The US is run by spoiled children who won’t take “no” for an answer. While I am not privy to what China has in the way of plans for Taiwan, and I am welcome to be corrected, I have yet to see any of the neocons make a substantiated allegation that China intended to invade Taiwan prior to the US meddling by arming Taiwan and supporting its nationalists. My impression from a considerable remove is that China was clearly not happy about Taiwanese declarations of independence, but was prepared to be patient and let time do its work.
Specifically, China over time is becoming more affluent, which more high-level, well-paid technical and professional positions. And China has been encouraging Taiwanese to take them. See this 2018 article from Forbes:
On February 28, Beijing announced 31 measures that make it easier for Taiwanese to work, invest and study in China. Wages are 60% lower in China than in Taiwan for ordinary, entry-level jobs, according to ManpowerGroup. But even without the new measures, Taiwanese can earn 1.2 to 1.3 times more pay in China than at home for skilled, non-entry level jobs.
The pay gap in favor of China for these skilled positions is even greater than it appears, since the cost of living is lower in China than Taiwan.
So if China could get more Taiwanese to live in China, or simply see it as not problematic to move back and forth, it would establish among the Taiwanese the notion that China and Taiwan were in practical terms not separate, and the Taiwanese would be worse off by denying themselves opportunities in China. In other words, China could over the long term, say a 20 year horizon, use commerce, not force, to achieve its ends.
But the US is frustrated at the China monster it has created. The US pushed to let China into the WTO even though it did not meet the requirements at the time. The US also ran sustained and large trade deficits with China, so our demand was a key driver of its rapid rise.
It boggles the mind that the US is now upset that turning China into its factory and seeking to enrich 1.4 billion citizens so we could sell them Disney movies and deodorant had led to China becoming a dominant economic and increasingly important military power. If it was obvious enough in 2007 for Putin to talk about a multi-polar order at the Munich Security Conference, it was obvious to anyone paying a smidge of attention.
The neocons above all seem unable to process that the days of US hegemony are over. It boggles the mind that they are not just eyepoking but escalating greatly with China via the still-planned Pelosi visit to Taiwan in August. As we’ll explain, China is fully cognizant of the fact that Pelosi is number two in line after Harris should something happen to the increasingly addle-brained Biden. And they don’t buy for a second that Pelosi is operating without the explicit approval of the Administration.
Note that it’s entirely possible that Pelosi revived her Taiwan trip plan (recall she put it off after coming down with Covid) all on her own. The Pentagon gave her a face-saving out by saying they didn’t recommend it.1
China, which is routinely screechy when it is upset about what it perceives to be foreign transgressions, has managed to find new registers in its objections the proposed Pelosi visit. We’ve cited this passage from an official editorial at the house organ Global Times on Tuesday July 19 (emphasis ours):
Unlike Washington’s opportunistic probing, all options are clearly on the table for the Chinese mainland. The noose around the neck of the “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces is tightening, and Pelosi has one foot on the stool of the gallows. If Pelosi, who has always been fond of playing tough on China, wants to insist on this way, we will definitely prepare sufficient “consequences” for her.
We’ll stick with Global Times. A week later, on Tuesday, the 26th:
After the Chinese Foreign Ministry stressed that China had made sterner warnings to US officials and China is fully prepared for any eventuality over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned Taiwan trip on Monday, the Chinese Defense Ministry on Tuesday vowed that if the US insists, the Chinese military will by no means sit idly by and strong measures will be taken to thwart any external interference and “Taiwan independence” separatist attempts….
Tan Kefei, a spokesperson of China’s Ministry of National Defense, said on Tuesday that if Pelosi, as the No.3 US politician, visits Taiwan, it will be a serious violation of the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, and it will seriously damage China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the political basis for China-US relations…
China demands the US to fulfill its commitment of not supporting Taiwan secessionism and not arrange Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Tan said, noting that if the US persists, the Chinese military will by no means sit idly by….
The New York Times reported on Monday that internal worries have sharpened in recent days, as the Biden administration quietly tries to dissuade Pelosi from going through with the proposed visit.
Another take from the Global Times:2
Yet after the Pentagon cleared its throat and Pelosi played dumb, Biden not only is not be intervening but now fully owns this visit. Biden is trying the lame-brained move of attempting to persuade Xi, via a phone call this Thursday. From the Financial Times:
Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will hold a telephone call on Thursday….
The planned call would be only the fifth conversation between the two leaders since Biden became US president 18 months ago.
Biden and the Chinese president had been expected to discuss many contentious issues, from military challenges to technology competition. But those plans have been complicated by Pelosi’s intended visit to Taiwan in August….
The White House is extremely concerned that her visit could spark a crisis across the Taiwan Strait. Biden has sent top officials, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, to explain the risks. But that has been complicated by the fact that Congress is independent and he has no formal power to block her visit.
Bloomberg reports that if Pelosi’s visit proceeds, it would happen “within days” of the Xi-Biden call.
As far as China is concerned, there is not putting lipstick on this pig. The US is demonstrating, just as Russia has charged, that it is not agreement capable. An April post summarized some of the recent cases of US overplaying its hand with China and not having the common sense to recognize its heavy-handed moves were backfiring:
….the US has tried at least twice (three times with China if you count the recent China-EU teleconference with Xi) to get China to side with the West against Russia, pushing China into “What about ‘no’ don’t you understand?” terrain. Rather than hewing to the convention of having summits only after groundwork was laid so that at least nothing visibly bad happens, Team Biden set out to pick a fight with China at their first get together, in Alaska in March 2021, with the US springing new sanctions on China the day before the session.
This humble blog was featuring at least once a week examples of Biden Administration continuing its eyepoking of China in our Links before the war broke out.
Then in March, Jake Sullivan was set to meet with Yang Jiechi in Rome and threatened China with sanctions. The pretext was disinformation in the form of a Financial Times story claiming that Russia had asked to buy weapons from China (this was clearly absurd because by the time the war had started would be way too late; Russia would have needed to procure and integrate equipment months prior).1 Needless to say, Yang didn’t give any ground.
So not taking no as an answer, Biden had the cheek to call Xi that very same week and ask for China’s help. Xi effectively said this wasn’t his problem: “He who puts the bell on the tiger is the one to take it off.” Biden also said he very much wanted better relations with China and gave lip service to the one-China policy in the chat. That allowed Xi to say he took that statement very seriously: What about all these American officials who were promoting a “wrong understanding” about Taiwan?…
I’m not double checking the dates, but my recollection is that it was shortly after the EU-Xi talk that the US announced new sanctions against China, mainly against officials accused of oppressing Uighurs…
And we expect them to side with us? It’s not the most important form of payback, but China has taken to stating regularly in official media that the war in Ukraine is America’s fault.
Needless to say, China is considering far more serious responses to the Pelosi provocation than just jerking America’s chain over Ukraine. But if the pink paper is any guide, the West is again in delusion land about what that might entail:
But he [Zack Cooper, an Asia expert at the American Enterprise Institute said that if Pelosi proceeded, it would likely spark the biggest confrontation since the so-called third crisis in 1995 and 1996 when China fired missiles into waters around Taiwan to intimidate its government and citizens…..
The US is also concerned about dangerous Chinese military manoeuvres. Milley told the FT and the Associated Press in an interview this week that China had significantly increased the number of dangerous intercepts of US military aircraft by Chinese fighter jets over the South China Sea.
The White House and Pentagon are worried that China could send fighters to intercept Pelosi’s aircraft as she heads towards Taiwan in a provocative move that could bring US and Chinese aircraft into very close contact.
If the Chinese level of ire is any guide, having Chinese fighter jets deny Pelosi a landing in Taiwan is on the mild end of possible responses. If that were to happen and the plane was escorted to land in mainland China, I could see the Chinese rubbing salt in the wound by not letting anyone in the aircraft deplane.
China is considering how to use a Pelosi visit to set far more important precedents. Hu in the Global Times clip above mentioned declaring a no-fly zone or having PLA jets fly with Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan airspace. As the Global Times noted: “That would set a great precedent for the PLA to patrol above the island, which would be far more meaningful than Pelosi’s visit.”
As with provoking Russia, the US may be about to get what it sought with Taiwan and find out that the results are not to its advantage. And as an American, it’s depressing to see so much incompetence and arrogance on display.
1 Biden holds all the cards. He could have hauled Pelosi into his office and reminded her of the Supreme Court decision Haig v. Agee, which allows the Administration to cancel passports in matters of national security. The Pentagon warning gave Biden the needed cover, as do the additional threats by China of military action. Biden to Pelosi: “How dare you challenge me over this. I will cancel your passport if you force me to. You can then see me in court. If you want to precipitate a Constitutional crisis and hand this country to the Republicans at the midterms, be my guest. I’d rather have that than have you start World War III.” LBJ or Nixon would not have hesitated to have that sort of chat even with no favorable Supreme Court ruling in hand.
2 I like that the Chinese publication uses a presumed political expert whose English is less than perfect rather than a polished talking head with lovely pronunciation. I take it as a measure of seriousness that they aren’t pandering to Western prejudices.