Relations between Beijing and Washington are again aggravated. Media reported that Nancy Pelosi’s successor as speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, also plans to visit Taiwan, which China considers its island province.
Pelosi’s trip last August caused a lot of noise, the US and China were on the verge of armed conflict. What could Washington’s desire to annoy Beijing this time lead to?.
Trip to the island
Speaker of the US House of Representatives Republican Kevin McCarthy is going to fly to Taiwan. It is reported by Punchbowl News, citing sources. The visit is planned for this spring. In the White House, according to the publication, this initiative is treated more favorably than the trip of the previous Speaker of the House Democrat Nancy Pelosi in August 2022.
The Pentagon will have to consider the logistics to ensure the official’s safety, as well as Beijing’s possible reaction to the visit. Members of the House of Representatives from both parties are putting pressure on the Biden administration, demanding that it take a firmer stance towards the PRC.
According to the publication, the Republican’s trip to the island “will further exacerbate the already tense relations between Washington and Beijing.”
In early January, the House of Representatives supported the creation of a new committee on China, which will focus on the threat to the US economy from China.
Reached the boiling point
According to the South China Morning Post, the Chinese authorities may react softer this time than last time, when Pelosi flew in. First, because McCarthy “will be perceived as the leader of the opposition party, and not as a White House emissary.” In addition, at present, the leaders of the two countries – Xi Jinping and Joseph Biden – are “trying to stabilize bilateral relations.”
Last year, the situation around Taiwan seriously escalated due to the visit of Nancy Pelosi, then the speaker of the House of Representatives. It was believed that the White House was against her trip – did not want to aggravate relations with Beijing.
American leader Joseph Biden assured his Chinese counterpart that he does not support separatism in Taiwan.
“I want to reiterate: the US position on the one-China policy has not changed and will not change,” the president said. However, despite this, the trip still took place.
Media attention was riveted on Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan; hundreds of thousands of people around the world followed the movement of her plane on Flightradar, which flew up to the island from the Pacific Ocean.
Beijing, which considers the island one of the provinces of China, predictably condemned this trip. At first, menacing warnings were pouring out from the PRC that the United States was “crossing the red line and the limits of what is permitted,” then the Chinese Armed Forces pulled up to the Taiwan Strait.
In the South China Sea, two Chinese aircraft carriers, Shandong and Liaoning, performed tasks. Washington sent planes and aircraft carriers to the island.
China’s Global Times wrote that Beijing “could resort to a military and strategic response” as the visit would mean “a breach of China’s integrity and a deliberate provocation.”
Meanwhile, the Taiwanese authorities have prepared bomb shelters and conducted mass evacuation exercises from city streets. Relations were tense to the limit, but the matter did not come to a military clash.
Over the past six months, China has only increased military activity in the area of the island. In December last year, the Chinese Armed Forces conducted exercises near Taiwan – in the air and sea space near the island. Shi Yi, spokesman for the Eastern Zone Combat Command of the People’s Liberation Army of China, said this was a response to Washington’s actions related to Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Chinese authorities said late last year that relation with the United States was “faced with serious difficulties” and Beijing resolutely resisted provocations and pressure from Washington.
“The United States stubbornly continued to perceive China as its main competitor and engaged in blatant containment, suppression and provocations against China,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. According to him, Beijing took decisive steps in response to counter intimidation and force politics.
“No hegemonic force could intimidate us, we acted decisively to protect the fundamental interests and national dignity of China,” the Chinese Foreign Minister explained.
According to him, the common interests of the two countries are to avoid confrontation, peaceful coexistence, absence of conflicts, deepening economic integration, as well as getting more benefit from each other’s development.
Wang Yi urged Washington to change course on Beijing, adhere to a rational and objective perception of China, pursue a pragmatic and positive policy, and “jointly lay a solid foundation for the stable and healthy development of relations between the United States and China.”
The essence of the conflict
Official relations between the Chinese authorities and the island province broke off in 1949. Having suffered a defeat in the civil war with the communists, the then official government of China, under the leadership of the Kuomintang party, moved to Taiwan, declaring itself the only legitimate power in the country.
Initially, most countries recognized the Republic of China, which had representation in the United Nations. However, in 1971 this role was taken over by the PRC. Having lost diplomatic recognition, the island retained its currency, military and public authorities.
Despite political differences, economic ties between the two sides remain quite strong.
Beijing proposes the formula “one country – two systems”, referring to the possible reunification of the island with the mainland in the status of autonomy. In Taiwan, slogans were periodically heard about the need to establish closer cooperation with Beijing.
However, reconciliation does not come to pass. The Chinese authorities adopted a law on the territorial integrity of the country, calling its reunification a national task. One of the points of the document notes the possibility of using military force if peaceful options for unification are exhausted.
In 2016, politicians came to power on the island, heading for self-determination. Beijing felt that Taipei “crossed the line.”
The United States has recently been actively adding fuel to the fire. Since 1979, Washington has declared that it recognizes China as “one and indivisible”, considering Taiwan only an integral part of the PRC.
However, de facto the United States maintained close contacts with Taipei, supplying it with weapons and tacitly guaranteeing protection to the Taiwanese. Recently, the United States has been regularly angering Beijing with visits by American politicians and officials to the island and statements of support for the Taiwanese authorities.
In addition, American ships began to visit the Taiwan Strait regularly.
Finding a way out of the situation
Michael Swain, director of the China-US Quincy Crisis Management Project, believes that for China, reunification with Taiwan is primarily a matter of territorial integrity and national pride.
“For the US, Taiwan is tied to Washington’s credibility as a staunch democratic friend and ally of other countries such as Japan and South Korea. For Washington, a containment policy based on keeping Taiwan separate from China is completely incompatible with a “one China” policy.
The agreement reached in 1972 formed the basis for the normalization of Sino-American relations. The United States then recognized the position of China, according to which Taiwan is part of China, and Beijing emphasized that peaceful unification will be the main priority of its policy on both sides of the strait,” the expert believes.
According to the political scientist, Washington and Beijing could have avoided a war over Taiwan if they had taken constructive steps together.
“This can be done if Washington, not in words but in deeds, proves that it adheres to the “one China” policy. Washington should limit relations with Taiwan, emphasizing that they are informal and do not involve contacts between high-ranking officials.”
“The administration must also unequivocally reject any strategic rationale for separating Taiwan from China and reiterate its acceptance of any non-coercive, peaceful solution to the Taiwan problem. Beijing should make it clear that it has no deadline for unification, while reducing its military exercises and presence near Taiwan,” the political scientist is sure.
Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin notes that the United States is striving to prevent the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland.
- The Americans have already departed from a number of obligations recorded in the US-Chinese communiqués, in particular, not to increase the supply of weapons to the island. And they are only growing and will continue to do so. At the same time, as US-China relations deteriorate, Washington is stepping up military cooperation with Taiwan and gradually raising the level of political ties.
The Americans are getting closer and closer to the line beyond which it will be possible to talk about the actual recognition of Taiwan, the political scientist explained in an interview.
According to the expert, the visits of American dignitaries to the island are steps aimed at escalation.
China hasn’t put up with anything. Since Pelosi’s visit, tensions have steadily risen, with exercises taking place, rocket fires, and military activity on the rise. If there is a military operation to seize Taiwan, then we will talk about the largest amphibious assault operation since the Second World War.
It is not known whether the PRC authorities have made a decision in this regard or not. If yes, then this decision will be implemented over a rather long period of time and no one will start an operation on which the fate of the whole world depends, becoming attached to some character from the American Congress.
Perhaps this decision has already been made. Maybe not yet. But the likelihood of war in the next few years exists, – the specialist is sure.
Kashin believes that the US is deliberately provoking the Chinese.
“Apparently, the Americans expect that they can emerge victorious from this conflict, or they simply underestimate the determination of China,” the expert summed up.
You must log in to post a comment.