01.08.2022 Author: Salman Rafi Sheikh

How Washington is Raising the Geopolitical Temperature around Taiwan


When Russia started its special military operation in Ukraine, a perception, ostensibly created by the western mainstream media, began to develop that Beijing could begin a similar operation to take over Taiwan. Following this, Joe Biden said in a media statement during his visit to Japan that the US is willing to “get involved militarily to defend Taiwan.” As is evident now, the media campaign was not meant as a signal to Beijing; it was – and is – part of a broader campaign to provoke, rather than warn, China into military action. This provocation, policy makers in Washington seem to have calculated, could create tensions in the region on a scale that they could use to their advantage to build “a global coalition” against China, an objective that US officials have been seeking to build for the past few years already.

The ongoing tension around Taiwan is, thus, only the latest addition to the series of US attempts to pick a fight with China to rally Southeast Asia and/or the Indo-Pacific region around Washington in the same way the US has been able to reestablish its dominance in Europe in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

This is pretty systematic. Following Biden’s statement, a US senator visited Taiwan to strengthen bilateral ties. The Voice of America (VOA) reported that the visit was necessitated by the “rising Chinese threats.” The claim was made despite the fact no direct threat involving the possibility of territorial invasion from Beijing existed at the time. The threat was manufactured through propaganda. For example, a leading French newspaper arrogated to itself the task of predicting that Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine automatically predicted an identical Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

This propagation about the existence of a Chinese threat to Taiwan is being systematically propagated. A “parallel” has been generated, as this particular report of The Washington Post shows. The report says, without mentioning any credible source and/or a representative survey sample of Taiwanese, that,

“For many in Taiwan, the Russian assault on Ukraine hits close to home because of parallels with their own situation. The island’s people live under constant threat from a powerful authoritarian neighbour, China, which claims sovereignty over democratic Taiwan and vows to seize it by force if necessary.”

This is US propaganda that contradicts facts. For instance, as a survey conducted in January by Taiwan’s Commonwealth Magazine showed, the actual fear of war with China has dipped in Taiwan despite rising tensions between the US and China. The survey also showed that about 60 per cent of Taiwanese do not believe that Beijing will ultimately use force to take Taiwan. Now, the question is: if the people of Taiwan do not foresee a war with China, why does the US create that fear? Clearly, as indicated above, its objective is to use conflict to advance its own geopolitical influence in Southeast Asia, a strategy it is using to maintain a unipolar, US-dominated world order to check-mate Russian and Chinese bid to create a new, multipolar world order.

Therefore, despite the absence of any real threat of Chinese invasion, the US is willing to raise the temperature by sending Nancy Pelosi, the House of Representatives speaker, to Taiwan. If Pelosi visits, this will be the first such visit by a top-ranking US official since 1997. The fact that this visit – which indicates a concerted US attempt to bring Taiwan effectively in its orbit as a taunt to China – is being deliberately planned amidst the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict shows how, in line with the overall propaganda discussed above, a parallel on the situation in Europe and Southeast Asia is being arbitrarily imposed.

However, while it is the US imposing this visit and creating unnecessary tensions, the US media thinks that Beijing is to blame. A report in The Atlantic said that the true source of tension is that “Beijing apparently has come to believe it can compel neighbors and adversaries to submit to its wishes and align their policies with China’s interests.”

The US military is playing its own role, with its statements syncing perfectly with the propaganda being spread via political pundits and the media alike. The Pentagon recently warned of a sudden spike in “direct, aggressive, unsafe” behavior by China against US and partner military forces.” A Pentagon assistant secretary accused China of “assorted misconduct, including aircraft intercepts at dangerously close range and the release of objects into the air that could compromise a plane’s engine.”

To avert Chinese “misconduct”, the US media reported that a US carrier group has entered the South China Sea. This move adds, quite logically, to the propagated threat of an imminent Chinese invasion, as well as serving Biden’s commitment to defend Taiwan militarily.

The campaign to create a parallel between Europe (Russia-Ukraine conflict) and Southeast Asia has an interesting parallel with the way the US mainstream media campaigned for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. As we all know today, this was a complete hoax the US used to entrench itself in the Middle East militarily. We all know today that the US invasion of Iraq created the conditions for the emergence of the Islamic State in the Levant (a terrorist organization banned in Russia), which then became the source of millions of deaths and countless misery for even more.

The propaganda of Chinese invasion is a similar hoax. Therefore, although the Biden administration has said that they have no control over Pelosi’s visit because of “strict” separation of power between the US legislature and executive, it remains that the visit is part of a wider US campaign to manufacture a conflict around China. It is only through conflict that the US can expand itself in Southeast Asia and/or the Indo-Pacific region. Without such a conflict, or extremely heightened tensions, the US cannot possibly implement its grand Indo-Pacific strategy, which, according to the policy document, is the best possible way for Washington to realise its objectives i.e., encircle the “revisionist” China.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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