Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan – Will there be a war between China and the US

Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan.

The epic around her visit continued for several days in a row. And the world was in anticipation of a war that was about to explode. And not unreasonably. The Chinese threats sounded very convincing, especially against the backdrop of the deployment of all types of weapons in the Chinese province of Fujian closest to the island and the activation of the PRC air and sea forces aimed towards the island.

Nancy Pelosi went on a trip to Asia immediately after her telephone conversation with Joe Biden chinese president Xi Jinping warns US not to ‘play with fire’ over Taiwan. The conversation between the two leaders was prompted by the need to maintain lines of communication and resolve differences between states. Obviously, in order not to increase the tension in the already difficult US-China relations, first Joe Biden did not support Pelosi’s trip to the island, emphasizing that, from a military point of view, “now this is not a good idea.” The Pentagon has serious concerns that the visit could provoke a forceful Chinese response and cause a serious crisis or even military conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

This situation revealed discrepancies between the White House and the Speaker’s office, which proved persistent in its desire to reaffirm its support for Taiwanese democracy and an important US partner in the Indo-Pacific region. For Nancy Pelosi, the trip was an important show of bipartisan support for Taiwan by the US Congress, as well as a bright brushstroke in her history of fighting autocrats, adding to the Democratic Party’s points ahead of the midterm congressional elections. Nancy Pelosi belongs to the well-known “hawks” towards China among the Democrats (although this was generally considered the prerogative of the Republicans): she supported protests in Hong Kong, met with dissidents and the Tibetan religious leader the Dalai Lama. And back in 1991, she unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in memory of the fighters for democracy who fell in 1989. This time, she proved herself to be a tough nut to crack, who was neither persuaded by administration officials nor frightened by Chinese fighter jets and missiles that threatened to shoot down her plane.

That’s why the Biden administration had to convince Beijingthat the visit of a high official of this level is not a precedent and already took place in 1997, and the Congress is an independent branch of government, and the speaker makes independent decisions. China sees the foreign policy actions of a Democratic president and his top congressional party members as interchangeable and complementary, making it hard to separate the puzzles of what Pelosi does and what Biden says. But he begins to suspect that the United States is deliberately blurring the “one China” policy, no matter how the American president denies it.

Pelosi’s visit has nothing to do with support independence islands or an attempt to change status quo in the Taiwan Strait – that red line that could force China to use military force. However, Beijing cannot ignore the growth in US support for the island: strengthening its defenses, strengthening official exchanges, and encouraging Asian and European partners to engage more with Taipei. In addition, Joe Biden has already confirmed the United States’ readiness to defend Taiwan in the event of Chinese aggression three times during his presidency, stepping back from years of “strategic ambiguity.” And this is already regarded by Beijing as “the wrong signal to the separatist forces of the island” in the direction of independence. And it causes serious concern. In addition, to contain China, the United States is strengthening its allied network in the Indo-Pacific region, where Taiwan is an Achilles’ heel.

“Reunion of Nations” one of the main goals of the “rejuvenation” of the PRClaid the foundation for the policy of the Communist Party led by Xi Jinping. This is the slogan under which the Chinese leader claims an unprecedented third term as party and state leader this fall. In recent years internal public opinion was formed around the growth of China’s economic and military powercapable of defending its interests against any threat. The country’s authorities have become louder in their warnings about interaction with Taiwan and have repeatedly shown their readiness to return the island by military means.

Since 2018, when the Trump administration broke an unspoken taboo on government officials visiting Taiwan, it was visited by about twenty American delegations. Usually such trips are unannounced, so China’s reaction catches up with them after the fact. So, in April of this year, a delegation of members of the US Congress headed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham visited Taipei. In response to this, the PLA command sent naval forces to the coast of Taiwan a few days later to conduct military exercises.

The visit of Nancy Pelosi, thanks to the fact that information about him was leaked to the press, became incredibly public, which increased pressure on the Chinese government and Xi Jinping personally, forcing him to respond properly to the arrival of the American speaker. On the eve of a historic re-election, Xi may not appear weak in the eyes of either society or party elites. After all, it was during his political leadership that China emerged from years of shadow and dared to challenge US global leadership.

Beijing insisted on calling off the visit that increased political pressure on Joe Biden on the eve of the November midterm elections to the House of Representatives and amid his intention to run for a second term in 2024. After all, members of both parties in Congress have stressed that China does not have the right to dictate where US officials can go. The situation surrounding Pelosi’s Taiwan voyage created a high-stakes political game in which either Beijing or Washington had to endure a public slap in the face.

This is not the first crisis around Taiwan. And the fact that the parties have so far managed to avoid a direct clash indicates an understanding of the consequences to which it will lead, as well as the unpreparedness of either side for war. That is why Biden and Xi want to maintain open lines of communication, which have worked this time around, so that the escalation does not get out of control. But this does not reduce the risk of a military clash in the future. After all, the confrontation between the US and China, taking into account the current state of their relationship, will only intensify. Especially considering that China is strengthening its military potential and has set a goal by the 100th anniversary of the PLA (and this will be in five years) to equalize its armed forces with the US army. At the same time, the PRC is building up the military skills of its army, which has had no military experience for forty years. And here it seems appropriate strengthening military cooperation and military exercises with the Russian Federation in recent years.

Meanwhile the main consequences of the current US-China confrontation fall on the shoulders of Taiwan itself. Expected or even traditional. The provocations of the Chinese army and air and sea forces, the deployment of military exercises aimed at practicing an attack on the island, have become regular measures of pressure on the Taiwanese authorities, known for their anti-Chinese policy. Beijing is now also conducting large-scale military exercises that include long-range live fire and conventional missile launches, and announced military exercises in six sea areas around Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday. In fact, a sort of rehearsal of the blockade of the island. Economic sanctions on one hundred items of the island’s agro-industrial complex and sand were added to the military pressure – evidence of the ambivalence of the Chinese authorities, which oppose the sanctions regime imposed against Russia, but actively use it in their practice.

Pelosi’s visit, which was supposed to show winners and losers by the urgency of events, left those seats vacant. Beijing, seemingly yielding to the Americans and not being bold enough to turn its threats into reality, actually found a way to get out of this situation without significant image losses. To the domestic audience, the Chinese authorities demonstrated their determination to defend sovereignty and territorial integrity (and the army was at the ready), but showed “strategic tolerance” and avoided a military clash. And to demonstrate to the world, she received an additional portion of arguments that the United States is “provocateurs” that undermine regional and world security.

As far as the United States is concerned, this case illustrated: it is possible to resist the world’s bullies only by showing strength and determination. And here, related situations immediately arise – whether the United States and its European allies can put Russia in its place depends on the behavior of China in the Taiwan Strait and Asia as a whole.

Read more articles by Natalia Butyrskaya link.

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