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China’s growing power brings challenge

Nearly every day we hear or read of increasing concerns over communist China’s economic and military growth.

Recent data published in the Washington Post indicates China logged 2.3 percent growth for 2020, making it the only major economy to grow last year, despite the crippling effects of the global pandemic.

In a sign of how quickly China managed a turnaround, the National Statistics Bureau said its gross domestic product rose 6.5 percent during 2020’s fourth quarter, even exceeding its pace before the pandemic. China’s GDP surpassed a milestone in 2020, topping about $15 trillion.

In January, via Chinese state media, the country’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, told world leaders and global investors China’s fast recovery from COVID-19 could lift the rest of the world.

Indeed, that nation wants the world — including America — to be reliant on it.

Many Americans, fearful of the geopolitical competition between our countries, see this as growing cause for concern.

I’m not here to disagree. Chinese investors already hold more than $1 trillion (that’s with a “T”) of U.S. debt, and that number likely grows every time our government borrows so it can dole out money it doesn’t have — including the stimulus check that just showed up in your bank account and the millions and millions of dollars that will go to help communities like Warren, Youngstown and Trumbull and Mahoning counties in post-pandemic rebound.

Indeed, that’s something to chew on — as Americans, we all are in debt to China.

Still, one would think our concern can’t be nearly as stressful as what residents of China’s neighbor, Taiwan, must be experiencing. Right?

Incredibly, don’t be so sure.

Taiwan, a Democratic society, is located just about 110 miles across a thin body of water known as the Taiwan Strait.

The Chinese government sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that eventually will again be part of the country.

Indeed, the dispute with China has left relations frayed with a constant threat that could drag the U.S. into the fray.

Through the years, the U.S. has sold arms to Taiwan, and served as an ally to the tiny island nation.

Both former President Donald Trump and now President Joe Biden have expressed commitment to Taiwan. Such U.S. commitment and involvement might cause new tensions in the region.

Recently New York Times columnist David Leonhardt stated some foreign-policy experts worry the U.S. soon may need to choose between a formal commitment to Taiwan’s defense or tempting China to invade.

Adm. Philip S. Davidson, U.S. military commander for the Indo-Pacific region, recently told Congress he thought China might try to reclaim the island by force within the next six years.

Taiwan is a thriving, affluent democracy. Its capital city, Taipei, is beautiful, and the island’s 24 million people are happy and comfortable.

To Beijing, however, Taiwan is a source of embarrassment. It is the island where losers in the country’s civil war fled in 1949. It is not surprising that Chinese leaders view a reunification with Taiwan as necessary to preserve their pride.

In a show of force, China has been conducting military exercises near Taiwan’s coast. Some American journalists living in the region believe the possibility exists for a Chinese invasion at any moment.

If that happens, the U.S. must be prepared to make a fast decision on how we will respond.

And somehow, despite all the rhetoric about threats and nearby military activity, Taiwanese people remain unfazed. Perhaps it’s because they have lived under the existential threat of an attack from mainland China for seven decades.

I visited the island a few years ago, and I was amazed to find the Taiwanese people so calm. If I didn’t know better, it almost seemed as if they were ignoring the possibility of a Chinese invasion.

Perhaps it’s their coping mechanism.

At the end of the day, though, it appears to me that China is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with — by both America and Taiwan.

The only question is, when?

blinert@tribtoday.com

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