Taiwan: Flashpoint for War

Part 2 - Taiwan’s “democracy”, the White Terror, and the struggle for computer chips

Depiction of the White Terror in Tawan 1947 when anti-Communist, pro-U.S. troops massacred tens of thousands-an example of the “democracy” the U.S. supports.
Depiction of the White Terror in Tawan 1947 when anti-Communist, pro-U.S. troops massacred tens of thousands-an example of the “democracy” the U.S. supports. | Illustration: Professor Shih Ping-Hsi 施並錫

By Chris Fry

On November 23, in a decision remarkable for its hypocrisy, President Biden invited Taiwan to a December 13 virtual “Democracy Summit”. The 119 nations invited to this event were all hand-picked by the U.S. Including Taiwan was Washington’s way of signaling to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that the U.S. is preparing to renounce its 1979 “One China” agreement and recognize Taiwan as an independent state, designed to force the PRC into open war with the U.S. and its allies or else surrender the island to the grip of Wall Street and the Pentagon.

Since taking office, Biden has divided the nations of the world into what he calls “democracies” and “authoritarian states”. According to Biden, the PRC is the latter, while Taiwan is supposedly a “democracy”, meriting recognition as an independent state. This is the supposed basis for Biden continuing Trump’s attack against China, including massive tariffs and shows of military force offshore of China’s coast. The only difference is that, unlike Trump. Biden has enlisted his European allies and Japan to escalate these threats.

Of course, country after country, from Iran to Nicaragua to Venezuela to Chile can testify that their democracies have not prevented the CIA from devising plots to overturn their governments and murder their leaders.

And the U.S. and its allies each have a long record of colonialist empires in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean, forbidding any semblance of democracy among the oppressed people under their brutal rule.

Just one day before Biden made his announcement, in the wake of the neo-Klan January 6th insurrection and the current voter suppression campaign attacking the oppressed communities:

The Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance issued a report Monday that said the U.S. “fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale.”

A Dec. 6th Guardian article reports that the PRC has provided its own analysis of U.S. “democracy” before this summit:

Over recent days, official Chinese media outlets and diplomats have made a string of scathing attacks on the US governing system, calling it “a game of money politics” and “rule of the few over the many”.

On Sunday, China’s foreign ministry released a report on the state of democracy in the US. The state-owned Xinhua news agency accompanied the release with a series of cartoons that mocked the US system. Global Times said the report “[exposed] the deficiencies and abuse of democracy in the US”, as well as the “harm of it exporting such democracy.”

“The US is far from a ‘beacon of democracy’ and has nothing worth showing off given the chaotic American society,” Global Times quoted a Chinese academic as saying.

“China’s whole-process people’s democracy is not the kind that wakes up at the time of voting and goes back to dormant afterwards,” he said.

Once ROC troops arrived in Keelung, they began to immediately slaughter anyone they encountered
Once ROC troops arrived in Keelung, they began to immediately slaughter anyone they encountered. | Illustration: Professor Shih Ping-Hsi 施並錫

Taiwan’s History and the White Terror

Taiwan is a large island, encompassing nearly 13,000 square miles, some 81 miles off the coast of mainland China. During the ice ages there was a land bridge to the mainland that allowed Indigenous communities to migrate to Taiwan, where they still live mostly in the mountainous eastern region.

In 1683, after driving out a Dutch colony, the Qing Dynasty declared Taiwan to be a Chinese province. Immigration of Chinese farmers increased, and by 1811 there were two million Chinese living on Taiwan.

In 1895, after losing a war with Japan, the Qing Dynasty ceded Taiwan to Japan. The island was occupied for fifty years by Japan until the end of World War II in 1945. There were rebellions against the Japanese occupiers that were ruthlessly suppressed.  Taiwan was returned to Chinese rule, specifically to the Kuomintang (KMT) government, who sent officials and troops to the island.

At the time, the Chinese Civil War had resumed between the KMT, who were on the side of the wealthy landlords who lorded over the Chinese peasants, and the Communists, who were on the side of the peasants and the workers.

When the KMT officials and troops arrived in Taiwan, they brutalized the residents and extorted money just as they were doing on the mainland. On Feb. 27, 1947, KMT cops in Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei rifled butted a widow for selling contraband cigarettes. A cop then fired into a crowd of bystanders, killing one man.

The next day, KMT soldiers fired into crowds of protesters. This would later be called the “228 incident.” Enraged Taiwan residents took over the administration of Taipei and took control of the radio station, where they spread the news of these atrocities, sparking an island-wide uprising. Residents formed a “Settlement Committee”, drawing up 32 demands, including free elections and an end to government corruption. Residents controlled the island for several weeks.

KMT officials stalled for time until government troops arrived. They then initiated a massacre called the “White Terror”, which killed up to 28,000 people.  From a NY Times March 27, 1947 report:

An American who had just arrived in China from Taihoku said that troops from the mainland arrived there March 7 and indulged in three days of indiscriminate killing and looting.  For a time everyone seen on the streets were shot at; homes were broken into and occupants killed.  In the poorer sections the streets were said to have been littered with dead.

There were instances of beheadings and mutilation of bodies, and women were raped, the American said.

Two foreign women, who were at Pingtung near Takao, called the actions of the [KMT] Chinese soldiers there a “massacre.”  They said unarmed Formosans took over the administration of the town peacefully on March 4 and used the local radio station to caution against violence.

In 1949, the KMT army was routed by the Communist Party forces. Two million KMT soldiers, officials, and landlords fled to Taiwan, protected by the U.S. Seventh Fleet. Of course, they took China’s gold supply with them.

Martial law was declared by the KMT government in Taiwan, which would last for 38 years until the end of 1987. Some 140,000 Taiwan residents were imprisoned during this period, all accused of being Communists.  3,000 to 4,000 were executed.

In 1979, after the U.S. recognized the People’s Republic of China as the sole government of all of China, Taiwan residents organized “Human Rights Day” illegal demonstrations in the city of Gushan. KMT cops broke it up and many organizers were arrested. In the book “Taiwan: a Political History”, the author Denny Roy describes what happened to one of this movement’s leaders:

In February 1980 Lin Yi-hsiung, a leader of the democratic movement, was in detention and beaten severely by KMT police. His wife saw him in prison and contacted the Amnesty International Osaka office. The next day Lin’s mother and twin 7-year-old daughters were stabbed to death. Lin’s oldest daughter was badly wounded in his home. The authorities claimed to know nothing about it, even though his house was under 24-hour police surveillance.

After martial law was finally lifted, the KMT government finally offered reparations to families who suffered under the White Terror. But the fear of more KMT repression is so pervasive in Taiwan that only a few took up their offer. This is the foundation of terror forced on the Taiwan working class that makes up the so-called democracy on the island.

The landlord class, using the stolen gold and massive U.S. economic assistance, transformed themselves into the new business class in Taiwan. But among them a split developed as the leadership created a parliamentary system for the island. The KMT wing retains the hope that the PRC will somehow collapse, and with U.S. imperialist assistance they can retake control of China.

A new political opposition wing has emerged under the control of the so-called “Democratic Progressive Party”, which more and more stridently calls for Taiwan to declare itself an “independent” country. This position, which is in direct violation of the 1979 “One China” agreement with the PRC, has drawn more and more support from Wall Street, despite the U.S. massive investments in mainland China.

Conflict between these two factions has often been violent, with outright clashes erupting in the halls of Taiwan’s parliament.

The struggle over computer “chips”

One major issue of contention between the imperialist U.S. and socialist China is Taiwan’s semiconductor production and research companies. According to the TechCrunch Dec. 2nd article:

According to TrendForce, a Taipei-based research firm, Taiwan’s semiconductor contract manufacturers accounted for 63% of total global foundry market share in 2020. A detailed breakdown shows that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, alone contributed 54% of the global foundry market share. More recent data shows that even with its Fab 14 (P7) experiencing manufacturing disruptions, TSMC still made up almost 53% of global foundry market share for the second quarter of 2021.

In addition to producing the most chips, Taiwan’s foundries (including TSMC) produce the world’s most advanced chips, which can be found in all the highest-tech machinery — everything from cellphones to fighter jets. In fact, TSMC is responsible for an astonishing 92% of the world’s advanced chips production, making Taiwan’s semiconductor industry arguably the world’s most important.

And this means both the U.S. and China are dependent on it. According to a Nikkei report, TSMC produces computer chips used in F-35 fighter jets, high-performance chips for U.S. military suppliers such as Xilinx, and DoD-approved “military grade” chips…

China is also dependent on foreign chips; in 2020, it imported around $300 billion worth. Unsurprisingly, Taiwan was the leading source.

The article goes on to describe the high stakes in this conflict:

A total loss of chips from Taiwan would call into question the ongoing development of China’s entire tech industry. This would not only infuriate China but pose a threat to its domestic stability, giving the Chinese government more incentive to take the island by force.

If some scenarios cut China off from Taiwanese chips, others would cut off the U.S. In a “peaceful reunification” scenario (where Taiwan is reunited with China without the use of force), Taiwanese foundries would likely find themselves under control of the Chinese government, posing a strategic problem for the U.S. The Chinese government could ask the foundries to stop exporting chips or put restrictions on how many chips they can export — chips the U.S. government needs to mobilize America’s most advanced military equipment.

This one issue alone underlies the recent military escalation by Biden and the Pentagon against China.

Four aircraft carriers is a good number, but six, seven or eight would be better – U.S. Vice-Admiral Karl Thomas

A Nov. 29 article in the Business Insider shows just how far U.S. imperialism is willing to go to “rattle its saber” to maintain its drive for economic hegemony against the PRC:

It’s been a busy two months for the American, British, and Japanese navies — especially their carriers.

In early October, they were part of a massive exercise that saw the US Navy’s USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson, the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth, and Japan’s JS Ise operating together in the Western Pacific.

A few weeks later, USS Carl Vinson, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and one of Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter carriers, JS Kaga, trained with Royal Australian Navy ships in the eastern Indian Ocean.

In early November, JS Ise and USS America, an amphibious assault ship, trained off of southern Japan, while the USS Carl Vinson and JS Kaga conducted exercises in the South China Sea.

The drills show a concerted effort to develop interoperability between navies with carrier capabilities and is likely meant as a demonstration to China as it continues to increase its own naval power.

Imagine the apoplectic U.S. response if China sailed its one aircraft carrier a few miles off the coast of New York or California! Of course, the corporate media screams headlines about the PRC’s military buildup but fails to note that the ever-increasing U.S. Pentagon budget is more than three times that of China’s, even while Congress fails to approve modest social programs in the face of the deadly pandemic.

It is clear that Wall Street, Biden, and the mad Pentagon general staff wants to threaten a massive and genocidal war against China to maintain its sole capitalist hegemony over the world’s economic system. The weapons systems are so automated that even a minor accident could trigger a global catastrophe. Only a massive mobilization of the progressive movement can counter this. It is time.

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