by Lyle Goldstein
Saturday, 30
July 2022
Debate
10:45

Why Nancy Pelosi should not visit Taiwan

She risks inflaming tensions between the US and China further
by Lyle Goldstein
Who’s ready for WWIII? Credit: Getty

With warnings of world war forming a dark cloud over the recent Aspen gathering of the American national security elite, it is not surprising that major foreign policy experts and even long-time Taiwan advocates are advising caution when it comes to Nancy Pelosi’s proposed trip to Taiwan. It does not take a Kissingerian realist to grasp that, with the Ukraine War showing signs of escalation, this is no time for the U.S. to risk a major showdown in the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing has made it clear that the visit will have negative consequences and Xi Jinping even warned Joe Biden explicitly on a 28 July phone call not to “play with fire.” A Pelosi visit to the island would be the highest level U.S. visit since 1997. Stable and constructive U.S.-China relations are integral to the future of the planet, whether considering climate change, pandemic response, global economic development prospects, nuclear weapons proliferation, or avoiding catastrophic great power military conflict.  Therefore, political stunts on the sensitive Taiwan question, or what could be termed ‘poking the dragon in the eye,’ should be avoided by responsible Western leaders.

In fact, it is quite unlikely that China would launch an attack against Taiwan in the very near future. The country has been facing serious near-term governance and economic challenges related to the pandemic.  At the same time, the war in Ukraine has been a sobering lesson for China’s leaders regarding the inevitable costs of wars and may suggest ways in which the PLA needs to adapt to modern warfare. The upcoming 20th Party Congress will be absorbing much of the energy of China’s leaders in the coming months. Finally, some key recent breakthroughs for China’s military in long-range strike operations, amphibious warfare, and also anti-submarine warfare, may imply that a few more years are needed for China to prepare in earnest for a Taiwan contingency.

Nevertheless, the trend lines are ominous. Most of China’s attack forces do appear to be already in place, ranging from thousands of cruise missiles and drones to hundreds of new helicopters and large transport aircraft for delivering airborne assaults directly into the island’s vulnerable interior — thus securing the beachheads from behind. Moreover, China’s leaders are well aware that many special weapons shipments to Taiwan are delayed by the massive demands for high-tech arms and munitions emanating from Kyiv. 

There is a considerable danger that as the war continues to escalate in Eastern Europe that Chinese leaders may see an opportunity to resolve the Taiwan issue while the West is distracted and increasingly fatigued by the war in Ukraine. In a hint of what terrible risks could come from a US-China war over Taiwan, it is all too plain that Beijing is rapidly building up its nuclear forces in case such an eventuality comes to pass.

In general, the China threat to the U.S. and even to Taiwan is much over-hyped.  For example, the PLA has not sought to interfere with or block any U.S. Navy transits of the Taiwan Strait that have been occurring with ever greater frequency. Likewise, Chinese military aircraft sorties into the western Pacific are often criticised in the Western media as penetrations of Taiwan air space. That is not at all true, since the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is so expansive as to cover a major portion of the Chinese coastline — nor do such zones have any legal basis.

Many have fixated, moreover, on the possibility of a Pelosi visit, while ignoring the overall pattern, which has seen Washington steadily denigrate the meaning of the One China Policy. Examples include the relatively new $250 million embassy-like facility constructed by the U.S. in Taipei, accelerating weapons sales, the famous phone call between Donald Trump and Tsai Ying-wen, and a parade of American senators, military leaders, and senior diplomats through Taipei. These actions have all worked toward the end of condemning the historic compromise established by the Shanghai Communique to a death by a thousand cuts. Needless to say, a new law now under consideration on Capitol Hill to update the Taiwan Relations Act, which would officially pronounce Taiwan as a ‘non-NATO ally’ of the United States, fits this same pattern of provocatively ‘poking the dragon’ by Washington.

Asia-Pacific experts are keen to learn the lessons of the ongoing Ukraine War for any conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Foremost among these lessons should be the understanding that the West should not wantonly transgress upon the clear red lines of other great powers.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
13 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
harry storm
harry storm
12 days ago

The author (bootlicker?) first claims that ” most of China’s attack forces do seem already in place,” only to then claim that “the Chinese threat …even to Taiwan is overhyped.” If I were taiwanese I certainly wouldn’t think so. And why defer to totalitarian threats anyway? The only reason the “dragon” is “being poked” in the first place is because of its nonstop bullying of taiwan. Finally, is the only reason pelosi shouldn’t visit Taiwan because of threats from a dictator against a successful democracy? This kowtowing to thugocracies is pathetic.

Last edited 12 days ago by Vilde Chaye
Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
12 days ago
Reply to  harry storm

I will never understand why hurling an insult is a good way to present an argument. Although I might agree with your point

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
12 days ago
Reply to  harry storm

I do not understand why hauling an insult should be considered an effective way to start presenting an argument. Although I might agree with your point of view, it’s value is extremely diluted and could be filed under Fringe Fanatics

harry storm
harry storm
12 days ago
Reply to  Rick Lawrence

Chacun a son gout.
–your friendly fringe fanatic

Last edited 12 days ago by Vilde Chaye
Jim R
Jim R
11 days ago
Reply to  harry storm

Boo-yah! We must put an end to this sapping of our precious bodily fluids!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
12 days ago

It’s a bit rich for China to complain about others assisting Taiwan especially after their blatant disregard towards the “Two Systems” framework they agreed to over Hong Kong

Sam Sky
Sam Sky
9 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Indeed the two are highly interconnected. China used a velvet glove with Hong Kong as long as they thought they could lure in Taiwan into a similar arrangement, which under the KMT in the 90s seemed plausible if not likely. Since then it was clear the Taiwanese population wasn’t being fooled, so they realised there was no longer any good reason to delay the application of the mailed fist over Hong Kong.

Last edited 9 days ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
10 days ago

I vehemently disagree. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amply illustrates the futility of appeasing fascism. The civilised world needs to start saying what it likes, where it likes, when it likes, to whom it likes.

Jim R
Jim R
11 days ago

Anyone who imagines the response to provocation will be anything other than further escalation is engaging in magical thinking. Eventually we come to a tipping point where we either have to back down in humiliating fashion or “cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war . . .” So what’s our goal here? Humiliation or war?

Harry Child
Harry Child
11 days ago

Two points

  1. why the underlining in this article it is offensive to readers.
  2. When are we in the west going to take back our manufacturing industries? .
David McKee
David McKee
12 days ago

Hmmm…
https://www.cfr.org/blog/when-election-interference-fails
Well now. You tell me, who is poking whom in the eye?

Ghozt Wolve
Ghozt Wolve
10 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

Does it seem odd that while “everyone knows” Russia interfered in the 2016 election, nobody asks, “Did China also interfere, but less successfully, so their choice lost?”

M. M.
M. M.
11 days ago

Lyle Goldstein wrote, “In a hint of what terrible risks could come from a US-China war over Taiwan, it is all too plain that Beijing is rapidly building up its nuclear forces in case such an eventuality comes to pass.”

The Taiwanese have been playing the Americans for fools. The Taiwanese voluntarily made their nation economically dependent on China. Though they have the option of putting their money and technology into Southeast Asia, they overwhelmingly choose to invest their capital in China. Moreover, Beijing gives preferential treatment to Taiwanese businesses. It includes reduced taxes and accelerated approval for business projects. The Taiwanese enjoy this preferential treatment, which is denied to American businesses.

Neither American treasure nor American lives should be sacrificed for such people.

Washington and Tokyo should use Taiwan as a bargaining chip. Specifically, if Beijing agrees to relinquish its claim to the Senkaku Islands, then Western governments shall sever all ties to Taiwan. Beijing can then do whatever it wants to do to the Taiwanese.

Get more info about this issue.