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

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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.


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