we should be talking about whether or not they can maintain distancing, use good hygiene, and safe precautions. If they can’t — [like a] crowded NFL stadium for example — that would [mean it’s time to] modify or postpone.” But where it’s easier to distance, the path to functioning is clear.
“The choice before us isn’t to fully lock down or to totally reopen. Many argue as though those are the only options. As a physician, I firmly believe that the primary goal of our reopening strategy should be to maximize the number of lives saved. But virus mitigation can take many forms, ranging from effective to excessive… The current ‘normal,’ with its economic anxiety, skyrocketing unemployment, and social isolation, can’t carry on — we should work toward a new status quo until there’s an available, mass-produced therapeutic.”
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.