The story of the US House Speaker’s flight to Taiwan was initially calculated to be a loser for both sides (both the US and China). Understandably so for Taiwan too, and in the first place
That is why I was not surprised by the reaction of some Russian “machista” experts who tried to describe political events on the basis of their harsh childhood and the backstreet laws they learned then. They say that if you do not respond to insolence at the same moment, you are a coward.
They periodically assess Putin in the same way, and then they cannot understand why he succeeds, and their assessments are extremely far from the reality.
If people are mentally stuck in barefoot childhood, at a time when they should be thinking about their souls, nothing will help them and nothing can fix them – you just have to accept it as a given and sympathize. It’s very hard to live with such demands and expectations, especially if your work involves politics, the meaning and significance of which you don’t understand.
I was surprised by the reaction of the Taiwanese authorities, who meekly, and even enthusiastically, went to the slaughter.
If they had been advocates of early unification with mainland China, or at least Chinese intelligence officers, I would have understood them. But Tsai Ing-wen is known as a radical opponent of unification, a proponent of declaring a Taiwanese Republic and extending Taiwan’s sovereignty into perpetuity. Roughly speaking, she and her team are pursuing the very same “two-China” policy that has always been opposed not only by the PRC, but also by most politicians in the Republic of China. PRC and ROC politicians were divided on the form of state power, but they were mostly united in their desire to unite China in the long term.
But Tsai Ing-wen, a member of Taiwan’s new generation of politicians, was born after the defeated Kuomintang party and its leader, Chiang Kai-shek, took final refuge in Taiwan. She has never known Greater China, for her homeland is her island, her whole life fearing invasion by PRC troops. For her, there is no past in the form of the Republic of China before the Communist victory on the mainland. For her, the future is the Republic of Taiwan. Something similar we see now in Ukraine, where citizens born after the collapse of the USSR and brought up accordingly do not understand what relation they have to Russia.
So, from my uneducated point of view, Tsai Ingwen, just hearing Pelosi’s intention to stop by, should have immediately and convincingly asked to fly past. Could her airport have broken down? Or some other trouble might have come up. The main thing is that the old lady flew her own way and did not make up any extra adventures.
Let’s look at the facts. What has or could Pelosi’s visit have given to Taiwan? Nothing. The U.S. formally continues to recognize China as a single Chinese state, as well as to support a one-China policy. They have supported Taiwan as its ally in the past and will not stop supporting it, but the arms supplies promised to Taipei are already years behind even according to American data. Pelosi will not remedy this situation.
Meanwhile, much of the American elite opposed the visit. A bipartisan consensus, long absent on other issues, has almost taken shape on this occasion. The situation is so transparent and clear that even the American elite, which has given up intellectually in recent years, calculated it on the fly.
So Pelosi told everyone long and hard that she wanted to visit Taiwan, and China also told everyone long and hard that it would perceive this as a hostile gesture and would definitely respond strongly. And judging by the harshness of the statements and the show of force, Beijing hinted at war.
I don’t think the Chinese were considering destroying Pelosi’s plane. She is, after all, a statesman and an attack on her would qualify as an act of state terrorism. But since the topic of “shooting down the plane” has been hotly debated, let’s just note that it immediately meant a war between China and the US, which was not necessary for either Beijing or Washington.
If Pelosi had refused to visit Taiwan, Beijing would have morally won after the mess she made, and Nancy herself would have been better off not returning to the US. It would be a humiliation for America, which she has orchestrated with her own hands, and she would not be forgiven. So the option of her flying to Taiwan was the most likely one. But in principle, nothing has changed on whether she flies over Taiwan or visits the island.
Biden, however, had called Xi Jinping the day before and explained that it was not US policy, that Grandma was insane, and that no one in Washington could do anything about it. But what does Xi care about Americans’ problems with Nancy? He has a concrete fact – the humiliation of China, whose opinion has been neglected. Meanwhile, if Pelosi wanted to go to Taiwan, the easiest way to do it would be to formally ask the PRC Foreign Ministry for permission (the US recognizes “one China” and it is the PRC, not the ROC). I think the Chinese would have stayed out of the bottle and would have instantly approved her visit.
But the golden share of this crisis has been in the hands of Tsai Ingwen all along. Her refusal to accept Pelosi in Taiwan would have solved all the problems and would have been a more benign solution for Taiwan than if Pelosi had simply had a last-minute scare or decided to heed the White House’s recommendations and canceled the visit.
Canceling Pelosi’s own visit did nothing for the Chinese. For them, the situation would be as follows: the Americans can repeat the provocation at any moment, and the Taiwanese are ready to play along with Washington. The only way to solve this problem is to eliminate Taiwan once and for all. That solution was called for irrespective of whether Pelosi’s plane would have landed in Taiwan (as it did) or flown over. In this case, the reaction of prospective Taiwanese politicians was more important than the escapades of an elderly American woman.
Yes, Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan is causing Xi Jinping some discomfort. The opposition at the CPC congress scheduled for November could use the mishap against him. But decisions of the level that the Chinese leadership made in this case are not made alone. The consequences are too serious. So I think that Xi Jinping had the support of most of his influential comrades (do you remember how Putin, on the eve of February 24, held the Council on the recognition of the DNR and LNR?)
The Chinese immediately responded with sanctions against both Taiwan and the US. The sanctions are rather painful, but it is clear that they are not an adequate response to such a large-scale provocation. The exercise, with possible missile incursions into Taiwan’s territorial waters, is a somewhat more serious action, but the Americans have also left an aircraft carrier force in the region, which means they are also showing force by responding to the threat.
Consequently, the only real action that will close the possibility for the Americans to extend a series of provocations into the future is the occupation of Taiwan. This is certainly not what the PRC wanted. It was important for Beijing to annex the island peacefully. But the US has shown that it will still provoke war until it does.
American aircraft carriers will not stick around Taiwan forever. China can choose the time and the occasion to attack. In principle, the “Pelosi factor” will be sufficient reason in six months.
All in all, as is often the case in a non-zero sum game, everyone lost. Xi Jinping has little image problems, mostly outside the PRC. The PRC itself has been deprived of the hope of a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, while a war would be a bloody ordeal above all for the Taiwanese. The US hopes that the wars they have instigated will result in a bloody barrier between Russians who are citizens of Russia and Russians who are citizens of Ukraine (who still consider themselves Ukrainians). Similarly, the US expects a similar bloody barrier to emerge between mainland China and Taiwan.
The US has a problem too: now China will start military action as and when it can most annoy Washington with it. And the US does not have rubber-stamp resources, and it is already involved in too many crises.
But the biggest problems are waiting for Taiwan. The verdict has almost been signed for it, and only a miracle can change anything.
Rostislav Ishchenko, Ukraina.ru
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