Noam Chomsky says the US is escalating the China-Taiwan situation. Here’s why.

Whenever Noam Chomsky has something to say, people tend to listen. 

The 94-year-old American linguist, political activist, social critic, major figure in analytic philosophy, and a founder in the field of cognitive science—is one of the most important influencers of thought in our times. 

The modern Renaissance man is also known as one of the most outspoken critics of American foreign policy, Chomsky shared his concerns about the United States’ role in the China-Taiwan situation in a recent interview with British broadcast journalist Piers Morgan.

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In this series, we unpack what Chomsky has to say on the threats he sees to humanity—starting with the United States’ involvement in the China-Taiwan situation. 

Here’s what Chomsky had to say on what he finds disquieting—if not outright disturbing—about the US’ aggressive role in the conflict.

1) He says the United States could be at war with China within a couple of years 

Chomsky says there is a serious possibility of a war in Asia.

“US top military officials and generals have predicted that within a couple of years, we’ll be in a war with China,” he told Morgan.

Chomsky warned that it should be understood that a war between nuclear powers should be regarded as inconceivable because the result would mean what he calls termination—or, the end of existence.

“If a country—a major nuclear power—carries out a first strike, it itself is likely to be destroyed, even if there is no retaliation, if only from the effects of a nuclear winter,” he said.

Chomsky says that while these are not conceivable possibilities, US strategists are thinking about them and they are planning for them.

“In fact, top US official policy and strategic policy since 2018 has been to be prepared to fight two wars that will of course become nuclear wars with China and Russia,” he warns. “This is beyond insanity.”

2) He says the One-China policy has held the peace for the past half-century, but that the US is the one abandoning the agreement

Chomsky says it’s pertinent to remember and understand that for the past 50 years, there has been the One-China Policy.

The One-China principle has a clear and unambiguous meaning. It says that “there is but one China in the world. Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China.”

It also says that the de facto basis for the One-China principle is unshakable. 

“With China there has been an agreement for 50 years called the One-China Policy. It was established in the 1970s firmly, strongly, and unambiguously that Taiwan is part of China,” said Chomsky.

“But neither side will undertake steps to change the situation. It’s called strategic ambiguity. It’s held the peace for 50 years.”

China, of course, maintains that position. Chomsky says that the US is abandoning it. “The US is accusing China of calling for a One-China policy. That [was also] the official policy of the US for the past 50 years [and it] is now being abandoned with quite provocative actions and plans for further escalation.”

3) He says the US is trying to encircle China with a ring of sentinel states of American allies

Chomsky related to Morgan that the “official doctrine of the United States is to encircle China with what he calls a “ring of sentinel states of US allies.”

These countries include Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Guam. “[The doctrine is to] arm them with advanced precision weapons aimed at China,” he said.

“The United States is escalating that by providing them with (and sending) nuclear-capable B-52s with permanent stationing for the first time in the Guam-US military outpost.”

4) He says the US is openly and publicly working to prevent China from innovation and development

Chomsky says the US is openly and publicly paving the way to prevent China from developing.

“The official statement is that we have to prevent China’s innovation and development and other provocative acts are being taken,” he says. “[We are] advance-increasing diplomatic relations contrary to the agreement in the One-China policy in the 1970s.”

5) He says that the US is trying to enlist Europe in its confrontation by expanding NATO

Noam Chomsky says the US is escalating the China Taiwan situation. Heres why. 1 Noam Chomsky says the US is escalating the China-Taiwan situation. Here’s why.
Photo courtesy of USNATO

When Morgan pointed out that it sounded like Chomsky was sympathetic to China, he said that China is “not saintly by any means.”

They’re nothing like it, he continued. “But if you look at the facts, there is US escalation. The US is now trying to enlist Europe in its confrontation by expanding NATO. The US has expanded NATO to the Indo-Pacific region turning it into an international military system under US control.”

Chomsky said that while the US can talk about the contingencies of the possibility of China invading Taiwan, it’s the US who is continuing the provocation. “[And] the provocation is serious,” he warns. “It’s both in the military dimension and in the commercial dimension—quite openly.”

6) He says the assumption that the US is only taking protective measures is nothing but Western propaganda 

Chomsky says that US public policy is increasing the threat. “You put nuclear-capable B-52s in flying distance to China with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles—that’s provocation.”

Many might ask: but are these provocative measures by the United States or simply, protective measures?

Chomsky says that it’s important to distinguish between Western propaganda and the facts.

He points out China’s military buildup as an example.

“China’s military expenditures for the past ten years per capita military [continue to be at ] a flat, straight line. They have not increased,” he says. 

This, despite the fact that China is faced with security problems at all of its borders, he says. 

China has increased its military as the population increases, but it’s far below the US military expenditure.

 “The United States is faced with no security problems,” he says. “But US military expenditures dwarf this. Per capita, it’s far beyond China.”

Chomsky says US military development programs are expanding throughout Eurasia. “It’s also expanding to Africa and it’s even expanding to Latin America,” he says. 

The US is also far above China when it comes to technological advances. “The US is trying to stop them [but] has found no way to do it except by escalating in the military and economic dimension by trying to openly and publicly prevent China’s development.”

Chomsky emphasizes that he is by no means sympathetic to China but he says it’s vital to differentiate the facts from US-British propaganda to understand the role the United States is playing in the provocation of the situation. 

7) In the past, he has repeatedly stressed that the United States must cooperate with China if we want to evade nuclear destruction

In August 2022, Chomsky penned an essay entitled, If We Want Humanity To Survive, We Must Cooperate With China alongside American journalist Nathan J. Robinson. 

“As the New York Times observed, once in office Biden essentially maintained Trump’s foreign policy, including on China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order” is “the one posed by the People’s Republic of China.” 

The essay continues:

The 2022 National Defense Strategy, like Trump’s, pledges to combat “the growing multi-domain threat posed by the PRC” and pledges to “prioritize the PRC challenge in the Indo-Pacific.” To that end, the Biden administration has continued “surging troops and military hardware into the region and encouraging its allies to enlarge their arsenals.

“The policies are converging,” according to Stephen E. Biegun, who served as deputy secretary of state in the Trump administration. In fact, the present course was initiated by Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” which promised among other things to “prioritize Asia for our most advanced military capabilities.” Obama declared “the United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.”

Chomsky and Robinson say that those who characterize China as a threat can immediately produce a substantial list of its misdeeds to justify the charge. “There are of course serious human rights abuses in China, including its suppression of dissent and the repression of the Uyghur population. It has unquestionably violated international law in the South China Sea.”

The authors point out the problem with this list of charges: “They either plainly pose no threat to the United States or are actions we ourselves claim the right to engage in.”

The essay poses the question: “If China is a threat to us because it is establishing military installations in the South China Sea, then what are we [doing]  to China?”

9) He believes the morally-correct stance is to prevent a war from happening in the first place 

“There is no indication that China is planning to invade Taiwan,” Chomsky told Morgan. “If the United States increases the escalation, they might do it. In that case, the bars are down. If there is a war with China, we’re basically all finished.”

He adds that there is no point in considering a remote contingency when there are actual events taking place such as the US escalation in the confrontation with China. 

Chomsky’s essay ends on the following note: 

“We should be cooperating with China. It is necessary for China and the United States, two major economies, to sort out crucial issues together, like global warming, pandemics, and nuclear weapons. Our fates are tied together. There is no choice but to get along.”

Picture of Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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