The nuclear clock is closer than ever (since 1962) to 'midnight'. Taiwan and Ukraine are of course the two flashpoints. It is important that the citizens of the world understand the key facts.
The official name of Taiwan is the 'Republic of China'. As such, Taiwan has a constitutional claim to be the legitimate government of all of China, based on the post-1945 boundaries. Hence the rhetoric from the 'Peoples Republic of China' that 'there is only one China'. The 'two Chinas' are the 'Beijing regime' and the 'Taipei Regime'.
The present Taipei regime is a democratic carnation of the former Nationalist Government of China; essentially the autocratic government of China from 1911 to 1949.
Until the 1970s, the Taipei regime held one of the five permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council; ie with veto powers alongside USA, UK, France and Russia. Were it not for President Richard Nixon's initiative, the Taipei regime could well still be in that position.
The biggest diplomatic issue at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games was not the African boycott of New Zealand. Rather, it was the 'Peoples Republic of China' boycott of the 'Republic of China'.
Taiwan is not one island. It is many islands, with a mainland (the island of Formosa). The most significant non-mainland county of Taiwan is Kinmen County, with a population of 130,000 (about the size of Hamilton). These islands sit within Xiamen Harbour. They are about the combined size of the 'Gulf islands' of Waiheke, Rangitoto, and Motutapu; and they are the same distance from the Xiamen CBD as these Hauraki Gulf islands are from the Auckland CBD. Close!
Xiamen is a 'mainland' Chinese city the same size, and with similar geography, as Hong Kong. That's seven and a half million people, living in an area comparable to metropolitan Auckland.
It's as if, after the French Revolution, instead of losing his head, King Louis XVI had moved his headquarters from Versailles to Corsica while retaining control of Îles d'Hyères, a short ferry ride from Toulon. And Corsica then claiming to be France.
Resolving the Crisis
It seems to me that here can be no resolution until the Taipei regime renounces its claim to be the legitimate government of China. That would take the heat out of the dispute, making it possible for Taiwan – some time in the future – to become an independent country in the same way that Singapore is.
Certainly, the Beijing regime may dispute the present borders; in that it might wish to include Kinmen County within its jurisdiction. But that may not necessarily be a requirement for Beijing. Beijing has accepted the present status quo re Kinmen for many decades now.
(A precedent might be Turkey [now Turkïye] and Greece. A number of islands – including Kos and Lesbos – are just a few thousand metres from the Turkish mainland; yet they are internationally accepted, including by Turkey, as part of Greece. The tensions between Greece and Turkey represent millennia of European geopolitics; yet this has proved to be a stable outcome.)
The world is worth saving from nuclear war. Let's make ourselves familiar with the facts, and formulate foreign policy with the facts in mind.
Keith Rankin (keith at rankin dot nz), trained as an economic historian, is a retired lecturer in Economics and Statistics. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.