Tensions continued to build between the United States and China with the recent trip of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan against Beijing’s warnings.
The unfolding row is depicted with immense ambiguity by the Western media in what is otherwise a clear-cut case of America violating China’s sovereignty.
US publication Newsweek in its article, “China Military Says It Won’t ‘Sit Back’ If Nancy Pelosi Visits Taiwan,” would first claim:
The Chinese military has threatened an unspecified response if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—second in line to the presidency—goes ahead with reported plans to visit Taiwan.
Following a week of diplomatic barb-trading, during which Beijing said it was “fully prepared for any eventuality” and Washington continued to downplay the potential fallout of the as-yet-unconfirmed trip, China’s defense ministry weighed in on the topic for the first time.
The Western media surely would not cover such events if it were China or Russia infringing on the sovereignty of another state as seen clearly throughout Western coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei stated that the trip would “violate China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and would “seriously undermine the political foundation of China-US relations,” according to Newsweek.
What is a reasonable statement regarding the deliberate provocation stands in contrast to the reaction of several current and former US representatives including former US Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who claimed:
What is the Pentagon thinking when it publicly warns against Speaker Pelosi going to Taiwan? If we are so intimidated by the Chinese Communists we can’t even protect an American Speaker of the House why should Beijing believe we can help Taiwan survive. Timidity is dangerous.
US Representative Ro Khanna who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, would be quoted by Newsweek as saying:
We’re not going to let the Chinese Communist Party dictate where the speaker of the House should go.
And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would claim:
If she doesn’t go now, she’s handing China a sort of a victory of sort.
Yet at the heart of the issue is a rumored trip by a US representative to territory the US itself recognizes not as an independent nation but part of China under the “One China” policy. Comments like Representative Ro Kanna’s equate to a declaration of America’s ability to do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, regardless of both agreements the US itself made bilaterally with Beijing and international law regarding the most basic principles laid out in the UN Charter.
The US is Breaking its own Agreements Over Taiwan
According to the US State Department itself in a fact sheet titled, “US Relations With Taiwan,” it is explicitly stated that, “we do not support Taiwan independence.”
To further illustrate the fact that Taiwan is not an independent nation, the US State Department does not maintain an embassy in Taiwan, nor does Taiwan maintain an embassy in the United States.
Instead, the US maintains what it calls a “nongovernmental organization,” the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) which serves as an unofficial embassy through which it maintains what the US State Department’s fact sheet calls, “unofficial relations with Taiwan.”
If Taiwan is not an independent country, it must therefore be the territory of another country, namely the People’s Republic of China (PRC) whether the US State Department wants to include this fact on its “fact sheet” or not.
The same fact sheet had a year earlier also said (emphasis added):
The United States and Taiwan enjoy a robust unofficial relationship. The 1979 US-PRC Joint Communique switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. In the Joint Communique, the United States recognized the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.
That the US State Department removed this wording “acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China,” helps shed light on who is truly driving the growing tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan. The US is slowly, incrementally, and very deliberately attempting to pivot away from its own agreements with Beijing, and toward an increasingly public policy encouraging separatism in Taiwan.
Washington’s Decades-Long Policy of Containing China
Since the conclusion of World War 2, the US has held an enduring policy of encircling, containing, and ultimately reasserting control over China just as the US and its European allies did leading up to the war.
In a document featured on the US State Department’s own website dated 1965 and titled, “Courses of Action in Vietnam,” the then US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara would state:
The February decision to bomb North Vietnam and the July approval of Phase I deployments make sense only if they are in support of a long-run United States policy to contain Communist China.
Secretary McNamara would go on to explain:
China—like Germany in 1917, like Germany in the West and Japan in the East in the late 30’s, and like the USSR in 1947—looms as a major power threatening to undercut our importance and effectiveness in the world and, more remotely but more menacingly, to organize all of Asia against us. The long-run US policy is based upon an instinctive understanding in our country that the peoples and resources of Asia could be effectively mobilized against us by China or by a Chinese coalition and that the potential weight of such a coalition could throw us on the defensive and threaten our security.
The memorandum would also claim:
Our ends cannot be achieved and our leadership role cannot be played if some powerful and virulent nation—whether Germany, Japan, Russia or China—is allowed to organize their part of the world according to a philosophy contrary to ours.
Such sentiments are just as easily found in the speeches and policies put forth by current US leadership.
As recently as last March, a Reuters article, “Biden says China won’t surpass US as global leader on his watch,” would claim:
US President Joe Biden on Thursday said he would prevent China from passing the United States to become the most powerful country in the world, vowing to invest heavily to ensure America prevails in the race between the world’s two largest economies.
The article also reported:
“China has an overall goal … to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world,” he told reporters at the White House. “That’s not going to happen on my watch because the United States is going to continue to grow.”
The issue of America’s global “leadership” and how to maintain it by containing peer and near-peer rivals has transcended decades of US foreign policy regardless of who sits in the White House or in Congress, yet at the most fundamental levels this policy is dangerously flawed and wholly unethical.
America Has Neither the Right Nor the Ability to Stop China’s Rise
China is a nation with over four times the population of the US. It graduates millions more in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics than the US. In addition to its immense human resources, it has access to abundant natural resources, and a massive industrial base with which to utilize both. This has translated not only into world class infrastructure within China’s borders but also into China’s continued rise as a global economic superpower with corresponding military might.
The US policy of “containing” China’s rise makes an all-but-stated assumption that despite all of China’s advantages in terms of population, natural resources, infrastructure, and industrial capacity, the Chinese are still somehow inferior to Americans, thus justifying the continued primacy of America. It is the same underlying justification used by generations of Western imperialism over Latin America, Africa, and Asia including China up until the 20th century.
Because the United States cannot demonstrate its perceived superiority over China through economic metrics including through terms of industrial capacity or infrastructure development at home and abroad, it is doing so by asserting itself militarily and politically, reaching into China’s internal political affairs, attempting to dictate to Beijing what happens within its own borders (including Taiwan) and even who can and cannot travel within these borders.
Were the situation reversed, were Chinese representatives attempting to cross into American territory without Washington’s invitation, it would almost certainly result in the use of force.
The age-old maxim of “might makes right” has allowed the United States and other Western nations to indulge in exceptionalism through the eager enforcement of rules and norms alongside the simultaneous and flagrant violation of both. Yet as China continues to rise, the reality of who is “mightiest” is slowly shifting and will continue to do so until the United States finds itself on the losing side of its own ill-conceived game.
Only time can tell whether China’s rise will continue until this inflection point is reached and what the consequences of this will be for Washington and the current circles of special interests shaping policy there.
Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.