Among the many “shocking remarks” made by Kuomintang candidate Han Kuo-yu during the 2019 presidential election, the most impressive one was probably the comparison between “the chess piece” and “the plug”. Although Han’s off-the-script remarks provoked widespread criticism at the time, his comparison of Taiwan’s status in the international community to a “chess piece” and the observation that Taiwan is at the beck and call of international powers do reflect the views of some pro-China and anti-American clusters of Taiwanese people. Even Taiwan’s localists relatively pro-American localists do not deny Taiwan’s status as a chess piece. The difference is that localists prefer Taiwan to be a chess piece of the US rather than China.
The international situation over the past few weeks, however, has subtly indicated that the above assumption is “only half-right”. Indeed, given the regional pressure, it is impossible for Taiwan to distance itself from the rest of the world and be self-reliant. It is impossible not to be a chess piece. In fact, even the superpowers, such as the US, China, and Russia, cannot be “self-reliant.” When they attempt to intervene in the region, they also have to seek help from their allies. Nevertheless, in a chess game, there are the stronger “major pieces” and the weaker “minor pieces”. The “major pieces”, equivalent to the Chariots, Horses, and Cannons in Chinese chess, are more useful and important. They are not easily forsaken, but will be used as the core of a strong regional defensive formation.
A major force in the anti-China front
It is a fact that Taiwan is a chess piece today. However, it is not just a chess piece but also a “major piece” at the core of the tangled competition between various forces. In April so far, we have already been feeling that the thickening of that atmosphere. While the warplanes and warships of the US, China, and Taiwan have continued to monitor each other, the UK and France also sent fleets to nearby waters one after another. After that, the US sent an envoy to visit Taiwan. In the meantime, the US and Japan issued a joint statement indicating that Japan would be more actively involved in the Taiwan Strait situation. In a rare move, the Japanese media even made extensive coverage of Japan’s strategy in the event of a war in the Taiwan Strait. Australia also released a statement that they were preparing for war in the Taiwan Strait and would act as an ally of the US if that happened.
But there are merely actions in the diplomatic arena. As for military maneuvers, they have been growing in intensity so far this year. Taiwan has started to strengthen the training of its reserve forces and is set to expand its military units. Some of its anti-air missiles have been relocated to eastern Taiwan. Military exercises have been going on ceaselessly since last year and the Han Kuang exercises have been lengthened to eight days, the longest in history.
As for the US military, it released photos of their close monitoring of Liaoning, the Chinese aircraft carrier. They came as a shock, leading to questions as to whether Liaoning had lost touch with its escorts and how the US military managed to take such close-up photos. After news from different sides was pieced together, it emerged that Japan and Taiwan had also been monitoring other escort ships of Liaoning with their planes and ships. It was not unlike “press defense” in basketball. If such a situation was the result of coordination, then the following and monitoring of Liaoning can be said to be a “war game”. Even though the US, Japan, and Taiwan are not in a formal military alliance, they are in a de-facto one judging from such tacit cooperation.
Therefore, when Han Kuo-yu and those he represented compared Taiwan to a “chess piece”, they were only half-right. Taiwan is indeed a chess piece at this moment, but it is the most valuable “major piece” in the anti-China front led by the US. All diplomatic and military actions revolve around Taiwan. The confrontation between the US and China has not changed because of the transfer of power in the US. The Biden administration has inherited the Trump administration’s policies. It is just executing them in a different way.
Now the only question is: as a chess piece of such important value, do we intend to explore the most advantageous move with all our might to ensure our own survival? Or do we want to denigrate ourselves and refuse to recognize the role we can play on the chessboard? Even a mediocre chess player knows the right choice.
(Jhu You-Syun, Writer)
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