Is Biden’s Feebleness in Battle of the Red Sea Catching the Eye of China’s Xi?

In the Strait of Taiwan Communist China imitates a band of Yemeni who interrupt Red Sea shipping while America hangs back.

Lin Jian/Xinhua via AP
A People's Liberation Army member during military exercises, with Taiwan’s frigate Lan Yang at the rear, August 5, 2022. Lin Jian/Xinhua via AP

The Republic of China fears for navigation in the Taiwan Straits, where its Communist neighbor is threatening commercial shipping. With such intimidation Beijing is violating a concept as old as America itself — freedom of navigation. Why? Aggressors tend to seize on the weak. As Chairman Xi watches President Biden’s feeble action in another part of the world, the Red Sea, he thinks the time to strike and dominate East Asia is now. 

“Without concrete actions, it might encourage China and other authoritarian regimes to engage in risky behavior,” the founder of Taiwan’s defense-oriented Kuma academy, Ho Cheng-hui, tells the Taipei Times. “Increases in actions are necessary to deter authoritarian regimes.” Writing in Foreign Affairs, Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, is urging brassier international (meaning American) action to secure navigation in the Strait.

Almost half of the global container fleet and 88 percent of the world’s largest ships by tonnage pass through the Taiwan Straits. Beijing has unilaterally revised prior agreements meant to keep the passage open. It has been launching planes, drones, and boats to intimidate ships in the strait. Sounds familiar? Communist China, a world power, seems to imitate a band of Yemenis who interrupt Red Sea shipping on behalf of the Iranian Islamic Republic.

Today the Houthi spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, boasted of targeting the United States Ship Mason, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. Central Command says it successfully blocked the missile attack. Good. Yet, since December commercial traffic in the Red Sea has been cut by a half. Merely defending American naval assets is insufficient if the goal is securing an artery where up to 20 percent of world shipping travels.

Egypt, an ally relying on income from Suez Canal traffic, is going broke. Rising insurance, fuel, and wages costs because of the Houthis Red Sea siege are fueling fears of a new round of global inflation. Why are the Houthis targeting ships? They profess solidarity with fellow Mideast terrorists against Israel. Under assault from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraqi and Syrian militias, Red Sea shipping is of low priority for the Israelis.  

Will America shoulder the task? The Red Sea crisis has a direct effect on our economy. Inflation may always be a monetary issue, but keeping the high seas open for commerce has been a part of the American ethos since independence. In a 1776 bilateral treaty with France, the young America enshrined freedom of navigation as a building block of global relations. Soon America would enforce it militarily on a faraway shore. 

President Jefferson sent to the Barbary Coast “ships of such force as to convince those nations that We are able to protect our trade, and to compel them if necessary to keep faith with Us,” he said in 1793. Acting alongside Sweden to end piracy there, he said, “would largely and speedily compensate the U.S. for the cost of a maritime force amply sufficient to keep all those Pirates in Awe, and also make it their interest to keep faith.”

Compare that bold statement — and the action that followed — to how Mr. Biden is facing Red Sea piracy. For more than seven months the world’s most formidable military power fears a direct confrontation with a Tehran-backed ragtag army of fanatic Islamists living in one of the world’s poorest countries. Failing to keep the Houthis “in awe” sends all the wrong signals around the world. No wonder Mr. Xi is accelerating his expansionist drive.

The New York Sun

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