Under the US’ own one China policy, Washington recognizes there is only one China, that Taiwan is a part of China, and that there is only one government of China, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing. Despite this, the US undermines Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan by treating the island as a de facto nation and the Republic of China in Taipei as its de facto legitimate government.
This culminated most recently in the visit by US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan against Beijing’s warnings and has predictably triggered what many analysts in the West are considering the “Fourth Strait Crisis” in which tensions between the US-backed regime in Taipei and the legitimate government of China have escalated to near-conflict levels.
Also as predicted, with the continual rise of Chinese economic and military power, the US’ own maxim of “might makes right” has boomeranged around and now threatens the very status quo Washington was abusing to incrementally infringe on Chinese sovereignty.
Chinese Military Might Seeks to Make Taiwan Question Right
In the wake of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, massive Chinese military drills were launched including a de facto air and sea blockade of the island as well as simulated assaults on Taiwan’s military infrastructure around Taipei and its southern Tainan and Kaohsiung regions. What was first dismissed as a “tantrum” by an “embarrassed Beijing” is quickly shaping into a much more deliberate and complex reaction meant to reshape both the status of the Taiwan Strait as well as the status of Taiwan itself.
US representatives appear to believe that the recent exercises are only the beginning of what is an incremental process of implementing greater and permanent control over Taiwan by Being. A Guardian article titled, “China resumes military drills off Taiwan after shelving US talks,” would note:
The US defence department policy chief, Colin Kahl, said the Pentagon had not changed the assessment given last year by the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Mark Milley, that China was unlikely to invade Taiwan in the next two years. However, Kahl said Beijing was trying to “salami-slice their way into a new status quo”.
“A lot has been made of the missile strikes but really it’s the activities in the strait itself, the sheer number of maritime and air assets that are crossing over this de facto centre line, creeping closer to Taiwan shores, where it’s clear that Beijing is trying to create a kind of new normal,” he said.
The article would also note that the recent exercises demonstrate China’s growing abilities. The article claimed:
Timothy Heath, a defence researcher at the Rand Corporation, said China’s drills over the past few days showed the PLA was strengthening its ability to carry out a blockade.
“A blockade could be executed alone or in conjunction with other military options such as missile barrages or an invasion of Taiwan,” he said.
Indeed, China has one of the largest and most capable missile arsenals in the world even according to Western experts.
The US-based government and arms industry-funded Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in a China Power paper titled, “How Are China’s Land-based Conventional Missile Forces Evolving?,” would explain:
As part of sweeping efforts to modernize the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China has developed one of the most powerful land-based conventional missile arsenals in the world.
Chinese missiles combined with formidable air and sea defenses make up its anti-access, area denial capabilities, capabilities advanced enough to prevent the United States from intervening should Beijing choose to fully resolve this crisis of Washington’s making.
China is Pushing Back, But How Far?
It is now a matter of waiting to see just how far Beijing is willing to go down each respective path; economically, politically, and militarily. If China’s recent Global Times article, “PLA extends ‘Taiwan encirclement’ exercises with anti-submarine warfare, showcases unrivaled area denial capability; ‘drills will not stop until reunification’,” is any indication, Beijing is prepared to go all the way.
International law favors Beijing’s stance on Taiwan versus decades of US-sponsored separatism done in full violation of both Washington’s own bilateral agreements with Beijing and in violation of international law. Decades of US military aggression, meddling, and subversion around the globe have now, ironically, played into the hands of Beijing who can easily cite US actions to justify virtually any level of force it feels is necessary in pursuit of defending its own sovereignty in regards to Taiwan.
Many contributors to and supporters of Washington’s strategy of belligerence toward China are attempting to dissuade Beijing from its current apparent course of action, understanding just how permanently Beijing could settle the “Taiwan question” if it commits fully at this time. They are doing so through “warnings” that any attempt to change the current “status quo” regarding Taiwan and the waters around it could be “disastrous” for Beijing.
A recent article by David Uren, an Australian economic writer and a senior fellow at the anti-China “Australian Strategic Policy Initiative” (ASPI) in a recent op-ed titled, “A blockade of Taiwan would cripple China’s economy,” would claim:
If a real Chinese blockade were challenged by the United States and the Taiwan Strait were designated a war zone, trade finance and insurance would evaporate for all shipping in the area.
Any real-life disruption of the sea lanes to the east and west of Taiwan would have a crippling effect on China’s own economy, since its major ports of Shanghai, Dalian, Tianjin and others are dependent on passage through waters near Taiwan.
Yet, as the op-ed also grudgingly admits, it would not be only China’s economy that suffered, but also Australia’s, Europe’s, and it stands to reason America’s as well.
There is one option that appears to escape the “top” Western “thinkers” and “analysts” when it comes to Taiwan, finally and fully upholding the West’s own agreed upon one China policies. Indeed, if the US and its allies simply made good on their own bilateral agreements with China, respecting its sovereignty over Taiwan, and stopped the artificial propping up of the regime in Taipei, this whole crisis and the potential war it may lead to would resolve itself.
Yet as US-led meddling in Ukraine has proven, the West is not capable of respecting international law or its own bilateral agreements with the rest of the world, making conflict all but inevitable. Russia for its part was fully prepared for the conflict that finally resulted after decades of abuse by the West, leaving a relatively unprepared West to suffer the consequences of its own belligerent actions. Only time will tell if China is likewise prepared and whether or not the West is as eager or able to weather yet another crisis of its own creation.
Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.