Why Taiwan’s Tsai “Transit-Diplomacy” & Speaker McCarthy Meeting Threaten World Peace

By Allawi Ssemanda

 

On Wednesday the 5th this month, U.S.A House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hosted Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in California, U.S.A where he pledged what he described as U.S. A’s “unwavering” support for Taiwan. This prompted condemnation from Beijing which maintains that the self-ruled Island is a breakaway of mainland China and therefore an inalienable part of China’s territory. The choice of words in a statement released by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs promising to take “resolute and forceful measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” as Beijing urged the U.S “not to walk further down a wrong and dangerous road,” underscores seriousness China puts on Taiwan question.

Beijing supports its claim over Taiwan among others citing the 26th session of the United Nations General Assembly which adopted Resolution 2758 that undertook; “to restore all its rights to the People’s Republic of China and to recognize the representatives of its government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it“. China also accuses the U.S of hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to Taiwan question arguing that in keeping closer ties with Taiwan, Washington goes against U.S’ commitment of abiding by “One-China Policy.” In 1979, China and the US signed communiques which resulted into normalisation of relations between the two countries. In these communiques, Washington committed to recognize “One-China policy” and de-recognised Taiwan.

Today, Beijing sees U.S’ senior politicians’ continuous courtship with Taiwan and their assurances of the so-called “unwavering support” as supporting separatists which violates “One-China policy” principle the U.S committed to uphold. China also considers U.S’ deep engagements with Taiwan interfering in her internal affairs, an act Beijing has consistently explained is not only against international law but is also China’s redline.

Before Wednesday, McCarthy-Tsai meeting, while in New York, Tsai received a leadership award from a U.S think tank, the Hudson Institute, for what they described her strategic leadership.

While McCarthy attempted to downplay his meeting with Tsai, calling it a bipartisan engagement, as rightly observed by Bonnie Glaser, head of the Asia programme at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, it is important to note that the meeting came at a time when relations between Washington and Beijing are at its lowest. Also, looking at the formal trappings of this meeting with some of U.S’ most senior ranking elected officials that formed part of congressional delegation, in no way we can simply call it just a coincidence. From historical perspective, no U.S Speaker is known to have met with a Taiwan president on U.S soil since the U.S broke off formal diplomatic relations that culminated into the 1979 communiques. With Tsai hailing what she described as “strong and unique partnership”, and Speaker McCarthy whose Congress recently declared “China an existential threat,” telling Tsai that arms sales to Taiwan must continue, it is not far-fetched to conclude that Washington is weaponizing Taiwan and escalating the situation.

Even with President Biden’s White House saying there was no need for Beijing to “overreact” to McCarthy-Tsai meeting, if critically analysed, one can argue that as a result of intentional ambiguity and or lack of clear leadership when it comes to Taiwan question, the U.S is confused leaving political actors especially hawkish politicians to approach the question without looking at the consequences including ignoring international law.

Sadly, this has left politicians in the U.S approaching Taiwan question in uncoordinated ways as some seem to use Taiwan question to score political points at home and hence, the current vague U.S – Taiwan policy we see which is characterised by both the Democrats and Republicans competing to out-do each other. This may explain why last year President Biden appeared to have been against then Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit as Biden told press that: “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.” Less than a year after what many analysts saw as reckless decision by speaker Pelosi to visit Taiwan, we see her successor, McCarthy trying his best to pull a Pelosi only that this time the speaker hosted Tsai on U.S soil.

While the Biden administration claims that “Congress is an independent branch of government and that Speaker makes own decisions, as other members of Congress do, about their overseas travels and engagements,” one can argue that McCarthy’s decision to go on and host Tsai despite China’s protest is irresponsible and exposes U.S’ hypocrisy and double standards that despite Washington’s of remaining committed to “One-China policy,” top ranking officials in Washington continue  to court Taiwan violates the 1979 communique signed between the U.S and China and also goes against UN Resolution 2758.

This is not to say that I don’t understand that protestations of U.S constitutional niceties – that Congress is separate to the executive, but logically, despite speaker McCarthy belonging to different political party of Republicans which is opposed to President Biden’s Democratic Party, McCarthy is not a just a Speaker of Republicans but the U.S.  Therefore, one would assume that McCarthy’s main goal is to serve interests of the U.S as a country and observe all commitments the country made or undertakes like the 1979 communique between U.S and China. This would at least in theory present the U.S as an honest and a country with Statesmen they claim to be.  But with this kind of double standards, Speaker McCarthy may think that he is acting on principle. But if critically analysed, he is simply exhibiting the exorbitant irresponsibility of the U.S legislator – power without responsibility; the self-indulgence of a figure whose job it has never been to pick up the geopolitical pieces that risks world peace.

However, to scholars and observes of international politics, one can argue that McCarthy’s decision to host Taiwan Separatists offers scholars of International Relations and Geopolitics an interesting realpolitik case. It shows us what happens when party politics trumps national security interests. It shows us what happens when tactical goals overshadow strategic objectives of a country. One can add that it gives us a glimpse of what happens when selfish politicians seek a final validation for their own ego rather than for the sake of the collective wisdom.

With China being categorical that Taiwan question is a red-line and an internal affair which must be handled by Beijing, McCarthy and Pelosi’s moves present a fertile ground for a black swan moment with potential to destabilise not just Indo-Pacific but entire world in an event of any simple mistake. Therefore, it is high time politicians in the U.S sobered and desist from poking China and using Taiwan as weapon. Washington should stop encouraging Tsai’s so-called transit diplomacy and American politicians must follow suit.  As Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou rightly observed, “the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are Chinese. And both are descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors,” efforts by foreign forces trying to separate them must be discouraged by all peace lovers globally. Such forces must be reminded that in modern world, international norms such as respecting UN resolutions and international law must be respected.

Allawi Ssemanda, PhD is a Senior Research Fellow, Development Watch Centre.

 

 

The Officially Unofficial Meeting Between Taiwan President and U.S Speaker McCarthy is A Cobweb of Politics

By Moshi Israel

 

The President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen recently embarked on a 10-day visit to central and northern America. This “transit diplomacy” included a stop in the United States amid protests from China. The latter sees the visit as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is because China views Taiwan as an inalienable part of the mainland and expects both Washington and Taipei to adhere to the one-China policy. This policy has kept tensions at bay within the Taiwan Strait. However, recent actions from Washington through the Pelosi Taiwan visit and now Tsai-Ing Wen’s visit to the U.S. constantly create a trilateral nightmare.

On Wednesday last week, the president of Taiwan met with the Speaker of the U.S. House, Kevin McCarthy at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley-Los Angeles where the two reaffirmed the close ties between their countries. China on the other hand vowed to respond to this meeting which Beijing views as a provocation. Wary of China’s harsh response similar to that after the former Speaker Pelosi visit which some analysts described as poking China, Washington and Taipei took deliberate measures to present the meeting as unofficial and not a threat to the long-standing U.S. stance on the one-China policy. The president’s stops to the U.S. are not being called visits. Tsai’s office has called her stops unofficial and Washington refers to them as transits. This is all deliberately sending signals to Beijing that there should be no cause for alarm. Washington is carefully walking a tightrope. However, this “transit diplomacy” between top politicians from the two sides meeting on the U.S. soil is the first of its kind since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

It is in the interest of the world that the Taiwan situation does not escalate into another hot war. But this might be too much to expect from the China Hawks in Washington. This category is increasingly bipartisan with both Republicans and Democrats itching to prove who is tougher on China. The fact that anti-China sentiments are increasingly rampant in both parties, proves that the majority of the American public has bought into the ‘Stop China before it overtakes us’ sales speech. The anti-China coalition in Washington is a worrying development because it means American foreign policy will only get even more aggressive toward China. Therefore, the provocative relations with Taiwan in recent years only confirm the growing uneasiness with China in Washington.

China on the other hand has been largely reacting to U.S. provocation and double-speak. The meeting between Speaker McCarthy and President Tsai Ing-Wen is just the latest provocation. The president of Taiwan is in a tough situation where her DPP party faces an election early next year after being crushed in the local elections by the main opposition party KMT in November last year. Her party strongly opposes the 1992 consensus between officials of the PRC and Taiwan on the nature of their relations.

Coincidentally, as the current president of Taiwan ‘unofficially’ passes through the United States, the former president, Ma Ying-Jeoh, of the opposition party KMT visited Beijing on a cultural and academic exchange trip. The trip is also historical in that it’s the first of its kind by either a former or current leader of Taiwan since the revolution in 1949. The Former president struck a conciliatory tone and reiterated the fact that the people across the Taiwan Strait were all of one race. He encouraged closer ties with Beijing and asked for a reduction in tensions stressing that; “the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are Chinese. And both are descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors.”

The only viable solution to tensions in the Taiwan Strait lies with mainland China and Taiwan and the U.S stopping misleading separatists in Taipei with their so-called “unwavering support.”  Polls conducted in Taiwan show that the majority of the 23 million people of Taiwan, prefer to maintain the status quo. Moreover, it is much more realistic for Taiwan to maintain good relations with China because of the proximity of the latter. There is no scenario in which hostility to the mainland favors the island. In case of military confrontation, it is not a guarantee that the United States will be in a position to defend Taiwan. Even under such a scenario, it is Taiwan that would suffer the biggest destruction. On this note, former president Ma Ying-Jeoh is spot on in encouraging closer ties with Beijing.

Current president Tsai is walking a dangerous path. Since her election in 2016, Taiwan has lost nine diplomatic allies to Beijing with Honduras being the latest to cut ties with the island this year on March 26. Now, Taiwan has only 13 diplomatic allies mostly island nations from the Caribbean and south pacific, Paraguay, Vatican City, and Estwani in southern Africa. This trajectory is an indication that Taiwan should conduct relations with China without being influenced by third parties. The people of China and Taiwan are one and despite their disagreements, they should always amicably address their differences.

The Writer is a Senior Research Fellow at DWC.

The Only Answer Is Peace But The Pelosi Visit Blurs This Goal

When the world is still reeling from being hit by Covid-19, the Ukraine crisis and historic inflation, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker for the United States House of Representatives, third in line to the presidency decided on an Asia tour that included a stop at the geo-political hotspot, Taiwan. Pelosi claimed her visit was routine despite being the highest-ranking member of the US government to set foot on the island in over twenty years. Newt Gingrich took the daring trip back in 1997 when he was the republican speaker of the House of Representatives. He ignored protests from Beijing and even alarmed his fellow lawmakers when he unilaterally warned China that the United States would intervene militarily if China attacked the island. China eventually backed down mainly because it lacked the capabilities of taking on a super power like the United States at the time.

However, 25 years later, the USA is playing the same old games but with a vastly different China. Today’s China is not only a global super power on almost equal footing with the USA, but is also an economic power house with a modern military armed to the teeth with nuclear arsenal and run by a government that is not afraid to defend its territorial integrity as well as China’s interests.

This current provocation, despite denials from Washington is quite an obvious pattern that fits into the United States’ policy of strategic ambiguity when it comes to Taiwan. The USA is normally deliberately short on details when it comes to whether or how it would defend Taiwan in the event that Beijing decides to use all necessary options to achieve what China considers total unification.

On the other hand, President Joe Biden, in May when asked whether USA would intervene militarily if Taiwan was attacked, he responded with a ‘yes.’ This is similar to Gingrich’s threat of military intervention in 1997 before his trip to the Island. It is hard to believe that Biden was blind-sided by the Pelosi visit, given the escalatory rhetoric coming from him in the months leading up to the controversial Pelosi visit which he told the world “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”
Secondly, US’ claim that it is willing to defend Taiwan while claiming it supports “One-China” policy itself makes the US more ambiguous and a “confused country”. How can the US, a founding member of the UN claim to be ready to defend Taiwan which UN general assembly Resolution 2758 of 1971 does not recognize? Would one be wrong to conclude that the US acts unilaterally and in total disagreed of international laws such as UN’s Resolution 2758 of 1971?
The policy of strategic ambiguity comes into play whenever Washington tries to test Beijing’s resolve on reunification with Taiwan whereby after a provocation, the US government shows its diplomatic face by reiterating its commitment to the Diplomatic solution of the ‘One-China policy’ that recognizes only one Chinese government-in Beijing and only has formal ties with the People’s Republic of China and not Taiwan. This strategy is to purposefully keep up the status quo and endlessly delay the reunification of the Island with Mainland China.

However, as recent events have indicated, this US strategy can only go so far until it back fires. It is a high school bully kind of strategy where the bully is having fun taunting their victim and expecting them to tuck tail and run, until the latter decides to stand up for themselves and then the options for the bully are drastically limited. In this case, when China decides to fight back, the US will be left with only two unacceptable options, to completely back down or to fight and establish dominance whereby the former option would be an embarrassment to US global standing and a letdown to Taiwan and the latter would ensure an unpredictable future for not only USA and China but for the entire world.

But currently the fear of a complete reunification between Taiwan and China has left the United States to deem the provocation worth the risk. Taiwan is too important to US interests in the Indo-pacific, the island is also the largest manufacture of semiconductors which are used in most of the world’s electronics. The Taiwan strait is also a vital gateway for all kinds of ships to and from North East Asia and basically enables a reliable supply chain.

Everyone around the world should understand the history of China and Taiwan to fully appreciate and answer the Taiwan question. Historically, Taiwan was under imperial China before Japan gained control of it in 1895 when the Qing ceded the island to Japan under the Shimonoseki treaty. Consequently, Japan ruled the island until it was defeated in 1945 and unconditionally surrendered through the Cairo proclamation and the Potsdam proclamation. Taiwan and the Penghu islands were returned to the Republic of China (ROC) governed by the nationalists at the time. A civil war broke out in mainland China between the nationalist government led by Chiang-Kai-Shek and Mao Zedong’s communist party. As a result, the communist party won the war in 1949 and controlled Beijing. The surviving members of the nationalist party ran off to Taiwan where they established their own Chinese government and ruled the island for several decades. In October 1971, the United Nations, through resolution 2758, expelled the representatives of Chiang-Kai-Shek (thus the ROC) and replaced it as ‘China’ by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Consequently, the United States of America, switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing, giving birth to the ‘One-China policy.’

Therefore, Currently Beijing looks at US actions fueled by the Nancy Pelosi visit to Taiwan as a betrayal and reversal of America’s own policy and a defiance of international law passed by the United Nations. This time Beijing has responded harshly by sanctioning Speaker Pelosi and her immediate family members, suspending collaboration with the United States on important issues like climate change and escalating military drills within the Taiwan strait, hence effectively blocking off the Island from the world.

Currently, geopolitical hotspots are increasing, from Ukraine to North Korea, Iran, Syria, Gaza and now Taiwan. History has offered to the human species many lessons to learn from and do better in the future but every single time, we go on making the same old mistakes. In an ideal world, actors in the international community only have room to make new mistakes and not repeat old ones.
However, the current Taiwan tensions provoked by Pelosi’s trip prove that we are hell bent on making the same old mistakes until the final straw is wiping ourselves out of existence. Not to sound alarmist but if the current global political atmosphere stretches on for a few more years, humanity will once again find itself in the familiar territory of war and catastrophe but this time the implications could be apocalyptic. The world is tilting towards chaos, the world’s temperament is heating up and there are those who are determined to fan the flames.

Moshi Israel is a Research Fellow at Development Watch Center.

Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit was super recklessness and a cob web of domestic politics

This week, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, arrived in Taiwan with congressional delegates on a visit that angered China which claims that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. China had warned of “serious consequences” if Pelosi went ahead with the visit.

Consequently, Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned U.S ambassador to China Nicholas Burns to protest Pelosi’s visit to China’s Taiwan. Also, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi issued a statement condemning the visit describing it as a serious violation of the “One-China” principle and a proof that “some U.S. politicians have become “troublemakers” of China-U.S. relations, and that the United States has become the “biggest destroyer” of peace across the Taiwan Strait and for regional stability,” read the statement.

Pelosi’s visit comes less than a week after US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held a more than two-hour video call. Analysist say the call between the two leaders was an effort to reduce tension between the two countries whose relations are the poorest they have been in the past several decades.

Indeed, while they have not made it official, just days to Pelosi’s visit, the White House and the Pentagon made little secret of their opposition to such a visit. In late July, while responding to a question about then-rumored Pelosi possible visit to Taiwan, President Biden was clear saying: “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now. But I don’t know what the status of it is.”

While US’ National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that claims that in a video call with President Xi Biden had “made clear that Congress is an independent branch of government and that Speaker Pelosi makes her own decisions, as other members of Congress do, about their overseas travel,” one can argue that Speaker Pelosi’s decision is irresponsible and goes against the US’ commitment to respect “One-China” policy. As Edward Luce, the US editor of the Financial Times noted in his July 22nd opinion, while protestations of US constitutional niceties – that Congress is separate to the executive, speaker Pelosi belongs to the same political party as the President; “Pelosi may think she is acting on principle. She is in fact exhibiting the exorbitant irresponsibility of the U.S. legislator – power without responsibility; the self-indulgence of a figure whose job it has never been to pick up the geopolitical pieces,” Edward Luce argued.

Again, one can argue that Speaker Pelosi’s Taiwan visit offers scholars of International Relations and Geopolitics an interesting realpolitik case. It shows us what happens when party politics trumps national security interests. It shows us what happens when tactical goals overshadow strategic objectives of a country. One can add that it gives us a glimpse of what happens when politicians at the end of their careers seek a final validation for their own ego rather than for the sake of the collective wisdom.

The tragedy with such is that any mistake can result into confrontation and possible conflict which would not only destabilise Indo-Pacific but entire world.

That said, the US policy toward Taiwan has for years been deliberately ambiguous. In 1979, China and the US signed communiques which resulted into normalisation of relations between the two countries. In these communiques, Washington committed to recognize “One-China” policy and de-recognised Taiwan. In what seems to be a deliberate ambiguity, Washington again says is also committed to providing Taiwan with defensive support which is itself a contradiction that Washington is willing to sale defensive arms to Taiwan which it derecognized as independent in 1979 as it committed to “One-China policy.”

While Speaker Pelosi claims that her visit to Taiwan is meant to “honour our commitment to democracy: reaffirming that the freedoms of Taiwan – and all democracies – must be respected,” when well analysed, Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is simply meant to extend US’ interests in the region as well as spreading Washington’s failing hegemony in the region as US continues nurturing its open secret of countering China’s growing influence.

From historical context, the logic that guides major powers like the US is simple, it is the logic of power. It is not protecting the so-called “democracy and freedoms or our values,” nor is it about international laws and norms or sovereignty as the US claims.

Also, important to note is that Pelosi’s Taiwan visit is a cobweb of politics. The visit came just three months to US’ Mid-Term elections where recent ABC News polls indicated that Republicans are 83 per cent favoured to win the House with Democrats chances of winning the house at just 17 per cent. It also comes at a time when the US congress is divided than ever with the house failing to reach a consensus on domestic key issues such as spending, gun regulations and abortion. Therefore, one can argue that speaker Pelosi hopes that by playing Taiwan card and showing she can flex muscle with Beijing, she can bring consensus to her divided house and her party win support which would give the 82 years old speaker another chance to keep her position.

Allawi Ssemanda, PhD is a Senior Research Fellow at a foreign policy think tank, Development Watch Centre.

Taiwan-Somaliland Ties bad for Africa: It’s a Catalyst for New Cold War Between U.S and China on African Soil.

In what appears to be a bizarre and unprecedented occurrence in International Relations, earlier this week, Taiwan announced that Taiwan had established diplomatic relations with Somaliland – a self-declared independent region on the coast of the Gulf of Aden. Ironically, Somaliland itself isn’t recognised by any nation in Africa neither is it recognized by United Nations.

Taiwan was previously abandoned by almost all African countries, besides the Kingdom of Eswatini.

Somaliland emerged from Somalia’s civil war that ended Jaalle Mohamed Siad Barre’s dictatorship in 1991.

More importantly, Taipei’s provocative manoeuvre is bound to incense Somalia, the AU and China.

For the leadership in Hargeisa, this unwise move will alienate African countries needed for their quest for statehood.

Equally, Taiwan’s move is tantamount to creating animosity with Somalia and the AU countries that it seeks support from in order to participate in important international bodies such as the World Health Organization.

The Taipei-Hargeisa ties comes amid the backdrop of escalating diplomatic tensions in cross-strait relations as well as U.S trade claims that China is expanding their presence in South China Sea.

This diplomatic manoeuvre by unrecognised actors on the continent poses enormous challenges.

First, it brings insecurity to the volatile Horn of Africa. For different reasons, many actors converge on this disputed territory of Somaliland. The Port of Berbera remains a strategic point of entry for the Middle East, comprising Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the UAE and Qatar.

Second, the former colonial powers in Europe, especially Britain, France and Italy, perceive Somaliland and the rest of the region as a major source of migrants pouring into Europe.

Third, the US, on the other hand, sees Somaliland through the prism of its war on terror. As Washington pivots to Asia with a focus on slowing the rise of China, it welcomes Taiwan’s adventures in Somaliland.

The Taiwanese move in Africa worsens the island’s relations with China mainland. It takes place at a time when Beijing is dealing with endless disputes over borders and islands in the South China Sea.

Although Taiwan and Somaliland’s sovereignties are not recognised by Washington, it surprisingly issued a congratulatory note on the newly established relations.

As expected, Beijing responded by stating: “Such activities remain illegal and will never be recognised by the People’s Republic of China. There is one China in the world. Taiwan is part of China and the government of the PRC is the sole legal government representing the whole of China.”

The implications for Taiwanese involvement in Somaliland are dire for Africa. Somaliland will become a hot spot for the emerging New Cold War between the US and China.

The Gulf of Aden will attract more foreign forces, complicating political dynamics in the Horn of Africa. As it stands, Ethiopia, the main anchor for peace and security in the region, remains unstable.

As Somalia stabilises, it will heighten its quest for the unification of territories it considers its own. Therefore, Taipei and Hargeisa ought to be careful in their premature diplomatic relations. They both have more to lose in playing global giants off in their quest for recognition.

 

Ssemanda Allawi, PhD,
Author: Global Governance and Norm Contestation: How BRICS is Reshaping World Order.

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