COLUMN-Pelosi visit boosts US-China global chess game in Taiwan: Peter Apps
Band Peter Apps
LONDON, August 11 (Reuters) – On Sunday, a Somali televised roundtable on the powerful Ethiopian neighbor’s long entanglement in the country swirled into a discussion of how the government in Mogadishu should deal with growing tensions between China and Taiwan.
Abdirahman Nur Dinari, former Somali ambassador to Syria and South Sudan, backed Mogadishu’s decision to send a letter of support to Beijing, stressing its economic commitment to the region. He expressed anger that Taiwan has friendly relations with Somaliland, a breakaway strip along Somalia’s northern coast that functions as a de facto independent state.
Political commentator Idris Abdi disagreed, saying it was in Somalia’s interest to remain neutral in great power disputes.
For decades, the governments in Beijing and Taipei have played a complex global game over the status of autonomous Taiwan, which China sees as a rogue “one China” province. However, this year’s conflict in Ukraine – coupled with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and a hawkish new Taiwan Relations Act that is currently pending in Congress – saw tensions escalate dramatically.
The way companies, countries, institutions and individuals respond to this new reality is clearly constantly changing. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 immediately drew attention to Taiwan, which also finds itself in a “strategically ambiguous” relationship with allies who may support it but won’t fight for it in no war. The island only has full diplomatic relations with a handful of nations.
In a white paper on “reunification” published on Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry recommitted itself to bringing the island under Beijing’s control and refused to rule out the use of force, while exposing a strategy of economic and military pressure intended to eradicate “separatist” activities.
The U.S. Congress, meanwhile, is seeking to designate the island as a major non-NATO U.S. ally and significantly boost military and diplomatic support, something President Joe Biden’s administration — which has also opposed to Pelosi’s visit – lobbied. Passing this legislation would infuriate Beijing even more.
Pelosi, who met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and toured factories and facilities, was unrepentant this week, saying the trip was worth it and China could not be allowed to prevent foreign leaders from visiting the country. ‘island.
THE “BROKEN” US-CHINA CONSENSUS?
While US media coverage portrayed Pelosi’s visit as largely against the wishes of the White House, few in China interpreted it that way. Writing in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, columnist Xie Maosong — a senior fellow at China’s National Security Institute at Tsinghua University — framed it as a deliberate move by the Biden administration to “ shatter” the consensus on US-China relations that has been built for decades since the days of Henry Kissinger and the Nixon administration.
That, she argued, meant Chinese Premier Xi Jinping needed to act with speed and determination.
“Many in the West still believe that China is not ready to reunify Taiwan,” she wrote, saying that should not stop authorities in Beijing. “Looking back on modern Chinese history, was China ready to face the United States in the Korean War? Was the PLA ever ready for one of its major military campaigns? ?”
However, other Chinese state media pushed a more nuanced message. Discussions of military reunification appear to have been deliberately promoted in the days leading up to Pelosi’s visit, but during the visit itself, Chinese state media encouraged readers to focus on the bigger “game of ‘American-Chinese chess‘ and not on Pelosi’s ‘chess piece’.
For nearly a week starting last Thursday, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Eastern Command said China’s naval and air forces practiced what they described as “defense and blockade” operations. around the island in several directions, seen by analysts as a warning that even without an invasion, China could block access to the island.
Taiwan authorities say Chinese ships and planes have repeatedly crossed the “median line” between the mainland and Taiwan, which the two sides have largely respected for decades. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu told reporters this week that “no middle line exists”, as he defended China’s response.
Companies and investors are keen to avoid being caught off guard as they have been with Russia and Ukraine, while China’s economic size and Taiwan’s importance to microchip supply chains technologies mean that even a non-violent blockade and increased sanctions could have an even greater impact on the global economy.
Some of this is already happening. Beijing followed Pelosi’s visit with a wave of trade bans against companies and institutions accused of supporting “Taiwan independence”.
It alarmed foreign and domestic business groups in China, with the EU Chamber of Commerce in China – which had also lobbied against Pelosi’s visit – warning that new Chinese restrictions on Taiwan-linked businesses would further deter foreign investors in China. and the island.
Beijing’s trade disputes with the United States and Australia have also escalated – just as China launches charm offensives in the developing world, cutting import tariffs on goods from 16 of the world’s least developed countries. poorest in the world, including Cambodia, Laos, Djibouti, Rwanda and Togo. Chinese media also highlighted support from Russia, Mongolia and North Korea, as well as Saudi comments reaffirming the kingdom’s commitment to Beijing’s “one China” policy.
Taiwan is also seeking friends, with its officials and the media praising supportive comments from Lithuania, the Pacific Marshall Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands – even as they slam the Biden administration for what many in Taiwan see as insufficient support.
Beijing will want to maintain psychological pressure on Taiwan, pressure US lawmakers and demonstrate the level of disruption it is capable of alongside more conventional military force – though that may just embolden those in the US Congress and beyond who believe that only a tougher line on Taiwan will deter China from attacking.
** Peter Apps is a writer on international affairs, globalization, conflict and other issues. He is the founder and executive director of the Project for Study of the 21st Century; PS21, a non-national, non-partisan and non-ideological think tank. Paralyzed by a car accident in a war zone in 2006, he also blogs about his disability and other topics. He was previously a reporter for Reuters and continues to be paid by Thomson Reuters. Since 2016 he has been a member of the British Army Reserve and the UK Labor Party.
(Editing by Nick Macfie)
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