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China-US relations to sour after Taiwan crisis

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China took several aggressive actions over the weekend following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, including firing ballistic missiles at nearby Taiwan and sanctioning Pelosi. Although the incident does not lead to an all-out war, it is yet another step in the dissolution of US-China relations and gives the Chinese military the training it needs to execute future attacks.

Pelosi is the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan since former President Newt Gingrich departed in 1997. In the 25 years since, China has seen exponential growth in its economy and military. Along with this came the desire of nations and an increased ability to claim Taiwan. Taiwan, which governs independently of Beijing and under current President Tsai Ing-wen, is increasingly chafing at Beijing’s tactics to reunite Taiwan with mainland China.

Now the United States hopes to avoid a diplomatic and possibly military crisis with China. Relations between the two superpowers have deteriorated rapidly in recent years due to a plethora of issues such as the abuse of Uyghur minorities in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the crackdown on pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, increased coordination between the United States and Taiwan under the Trump administration. , and allegations of espionage and hacking by the Chinese government.

There is a lot to object to Chinese behavior, but having said that, there are many behaviors that the Chinese object to, that various stakeholders in the United States ignore and overlook, and perhaps do- they do so at their own risk, Daniel Russel, vice president of international security and diplomacy at the Asia Institute told Vox.

Previous administrations practiced strategic ambiguity seeking to reassure Taiwan without inflaming China. In May, Biden promised that the United States would go beyond the support already provided to Ukraine if China invaded Taiwan, although members of his administration, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, insisted on the fact that Bidens’ statement was in line with the One China Policy, official recognition. that the mainland is China and Beijing is the seat of power.

Now China is conducting large-scale military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, apparently firing 11 ballistic missiles into the vicinity of the islands, Reuters reported on Thursday. It’s the first time China has made such a move since 1996, showing how much things have changed since the US and China last clashed over Taiwan.

20 PLA ​​aircraft (SU-30*10, J-16*4, J-11*4, Y-8 ASW and Y-20 aerial refueling) and 14 ships conducted an air-sea operation in the vicinity of ROC in August 6, 2022. Please check our official website for more information: https://t.co/Tj6C1y0WHR pic.twitter.com/apjMe6IYMn

Ministry of National Defence, ROC (@MoNDefense) August 6, 2022

[The Chinese military is] probably not even halfway through the various things they have in mind, Daniel Russel, vice president of international security and diplomacy at the Asia Institute, told Vox. I think it’s pretty clear that the Chinese are in the action phase, the retaliation phase, as they characterize it, and they have no interest in calming down until they have completed this circuit of punitive measures.

The ultimate goal, at least as far as Taiwan is concerned, is not necessarily a military takeover, China is not yet capable of that, Russel said. Instead, every crisis is calibrated to force Taiwan, essentially, to its knees, to force Taiwan’s leadership to capitulate to mainland conditions for political negotiations.

China’s military might has increased dramatically over the past three decades

China has become more aggressive in defending what it sees as its interests in several areas, including militarily in the South China Sea and with hostile crackdowns on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, both of which represent a threat to Taiwan’s democratic system.

China claimed sovereignty over the South China Sea and several neighboring islands, including Taiwan, in the 1992 Territorial Sea Act. This document also describes the conditions under which military ships and aircraft can enter Chinese territory. Now, 30 years later, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has the means to enforce its sovereignty, and does so with increasingly provocative maritime actions, including the militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

The United States maintains that it has significant economic and security interests in the region and regularly conducts freedom of navigation and other exercises there, using military sea and air power to maintain the freedom of maritime areas. The United States also sells weapon systems to Taiwan for defensive purposes under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, but these capabilities are simply not commensurate with what the Chinese military has produced over the years. last 25 years. Furthermore, just last year, US and Taiwanese stakeholders expressed concern that the Taiwanese military suffered from low morale and readiness among reservists and conscripts. This is due in part to a lack of funding and a disorganized reserve system, as well as the belief of many Taiwanese that the United States will back its military in the event of a major attack, according to a Wall Street Journal survey. last October.

China’s military growth is currently based on civil-military integration, which includes major investments in technological research and development and dual-use technology aimed at strengthening both the military and the economy. This led to significant weapon system developments, including the so-called Carrier Missile which could attack ships as large as contemporary US aircraft carriers, potentially deterring US warships from operating on what the China considers it its own territory.

The situation is a far cry from the 1995-96 crisis in the Taiwan Strait, when a visit by Lee Teng-Hui, who would become Taiwan’s first democratically elected president in 1996, to his alma mater Cornell University sparked tensions between the United States and China. China then deployed missiles and conducted military exercises in the vicinity of Taiwan, but the United States was able to repel these provocations by sending two groups of aircraft carriers transiting the Taiwan Strait.

Since suffering this humiliation, the Chinese government has pushed to create an army capable of taking on and defeating the United States in a confrontation. What the People’s Liberation Army lacks is experience in the war zone, Russel told Vox. They train, and it’s not a good thing for us, he says. And it’s the kind of thing that directly addresses the People’s Liberation Army’s biggest shortcoming, which is that, unlike the US military, it hasn’t spent the last 50 years at war. Therefore, visiting Pelosis was the perfect excuse to gain battlefield experience in the ideal setting.

The Chinese are taking advantage of what they present as a provocation, Russel said. They take the opportunity to practice things that, under normal circumstances, would be so provocative that they dare not repeat. These are therefore joint exercises which are, in fact, rehearsals of a military action against Taiwan, whether it is a blockade or an attack of some other type.

Is there a diplomatic solution to the crisis?

There’s no reason to believe China will launch an all-out amphibious assault on Taiwan at this point, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t serious risks right now.

In terms of reducing tension, rule number one: don’t do anything that makes it worse, Russel said. But that’s easier said than done when the diplomatic relations that should normally serve to dissipate such tensions are frayed as they are now. White House on Friday summoned Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang to reprimand him for military exercises; now China has called for discussions on other critical topics and its military officials are not responding to overtures from the Pentagon, increasing the risk of mishaps and misinterpretations spiraling out of control.

You have a lot of American, Chinese and Taiwanese assets moving around, in a relatively confined space. In the past, there have been accidents where perhaps overzealous or inexperienced Chinese pilots have collided with American planes. Even much more recently, there have been many other examples of very risky maneuvers by Chinese pilots and captains of Chinese ships, Russel said. So this danger is real, and what makes it dangerous is not that an American plane and a Chinese plane could have an accident, but that the United States and China do not have the mechanisms in place , relationships, dialogues, etc. which serve to block escalation, to prevent an incident from turning into a crisis and a crisis from escalating into a conflict.

A complicating factor appears to be that Chinese President Xi Jinpings must show force to consolidate his power before the 20th Chinese Party Congress later this year, where major leadership changes will be announced. Michael Raska, assistant professor at Nanyang Technological Universitys S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told Bloomberg that the Chinese drills in the Taiwan Strait are a show of force that consolidates Xi’s political power at home and opens up the heading for his third term. -election.

It’s also a distraction from things going badly in a hand basket to Xi Jinpings in China, Russel said. Between limits on the use of technology, authoritarian social control and major economic issues like a severe housing crisis, Chinese citizens are ridiculing government policies on the Weibo social network, giving Xi every reason to raise pressure on Taiwan and the United States, Russel said.

China also announced that it would not pursue discussions with US officials on climate change, an area in which the United States and China had voluntarily cooperated until Pelosis’s trip. Whenever there is an event that raises tensions between Washington and Beijing, as Nancy Pelosis’s visit did, [it] leaves the relationship, when it calms down, much worse, Russel said, noting that Taiwan is not the only issue the United States and China need to negotiate on.

This opens up the prospect of any real progress without negotiating the fate of Taiwan, but the two great powers on planet Earth are learning to share the globe without blowing it up, which makes this mission all the more difficult.

Sources

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2/ https://www.vox.com/2022/8/6/23294700/the-us-and-china-might-not-get-over-the-taiwan-crisis

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