Much of the foreign policy conversation in USA in the last two weeks it has focused on whether the president of the House of Representatives of that country, Nancy Pelosi, should have visited Taiwan.
His supporters point out that there was precedent for such a visit — a previous spokesman and cabinet members had visited Taiwan — and that it is important for officials to underscore America’s commitment to Taiwan in the face of mounting Chinese pressure.
But critics argued that the trip was ill-timed because the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, he would probably feel the need to respond, lest he appear weak ahead of a Chinese Communist Party Congress this fall.
There were also concerns that the visit might prompt Xi to do more to support the aggression of Russia in Ukraine.
See more: (Joe Biden gets a breather amid crisis in the US).
the nationalist letter
But the focus on Pelosi’s visit is misplaced. The important question is why China responded not just by denouncing the trip, but with import and export bans, cyberattacks, and military exercises that represented a major escalation of anything that country had previously done to punish and intimidate China. Taiwan.
None of this was inevitable. The Chinese leadership had options. He could have ignored or downplayed Pelosi’s visit. But what we saw was a reaction, more accurately, an overreaction, of choice.
The scale and complexity of the response indicates that it had been planned for a long time, suggesting that, Had Pelosi’s trip not taken place, some other development would have been used as a pretext to “justify” Pelosi’s actions. China.
The increasingly tense internal political and economic situation in China largely explains Xi’s reaction. His priority is to be appointed for a third term, unprecedented, as leader of the Chinese Communist Party; But the problem is that he can no longer count on the country’s economic performance, for decades the main source of legitimacy for China’s leaders. Because, among other things, as growth slows, unemployment rises and financial bubbles burst.
Xi’s insistence on maintaining a zero-Covid policy is also drawing criticism domestically and dampening economic growth.
And in the face of all this, it seems that Xi is increasingly turning to nationalism as a ‘remedy’.
When it comes to building popular support in China, nothing competes with asserting the mainland’s sovereignty over Taiwan.
Also read: (Yang Huiyan: Asia’s richest woman has lost half her fortune in a year).
China’s willingness to escalate tensions also reflects its growing comfort with risk, as well as the current poor state of China’s relations with the United States.
Any hope in Beijing that ties might improve after Donald Trump’s presidency has been dashed by the administration of President Joe Biden, which has largely extended the China policy it inherited.
Public recriminations are frequent, and private dialogues are rare. Tariffs on imports from China remain in place.
a dangerous game
As it is, it is very likely that Xi concluded that he had little to lose by responding the way he did to Pelosi’s visit.
And his subsequent decision to break off numerous talks with the United States, including those related to climate change and drug trafficking, demonstrates his comfort with deteriorating relations.
The danger is obvious. With China indicating that its military activities near Taiwan are the new normal, there is an increased risk of an accident causing things to spiral out of control.
Even more dangerous is that China may be coming to the conclusion that “peaceful reunification” is fading as a real option, largely because China alienated many Taiwanese when the Beijing government violated its “one country, two systems” commitment by regaining control of Hong Kong.
In such a scenario, China may decide that it must act militarily against Taiwan in order to end the democratic example that Taiwan sets and to prevent any possible move towards independence.
How to proceed
So what should be done? Now that China has shown its willingness and ability to use its military further and further afield, deterrence must be restored.
This requires strengthening Taiwan’s ability to resist any Chinese use of force, increasing US and Japanese military presence and coordination, and explicitly committing to participate in Taiwan’s defense if this becomes necessary. It will be important to show that the United States and its partners are not so concerned about Russia that they are unable or unwilling to protect Taiwan.
See here: (Pelosi says she traveled to Taiwan to reaffirm the relationship between the US and the island).
Second, economic relations with China must be reformulated. Taiwan and others in Asia, including Japan and South Korea, as well as countries in Europe, have become so dependent on Chinese market access and imports from China that, in a crisis, sanctions might not be a viable political tool.
Worse yet, China could be in a position to use its economic clout against others to influence their actions. Yes, the time has come to reduce the level of trade dependence on China.
The United States also needs a sensible and disciplined policy toward Taiwan.
The United States must continue to uphold its one-China policy, which for more than 40 years has perfected the ultimate relationship between the mainland and Taiwan.
There is no room for unilateral action, be it aggression by the mainland or assertions of independence by Taiwan. Whatever final status is adopted, what should matter from the US perspective is that it be determined peacefully and with the consent of the Taiwanese people.
A concerted effort to build a modern US-China relationship is also essential. It is diplomatic negligence, even malpractice, to allow the most important bilateral relationship of the time, which will go a long way in defining the geopolitics of this century, to drift further afield.. Establishing a high-level private dialogue that addresses the most important regional and global issues, whether they are sources of friction or potential cooperation, should be a high priority. What should not be a high priority is trying to transform politics inside China, which, apart from being impossible, could poison the bilateral relationship.
‘Never let a crisis go to waste’, goes the old saying. The current crisis over Taiwan is no exception. It is a wake-up call for Washington and Taipei, as well as for their strategic partners in Europe and Asia, and it must be heeded while there is still time and opportunity to do so.
© PROJECT SYNDICATENEW YORK
President of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was Director of Policy Planning for the US Department of State and a close adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
– China ends its military exercises around Taiwan
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