By Martin Woodley
The visit to Taiwan of the Congressional delegation led by Nancy Pelosi is the latest, and by far the most serious, in a series of provocative actions by the US over the Taiwan question. Despite formally adhering to the One China policy, the US has secretly stationed military personnel in Taiwan for extended periods. Biden has on three separate occasions during his Presidency stated that the US would use military force to defend Taiwan. In March, 2022 the US sent a defence delegation headed by former Head of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen. This visit was quickly followed by a visit by Mike Pompeo. In a speech given at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taipei, Pompeo said:“The United States government should immediately take necessary and long overdue steps to do the right and obvious thing which is to offer the Republic of China (Taiwan) America’s diplomatic recognition as a free and sovereign country”.
Not all US commentators greeted the visit with enthusiasm. Speaker Pelosi, leading a Congressional delegation visit to Taiwan, received broad bi-partisan political support, including this report of a letter signed by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and 25 other Republican senators. However, the implications of going ahead with the visit given the repeated warnings from China that the status of Taiwan is for them an existential issue, were clear. Former advisor to the Secretary of Defence during the Trump administration, Douglas McGregor, spelled the situation out very clearly to Tucker Carlson: “All the major invasions of China were launched from Taiwan… Beijing will not allow Taiwan to become a garrison state”.
But there were also several pieces which, while toeing the imperialist line on the need to confront China militarily at some stage, acknowledge that there are serious tactical questions that need to be addressed, thereby demonstrating divisions within the foreign policy establishment. On the one side, people like Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper advocate discarding the ‘One China Policy’ altogether. The NY Times reports:
Some members of Congress are pressing ahead with the Taiwan Policy Act, which would redefine the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, providing funding for Taiwan’s arms purchases, raising Taiwan to the status of a “major non-NATO ally,” and taking other steps to upgrade recognition of Taiwan’s government. Beijing interprets these as violations of longstanding U.S. pledges made to China.
Furthermore, raising the prospect of a direct military engagement with nuclear-armed China simultaneously with the engagement by proxy in a military confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia will severely weaken imperialism’s efforts in both of these epoch-shaping struggles. When the collective west applied their initial ‘mother of sanctions’ on Russia they made efforts to convince key countries like China, India, the ASEAN countries, etc, to not undermine the sanctions. Despite some inhibitions deriving from a wish to maintain some measure of cordial relations with the west, in the event most countries in the global south have put their own national interest above the interests of the collective west. However, China is the top trading partner for over 120 countries and regions, and if it was an uphill struggle to persuade countries to prioritise the interests of the west over their national interests, this will pale into insignificance in the case of China.
Immediately prior to Speaker Pelosi’s visit the US dispatched naval and air forces to the region. The USS Ronald Reagan carrier group was dispatched. The map below shows the disposition of US aircraft carriers and large deck ships.
However, those China hawks who imagined that China would blink have been disabused of that idea. China’s response to the visit, warning of ‘very serious’ developments and consequences, was called ‘inflammatory’ by Liz Truss. As a result of the visit going ahead, China banned thousands of Taiwan’s food exports to China. Following the visit China announced massive live fire combined forces military drills, effectively blockading Taiwan for several days, and launched several ballistic missiles into the waters around Taiwan and between Taiwan and Okinawa. These drills effectively demonstrate that China is capable of enforcing a total blockade of Taiwan, and can be seen as a war plan rehearsal.
When one considers the effect on the world economy of the disruption of Russia’s commodity exports due to the sanctions, it is clear that a major great-power conflict in the South China Sea would be a catastrophe for world supply chains. The map below shows the shipping traffic in and around the Taiwan Strait on August 3rd, overlayed with the areas affected by the Chinese live fire military drills. It is clear that a major conflict would devastate this shipping traffic for a prolonged period.
In response to the measures adopted by China, the US postponed missile tests in order to lower tensions. However, in spite of the obvious seriousness with which China has responded to the situation it is clear that imperialism fully intends to continue and even escalate the provocations.
“China has chosen to overreact and use the speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” said John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council on Thursday.
Kirby told reporters U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has directed the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the ships in her strike group to remain in the vicinity to “monitor the situation.” He said Washington will also conduct “standard air and maritime transits” through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks.
On Friday, China announced the suspension of collaboration with the US on several important areas and the cancellation of dialogue. This last set of measures attests to the seriousness of the situation. Both in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and in the 1983 false missile alarm, catastrophe was only averted by the use of open lines of communication between Washington and Moscow. However, recent events both in relation to Ukraine and now in relation to Taiwan, indicate that the level of trust between Washington and Moscow, and Washington and Beijing are at dangerously low levels. Imperialism bears full responsibility for this due to its duplicity, liberal use of malicious accusations, attempts at isolation of Russia and China internationally, application of trade bans, tariffs and sanctions, its use of the global financial system for its own geopolitical purposes, its seizure of Russia’s foreign reserves, and willfully ignoring repeated warnings about both Russia’s and China’s red lines.
Imperialism has lost the economic war against China. It is losing its economic war by sanctions and is losing its proxy military war against Russia. All that is left is a direct military conflict against China. The visit of the Congressional delegation led by Speaker Pelosi has pushed the secessionist forces in Taiwan further down the path to a declaration of independence than it has ever been. Such an action would cross China’s red line and would therefore constitute grounds for war.