The sequel of ‘Top Gun’ puts unstable US-China-Taiwan ties in the limelight

With the presidential election of Taiwan slated for next January, a trailer for the sequel to the “Top Gun”, 1986 blockbuster movie has set tongues wagging: The Taiwanese and Japanese flags which appeared on leather jacket of Lt. Pete Mitchell’s in the original movie are not anywhere to be seen.

The removal of the Taiwanese and Japanese flags from Maverick’s iconic bomber jacket reflects all the hallmarks of China employing its financial muscle to get whatever it wants. For China, the Japanese flag is a nasty reminder of its past war with Japan, whereas the Taiwanese flag is a symbol of de facto independence of Taiwan something which China says it is set for to use force to end.

In spite of the apparent strong-arming by China, there hasn’t been any notable backlash from Taiwan. Oddly, the current ruling party of Taiwan shares Beijing’s aversion for the Taiwanese flag. Some members have even lobbied for replacing it with a fresh banner featuring the island.

Many Taiwanese commenting on social media about the missing ‘Top Gun’ flags, state that the silence of the Kuomintang’s is all too predictable.

The internet brouhaha illustrates the pale diplomatic dynamics which dictate the relationship of Taiwan with China and the United States. Things were way simpler 33 years back when the first “Top Gun” was released.

Formal diplomatic ties were established by the United States with China in 1979, substituting recognition from Taipei to Beijing. However, Washington maintained its security commitment to the island. That Top Gun’s hero should be sporting a jacket with a Taiwanese flag did not raise an eyebrow.

Taiwanese firms have played a huge role in knitting the Chinese and the United States economies together, establishing supply chains across the Pacific. By the late 2000s, China received 40 percent of Taiwanese exports.

Over time, the political battle between the opposition& ruling parties in Taiwan began to revolve around how to balance relations with the United States with Taiwan’s ties to China. However, in the past few years, there have been indications of another change in Taiwan’s policy toward its two primary partners.