Pelosi visit could derail US-China compromise on Taiwan
Authors: Swaran Singh and Yves Tiberghien, UBC
There are many complaints to be made for the apparent fourth taiwan strait crisis of August 2022. Intensely partisan American politics have set the liberal international order on a dangerous course. Increasingly nationalistic politics in China have produced assertive foreign policy behavior and in the age of social media, emotions are boiling over across the Pacific.
The delicate diplomatic compromise of constructive ambiguity over Taiwan’s status initiated by former US national security adviser Henry Kissinger and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1972 is unraveling beyond repair.
We are witnessing a spiraling struggle between ideal commitments to competing principles of democracy and national sovereignty.
Compromise around a general “One China” policy, coupled with the deterrence enshrined in the US Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 and other assurances that were last reinforced in 1998, have been the foundation of diplomatic relations between China and Western nations. If this delicate balance were to break, the world order would be undermined, leading to heightened tensions to the point of possible conflict.
The region is rocked following the visit to Taiwan by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and China’s response in the form of massive military exercises and diplomatic bluster. The Chinese navy and air force entered the territorial waters for the first time. Missiles landed near the island and in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. China has also severed most diplomatic channels with the United States and pulled out of the ASEAN summit, not once but twice.
Japan joined the G7 Communiqué supporting Pelosi’s visit and condemning China’s dangerous military response. This angered China and prompted the last-minute cancellation of a scheduled meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.
It is worrying that the world’s two economic and military superpowers continue to intensify their tit-for-tat interactions with no visible endpoint or institutionalized security barriers. The current fulcrum of domestic politics in each country seems to reward a results mentality, normative prestige, and mutual surrender. Such a high-risk situation is a throwback to the politics of the summer of 1914 or the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The domestic mood of each country does not take into account the misery a wrong move could create. , especially for the people of Taiwan. There is no incentive to pursue stabilization through restraint or accommodation or the willingness to show an appearance of weakness.
Pelosi’s Asian tour has been totally overshadowed by speculation about his visit to Taiwan. Despite assurances from the US Secretary of State, Antoine Blinkenthat Washington’s commitment to the “One China” policy remains unchanged, the Chinese foreign minister said. Wang Yi called the visit “manic, irresponsible and irrational”. As Chinese President Xi Jinping had warned, China used the visit to undertake high-caliber live-fire exercises, effectively enforcing a four-day blockade on Taiwan and disrupting dispatch and flights in Taipei.
The visit was preceded by secrets and leaks in the press. The first one statement issued by Pelosi’s office made no mention of Taiwan, saying his “visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan” were aimed at establishing “mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the region.” Indo-Pacific”. Amid growing media leaks from Taiwan, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reaffirmed “the importance of stable relations between the United States and China for regional peace and stability”.
Despite all the talk of a last-minute shutdown, Taiwan staged a carnival-like welcome with a live broadcast of its arrival and a massive salute at the Taipei 101 building. Supporters and protesters showed up in the streets . At the Legislative Yuan, Pelosi delivered a strong expression of support for Taiwan’s struggle for freedom and democracy.
The shock wave caused by Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was felt during his stopover in Seoul. Feel the atmosphere in beijingSouth Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol chose not to meet her because he was would have on vacation, making him the only executive not to meet Pelosi during his Asia tour.
President Yoon made this decision despite his pro-American leanings, his near-historic low approval rate and Pelosi’s visit to the “truce village” of Panmunjom in the Korean DMZ. No senior officials or lawmakers greeted Pelosi as he landed in Seoul. China was quick to reward South Korea by inviting the foreign minister Jin Park in Beijing.
Taipei’s reverberations were still palpable as she met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and House Speaker Kiroyuki Hosoda. The meeting took place shortly after Chinese missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone and Wang Yi’s meeting with Yoshimasa Hayashi was called off.
Ultimately, this crisis offered Nancy Pelosi the chance to establish her legacy of toughness on China and support for democracy ahead of the US midterm elections. It also gave China an opportunity to test its growing military hardware in Taiwanese waters and demonstrate its commitment to sovereignty ahead of the Autumn Party Congress.
But the trip, predictably, sparked a new cycle of mistrust, nationalist escalation and arms race in the Pacific. The United States and China must urgently establish stronger communication channels, update arms control mechanisms, and bring some stability and peace to the Taiwan Compromise.
Swaran Singh is a professor at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and president of the Asian Researchers Association. He is a visiting professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia.
Yves Tiberghien is a professor of political science and director emeritus of the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia. He is also a Fellow Emeritus of the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada.