China took several aggressive actions this weekend after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, including firing ballistic missiles near Taiwan and punishing Pelosi. While the incident may not lead to all-out war, it is a further step in the dissolution of the US-China relationship — and gives the Chinese military the training it needs to carry out future attacks.
Pelosi is the most senior US official to visit Taiwan since former chairman Newt Gingrich left in 1997. In the 25 years since, China has grown exponentially both its economy and its military. Along with that has come the nation’s desire – and increased ability – to lay claim to Taiwan. Taiwan, who rules himself independently of Beijing and under current President Tsai Ing-wen, he became increasingly annoyed with Beijing’s tactics of “reuniting” Taiwan with mainland China.
Now the US hopes to avoid a diplomatic and possibly military crisis with China. Relations between the two superpowers have deteriorated rapidly in recent years due to a plethora of issues, such as the abuse of Uyghur minorities in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, crackdowns on pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, increased coordination between the US and Taiwan under the Trump administration, and alleged espionage and hacking by the Chinese government.
“There is a lot to object to the Chinese behavior, but that said, there are a lot of behaviors that the Chinese object to, that the various stakeholders in the US are just ignoring and blowing past, and maybe they’re doing it on their own. risk,” says Daniel Russell. , Asia Institute vice president of international security and diplomacy told cafemadrid.
Previous governments practiced “strategic ambiguity” and tried to reassure Taiwan without fueling China. In May, Biden promised that the US would go beyond the support it has already given to Ukraine if China invaded Taiwan, although members of his administration, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, insisted that Biden’s statement was consistent with the one-China policy – the official recognition that mainland China and Beijing are the seat of power.
Now, China is conducting large-scale military exercises in the Taiwan Strait— reportedly firing 11 ballistic missiles near the island, Reuters reported this on Thursday. That’s the first time China has made such a move since 1996 – and shows how much has changed since the last time the US and China faced Taiwan.
20 PLA aircraft (SU-30*10, J-16*4, J-11*4, Y-8 ASW and Y-20 Aerial Refueling) and 14 ships conducted an air-sea operation in the vicinity of ROC in August 6, 2022. For more information, please check our official website: https://t.co/Tj6C1y0WHR pic.twitter.com/apjMe6IYMn
— 國防部 Ministry of National Defense, ROC (@MoNDefense) August 6, 2022
“[The Chinese military is] probably not even halfway through the various things they have in mind,” Daniel Russel, vice president of international security and diplomacy at the Asia Institute, told cafemadrid. “I think it’s pretty clear that the Chinese are in the acting phase, the retaliatory phase, as they characterize it, and they have no interest in being calmed down until they complete this circuit of punitive action.”
The ultimate goal, at least when it comes to Taiwan, isn’t necessarily a military takeover — China isn’t capable of that yet, Russel said. Instead, each crisis is calibrated “to essentially force Taiwan to its knees, to force Taiwan’s leadership to capitulate to the mainland’s terms for political negotiations.”
China’s military power has grown significantly over the past three decades
China has become more aggressive in defending what it sees as its interests in several arenas, including military in the South China Sea and hostile crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong — both of which threaten Taiwan’s democratic system .
China claimed sovereignty over the South China Sea and several nearby islands, including Taiwan, in 1992 Territorial Sea Act. That document also outlines the conditions under which military ships and aircraft may enter Chinese territory. Now, 30 years later, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has the means to enforce sovereignty, and has done this with increasingly provocative maritime action including militarizing islands in the South China Sea
The US maintains it has significant economic and security interests in the region and regularly conducts freedom of navigation and other exercises there, to use military naval and air forces to maintain the freedom of maritime areas. The US also sells weapons systems to Taiwan for defensive purposes according to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, but those capabilities are just out of proportion to what the Chinese military has produced over the past 25 years. In addition, both US and Taiwanese stakeholders last year expressed concerns about the low morale and readiness of the Taiwanese military among reservists and conscripts. That’s partly due to a lack of funding and a disorganized reserve system, as well as the belief of many Taiwanese that the US will back their military if a major attack takes place, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation from last October.
China’s military growth is currently based on civil-military integrationincluding major investments in technical research and development and dual-purpose technology aimed at strengthening both the military and the economy. This has led to important developments in the field of weapon systems, including the so-called “carrier killer” missile which can allegedly attack ships as large as contemporary US aircraft carriersso possible deterring US warships from operating in what China considers its own territory.
The situation is a long way from the 1995-1996 crisis in the Taiwan Strait, when a visit from Lee Teng Huei, who would become Taiwan’s first democratically elected president in 1996, at his alma mater Cornell University, sparked tensions between the US and China. China then deployed missiles and conducted military exercises near Taiwan, but the US managed to fend off those provocations by sending two aircraft carrier groups transiting through the Taiwan Strait.
Since endured that humiliation, the Chinese government has pushed to create an army capable of confronting — and defeating — the US in confrontation. What the People’s Liberation Army lacks is experience in the war zone, Russell told cafemadrid. “They’re practicing, and that’s not good for us,” he said. “And it’s the kind of thing that directly addresses the People’s Liberation Army’s biggest flaw — which is that, unlike the U.S. military, they haven’t spent the past 50 years at war.” Therefore, Pelosi’s visit was the perfect excuse to gain experience on the battlefield in the ideal context.
“The Chinese are taking advantage of what they are billing as a provocation,” Russel said. “They take advantage of this to practice things that under normal circumstances would be so provocative that they were afraid to rehearse. So these are joint exercises that are basically dry runs for military action against Taiwan – be it a blockade or some other attack.”
Is there a diplomatic solution to the crisis?
There’s no reason to believe that China will launch an all-out amphibious assault on Taiwan at this point, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t serious risks right now.
“As for lowering the tension, rule number one: don’t do anything that makes things worse,” Russel said. But that’s easier said than done when diplomatic relations that would normally serve to spread such tensions have frayed as they are today. The White House summoned Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang on Friday to reprimand him for the military exercises; now China has called for discussions on other critical topics and its military officials not responding to the Pentagon’s rapprochement — increasing the risk of accidents and misinterpretations that get out of hand.
“You have a lot of assets in the US, PRC and Taiwan in a relatively limited space. “There have been accidents in the past where perhaps overzealous or inexperienced Chinese pilots have collided with American planes — even much more recently, there have been many more examples of high-risk maneuvers by Chinese pilots and Chinese ship captains,” Russel said. is real, and what makes it dangerous is not that an American plane and a Chinese plane can have an accident, but that the US and China do not have the mechanisms – the relationships, the dialogues, etc. – that serve to prevent escalation. to prevent an incident from turning into a crisis and a crisis leading to conflict.”
A complicating factor appears to be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s need to show strength to bolster his power ahead of China’s 20th Party Congress later this year, where major leadership changes will be announced. Michael Raskaan assistant professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told Bloomberg that China’s exercises in the Taiwan Strait are “a display of power that will cement Xi’s political power domestically and pave the way for his third term re-election.”
It’s also a distraction from the fact that “things go to hell in a handbasket in Xi Jinping’s China,” Russel said. Between boundaries of technology use, overbearing social control and major economic problems such as a serious housing crisis, Chinese citizens make the mockery government policy on the social network Weibo – Giving Xi every reason to step up pressure on Taiwan and the US, Russel said.
China has also announced that it would not continue talks with US officials on climate change, an area where the US and China had willingly cooperated until Pelosi’s trip. “Any time there is an event that heightens tensions between Washington and Beijing, as Nancy Pelosi’s visit has done, [it] when it calms down, leave the relationship much worse,” Russell said, pointing out that Taiwan is not the only issue the US and China need to negotiate.
“It makes the prospects for any kind of real progress — not negotiating the fate of Taiwan, but the two superpowers on planet Earth learning how to share the world without blowing it up — all the more difficult.”