China vs Taiwan and the US

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

The visit of Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the US House of Representatives to Taiwan sparked a crisis between China on one side and Taiwan and its allies on the other side. Opinions are divided on whether the Pelosi visit was a wise diplomatic move or not. There are those observers who claim that the visit was unnecessarily going to cause a crisis that was not going to achieve anything. In fact, President Joe Biden himself said that American military officials thought that the trip “was not a good idea right now.”

Xi Jinping warned the US… “those who play with fire will perish by it.” It was believed by some geopolitical observers that though Biden thought it was not a wise trip, he felt that he could not prevent the trip because it might be looked upon as yielding to Chinese bullying.  Also, Biden was very conscious not to interfere with the prerogative of Congress. There have also been different speculations on why Pelosi insisted on making the trip.

She has always been a strong supporter of human rights and has consistently condemned China’s violations of human rights under the rule of Xi Jinping.  There is also speculation that Pelosi has realized that this is her last year as Speaker of the House. The Democratic Party is believed to be on the verge of losing the majority in the House of Representatives during the midterm elections in November. Obviously, if the Republicans gain power, the next speaker will be coming from the Republican Party. There is also the fact that, in the last midterm elections, she promised that if elected speaker, she will not run for reelection as speaker and will give way to other contenders from the Democratic Party.

The result was that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was not challenged by any government official.

Xi Jinping was also placed in a difficult political position.  There will be a major Communist Party Congress in October where Xi Jinping is expected to run for an unprecedented third five-year term as president. This is a feat that has not been achieved by any ruler of China since the days of Mao Zedong. The Communist Party’s response to the Pelosi visit is in many ways also unprecedented.

First, they sent several ships to the island of Taiwan, resulting in a virtual blockade. Then they conducted live fire exercises and shot missiles over Taiwan. This is the first time this has been done.

Taiwanese officials believe this is a rehearsal for the invasion of the island.

Xi Jinping has promised unification within his lifetime. Since he is already 69 years old, this promise of unification could very well happen within the next decade. The Communist Party of China was previously pushing for a one-nation, two-system policy.  However, recent polls in Taiwan have shown that virtually no one has accepted this proposal, especially after what happened in Hong Kong.

These recent events are evidence that despite the threats, China is not at the moment prepared to invade Taiwan. It is apparent that China is not ready for a direct confrontation with the US.

At the same time, Xi Jinping cannot appear to be backing out from his promise of unification. It should be remembered that he has styled himself as a strongman and China has projected itself as a strong authoritarian country.

There are think tank studies that have been made that show that if China invades Taiwan, it will be bogged down in a protracted war. In fact, in a war game conducted last May by the Center for a New American Security, the conclusion was that in a week of fighting, China was able to land troops on the island but was unable to reach Taipei and achieve a quick victory.

This scenario is reminiscent of what is happening in Ukraine. The Russian invasion was premised on the belief that there would be a quick victory and not a protracted warfare as what is happening now. Again, in Ukraine, the resistance of the people has caused tremendous losses of lives and equipment for the Russian invaders. China will therefore have to look for other ways of making life hard for the people of Taiwan. The most obvious is a blockade. Another possible measure is the invasion of Quemoy, an island owned by Taiwan, a few miles away from mainland China.

There was speculation that after the Pelosi visit, the crisis mode between China and the US will die down.  However, just a few days ago, another high level delegation from the US Congress visited Taiwan.  This was led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts. This latest visit has only served to convince mainland China to accelerate its military modernization.

At the same time, the anti-unification sentiment in Taiwan is also accelerating, buoyed by the feeling that the US is strengthening its commitment to Taiwan. It seems that now China is determined to exercise greater control around the Taiwan Strait which could result in direct possible confrontation with US naval and air forces also patrolling the Taiwan strait.

While a Chinese invasion of Taiwan may seem inconceivable, it must be remembered that only a year ago, a full scale invasion of Ukraine was deemed close to impossible.

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Young Writers’ Hangout on Aug. 27 with returning author-facilitator Mica Magsanoc, 2-3 pm. Mica was once a young writer with us.

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