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America’s Stakes in Taiwan Strait: With Scott McDonald

In this episode of the New Ideal podcast, Ben Bayer interviews Scott McDonald, an international relations PhD candidate at Tufts University and an expert on Chinese political theory and foreign policy.

Among the topics covered:

  • Scott McDonald’s background and current work on the subject of Taiwan;
  • The current state of relations between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC);
  • The pragmatism that led to America’s decision to withdraw diplomatic recognition of Taiwan;
  • The consequences of America’s betrayal of Taiwan for its broader foreign policy;
  • How Taiwan adopted American values in spite of this betrayal;
  • The prospects of war in the Taiwan Strait;
  • The likely consequences of a war between the PRC and Taiwan;
  • The influence of Chinese philosophy on PRC geopolitical decisions;
  • The “social metaphysics” (second-handedness) of Chinese philosophy;
  • The pragmatism and altruism of current American foreign policy
  • Ayn Rand’s comments on the values betrayed by American policy on Taiwan.

Mentioned in the discussion is Ayn Rand’s essay “The Shanghai Gesture,” a three-part article in the Ayn Rand Letter published in March and April of 1972. In that essay, Rand analyzes Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China as a philosophic defeat. Of particular relevance is the following remark about the importance of U.S.-Taiwan relations:

No, this is not an appeal for another senseless, altruistic war, this time to defend Taiwan. Taiwan can take care of itself, if we do not turn deserter. It is not a policeman’s gun, but his firmness that keeps peace in a neighborhood and protects it from gangsters. Our token military presence has kept Taiwan peacefully safe for twenty-two years. Our withdrawal could precipitate a war involving the entire Pacific. (Does anyone remember the consequences of the Allies’ withdrawal from the Sudetenland and the Ruhr?) And whatever our view of Nationalist China, we do not have the right to bargain its lives away as pawns in secret negotiations for some undisclosed policy of our own.

This podcast was recorded on October 15, 2021, and posted to YouTube on November 10, 2021. Listen to the discussion below. Listen and subscribe from your mobile device on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify or Stitcher. Watch archived podcasts here.

Podcast audio:


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Ben Bayer

Ben Bayer, PhD in philosophy, is a fellow and director of content at the Ayn Rand Institute and the author of Why the Right to Abortion Is Sacrosanct (2022). Ben is a managing editor of New Ideal and a member of the Ayn Rand University faculty.

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