The trite claim that “global political processes are accelerating” is most glaring at their center, which is steadily evolving into the Indo-Pacific region as a whole and, notably, its “particularly heated” zones, of which Taiwan is still on the list. A number of events in the coming days could be indicative of both the maintenance and potential escalation of the level of “warming up” in the Taiwan crisis situation.
First off, it’s probably going to have a “reverse” version of the Nancy Pelosi effect. In other words, the fact that the current Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen will spend some time on US soil is another landmark in the context of Washington taking the next significant step in the overall creeping process of making relations with Taipei “ordinary interstate.” She was about to visit several Central American countries on the list of the few that still maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Due to the recent challenges in relations with Honduras, this measure has a particular urgency.
The question of the presidential plane’s flight path lies at the center of the entire impending event. The most favored path avoids US territory if we are led by fundamental optimization concerns, such as saving time, fuel, money, and the environment. Yet, in this instance, there is no political element because the main objective of the event is merely a stopover “somewhere in the USA.” Just not a trip to multiple “banana republics,” which simply helps to conceal the achievement of this core objective.
Eventually, in the ongoing mystery, there is a new character named “Where” who follows the actor with the name “Route.” That is, where exactly on US territory the current president of Taiwan will make this stopover. The states of New York and California are the two choices under consideration. As previously described in the NEO in relation to the same Mrs. Tsai’s alternate visits to each of them in 2018 and 2019 accordingly, each has its own unique and intriguing (for both guest and host) aspects.
The character Who is then anticipated to appear next. That is, a person who will communicate with the visitor who is staying “transient and on occasion” on US soil. The principal geopolitical rival of the United States, which is modern China, is particularly interested in the issue of specific American politicians who assert to fill this function. For the past two or three months, Kevin McCarthy, the new speaker of the US House of Representatives, has claimed this role. In reality, this would be a repetition of the “Nancy Pelosi effect,” with the same unfavorable impact on the world’s two most powerful nations’ ties as it did over a year ago. The relationship between the United States and China has not yet returned to where it was before the “effect” was unleashed.
The following details have come to light as of the time of writing, among the several aspects of general uncertainty caused by information leaks about the very potential of such a tour by the president of Taiwan. First of all, it actually occurs and will take place from March 29 to April 7. Secondly, the “stopover” is in the American state of New York. As for the possibility of a Tsai Ingwen-Cavin McCarthy meeting, the information is contradictory which could be a result of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s previous submission to their American colleagues on the overall inadmissibility of this event.
For prominent American politicians and their closest allies, Taiwan continues to be a destination for ostentatiously anti-Chinese pilgrimage. Among the most notable figures who have visited the island recently is Robert O’Brien, former national security adviser, who served under former US president Donald Trump. He delivered the customary speech that “the US will stand with Taiwan in fending off attacks by authoritarians and has no intention of changing the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait,”at the Presidential Office in Taipei, where President Tsai Ing-wen conferred on him the Order of Brilliant Star.
A delegation from the CHIPS Program Office, established at the US Department of Commerce to assure the PRC was actually blocked from the most recent advancements in the field of microelectronics, was anticipated to arrive in Taiwan just after this important guest. The US-led “Chip 4” alliance will include Taiwan and also be comprised of Japan and South Korea. The delegation will first visit Taiwan and then pay visits to these two nations.
European delegations of all stripes continue to go to the island, representing both the interstate and national systems of the continent. Once again, European visitors are mostly members of the legislative spheres of government. Up until now, the executive branch has made an effort to stay away from these events, giving it a chance to keep its relationship with the PRC intact.
When Greg Hands, a member of Rishi Sunak’s newly formed cabinet, the Minister of State for Trade Policy, visited the island last fall, the United Kingdom government was the first (of course) to break this unwritten law. Six months later, the German government took the blazed (slippery) path. Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research, traveled to Taiwan in the second half of March. Here is a picture of the visitor. Naturally, the PRC was compelled to comment on the additional dimension this visit brought to the process of forging ties between a major European nation and the “rebellious province“.
Let us state the assumption that there are serious differences of opinion over some key elements of German foreign policy inside the coalition government that currently governs the Federal Republic of Germany. Let’s only think back to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s recent trip to China, which seemed to be quite positively assessed in Beijing and seen with discreet cautiousness not only by Germany’s allies but also by certain German politicians.
It is also significant that Australia’s Defense Minister Richard Marles responded to the Taiwan problem during an ABC interview. He specifically said that Australia “absolutely” did not promise to support the US in any military conflict over Taiwan. The commentary on this statement highlights the fact that it came almost immediately after the recent AUKUS summit held in San Diego with the participation of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Nonetheless, details about providing the Australian Navy with nuclear-powered attack submarines were the primary outcome of this event (with the decisive involvement of the closest allies).
The aforementioned rejoinder once again testifies to the weak validity of the not infrequent very “expansive” interpretation of the AUKUS format itself, which does not yet go beyond a narrowly specific business project. The answer to the question of what will happen next remains in the realm of speculation because of the abundance of very high uncertainty on the global gaming table.
We should also take note of the consistency of this statement with Canberra’s continual (over the course of at least the last two decades) denials to Washington’s inquiries about the possibility of including Canberra in American military operations with allies in the event that the situation in the Taiwan Strait worsens.
Finally, the announcement of former Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou’s desire to visit the PRC (Tsai Ing-wen’s predecessor in office) attracted attention. In a strange historical coincidence, when the current president of Taiwan makes the above-mentioned tour, the former leader of the now oppositionist Kuomintang party will be in the region where the main source of unrest is located for the current ruling Democratic Progressive Party and its representative Tsai Ing-wen (and for the main hope of the latter two – the United States).
Ma Ying-jeou has a very compelling motive for traveling to the Mainland because there are his ancestors’ graves there, which he has never been to before. He will very certainly speak with high-ranking CCP (Chinese Communist Party) officials during this trip as well. A delegation of his party colleagues experienced the same thing a month earlier. Let’s recall that in less than a year Taiwan will hold another general election, following the results of which the Kuomintang hopes to return to power.
So, in the series of recent events accompanying the development of the Taiwan issue, this latest one, related to Ma Ying-jeou’s trip to the PRC, may be the most important.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”