Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), who serves as the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appeared willing to jeopardize both China’s wellbeing and international stability in its ambition to force unification with Taiwan.
“They have an irrational obsession with Taiwan,” Smith said during a talk with the Project 2049 Institute, a Washington-based think tank focused on U.S. foreign policy.
“If a conflict happens over Taiwan, that is a catastrophic development for the world.”
The CCP, which rules China as a single-party state, claims that Taiwan is part of its territory that must be united with the regime by any means necessary.
Taiwan has never been controlled by the CCP, however. The self-ruled island has a democratic government and boasts a thriving market economy.
Smith said that it was hard to believe how doggedly CCP authorities were willing to press the issue of Taiwan, particularly given that the regime has never actually controlled the island.
“Why would you jeopardize that and over what?” Smith said. “They’re supposed to be part of you because of some emotional thing?”
To that end, Smith added that his advice to CCP diplomats was “Basically, get over it. Move on.”
Smith said that the CCP’s growing ambition to dominate Taiwan was part of a larger push by authoritarian powers worldwide to challenge the rules-based international order and displace the United States as the world’s leading superpower.
“The biggest global development is the rise of China, but also the direct way in which China and Russia and Iran and, to some degree, North Korea, are now challenging what we think of as the rules-based international order,” Smith said.
“The key is they want to reduce the power and influence of the United States and our allies,” he added.
“They would love to have us out and gone.”
To that end, Smith said that bolstering U.S. alliances throughout the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere was of critical importance, and that the unity of free, democratic societies would be paramount to deterring the further expansion of authoritarian regimes throughout the world.
“It’s all about partnerships and alliances to push that rules-based international order and to stop China and Russia and anyone else who wants to put forward a more autocratic sort of brute force approach,” Smith said.
“This is not about the U.S. dominating the world, this is about a partnership of dozens of nations working together to build that better future.”
Despite the current tensions, Smith said that the United States will have to live with China and that the ultimate goal of U.S. foreign policy should still be “peaceful coexistence.” A more stable, fair, and prosperous future is possible, he said, but would be hard work.
“China is not going anywhere,” Smith said. “They are a global power and they are going to be a global power long after I’m gone.”
“We have to figure out how to coexist with them, not how to dominate and destroy them.”