The real “red line” for Beijing is only an attempt to recognize Taiwan’s independence. In this case, China will venture into a real military clash with the USA.
The visit of the US parliamentary delegation headed by Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan was another round of geopolitical confrontation between China and the United States.
It was a very tense and intriguing round, but it did not initially assume any radical outcome. Not a knockout, not even a light knockdown.
After all, in just the past few years, both US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar (2020), and Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth Keith Krach (2020), and a whole cavalcade of US parliamentarians (2021), as well as a group of retired military officers, including former US Defense Secretary Mark Esper (2022) have visited Taiwan.
In other words, visits of US officials and high-ranking politicians to Taiwan are not a surprise, but a routine practice of Washington as part of its strategy to contain China with the help of Taiwan.
What is remarkable here is that despite all these visits, and even in spite of supplying weapons to Taiwan, US authorities have always reaffirmed their commitment to the “one China” principle and the three joint US-China communiqués (1972, 1979 and 1982) recognizing Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
At the same time, Pelosi’s visit and, more importantly, the information campaign that accompanied her flight clearly reflect Washington’s intention to “up the ante” in the Taiwanese political game by increasing pressure on China.
Salami-slice strategy. A strategy to contain China with the help of Taiwan
The rapprochement between the US and the PRC began in the 1970s and 1980s against the background of Beijing’s deteriorating relations with Moscow. And the US made a serious compromise for this rapprochement by recognizing China’s sovereignty over Taiwan.
The international legal basis for this rapprochement was provided by three US-China communiqués of 1972, 1979 and 1982. These documents reaffirmed the principle of “one China,” according to which there is only one China in the world and Taiwan Island is part of it.
It is important to bear in mind that these communiqués already suggested, first, that the United States and Taiwan would maintain informal economic and cultural ties (communiqué of 1978) and, second, that the United States could supply arms to Taiwan while seeking to reduce supplies up to the point of suspending them completely (communiqué of 1982). The communiqué of 1982 linked the cessation of arms shipments with Beijing’s creation of political conditions favorable to the peaceful reunification of the island with mainland China.
In many years of bilateral relations between the USA and China, Washington has not officially encroached on the “one China” principle. On the contrary, the White House has continuously declared that it recognizes Taiwan as part of China and does not intend to disavow the Sino-American consensus on Taiwan’s status.
At the same time, this has not prevented the US authorities from constantly attcking China in connection with Taiwan. For example, by regularly sending its warships across the Taiwan Strait, allegedly as part of an operation to ensure freedom of maritime navigation, or by problematizing China’s sovereignty over Taiwan through its allies. The most recent example is the attempt by Lithuanian authorities to open a Taiwanese diplomatic mission in the country.
Since the beginning of the “Trump era,” high-ranking US officials have been frequenting Taiwan. Some of them even traveled to Taiwan aboard US Air Force military transport planes.
However, during such visits, US officials always emphasized that they were carried out exclusively as part of cultural and economic cooperation between Taiwan and the United States.
In China, this Jesuit policy was called the “salami-slice strategy” when Washington did not seek to slide the Taiwanese “Gordian knot” in one decisive blow, for example, by recognizing the sovereignty of the island, but year after year, through small diplomatic and political actions, problematized Beijing’s power over the recalcitrant island. Pelosi’s visit was no exception in this regard.
What in reality was Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan?
Nancy Pelosi intended to visit Taiwan in April 2022. At that time, the plan was for the Speaker of the lower house of Congress to travel directly to Taiwan. But the visit was canceled because the politician was allegedly infected with a coronavirus.
In spring information appeared in the global mass media that the Speaker of the US Congress intended to officially visit Taiwan despite the protest of Beijing.
By the time Pelosi again decided to visit Taiwan, public opinion was already prepared for the fact that the visit had once been announced as official.
At the same time, Washington did everything possible to make Pelosi’s visit look as innocuous as possible. Thus, a few days before the visit, US President Joe Biden called PRC President Xi Jinping.
During the more than two-hour conversation, Biden stated that the US “strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” and reiterated the US commitment to the “one China” principle enunciated in the three U.S.-China Communiqués.
Just before Pelosi’s departure from the USA, her supposedly official visit to Taiwan turned into an “Asia tour.” On July 31, 2022, Pelosi’s press office announced that the politician would officially visit four Asian countries – Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan – as part of the tour. Accordingly, Taiwan was not listed at all in the official tour plan.
“Today, our Congressional delegation travels to the Indo-Pacific to reaffirm America’s strong and unshakeable commitment to our allies and friends in the region,” Pelosi vaguely described the goals of the tour.
On August 2, there was talk in the US media that Pelosi might “stay overnight” in a hotel in Taiwan. Although this stay was not yet a part of her planned official Asian tour. For instance, CNN reported about it citing high-ranking US officials.
In parallel, there were reports in the US media that the White House “persuaded” Pelosi not to visit Taiwan, but she did not heed such entreaties.
For example, according to The Financial Times, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan opposed the trip because it could lead to an escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
Moreover, during the visit, US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby stressed that Washington has not and will not recognize Taiwan’s independence. However, the US authorities do not require their citizens to adhere to the same position because the United States is a democratic country.
Another remarkable fact is that before Pelosi’s tour, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is not popular ed in China for his radical anti-Chinese rhetoric and was officially banned from entering the country, repeatedly announced his intention to accompany her. Pompeo was not included in the delegation.
Finally, most importantly, at the press conference following Pelosi’s meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the US politician deliberately avoided mentioning that Taiwan is a country or a state, as well as any reference to the island’s independence.
Moreover, Pelosi emphasized that Washington is committed to the US-China communiqué on the status of Taiwan (and thus to the principle of “one China”), and considers the maintenance of the status quo in the Taiwan Strait important.
In other words, the US authorities did everything possible to make Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan look like a quasi-private visit of the Speaker of the lower house of the US Parliament to the island without making any political statements on Taiwan’s status.
About crossing the “red line” and “loss of face”
The Western media, as well as some Russian publications and Telegram channels, actively exploited information appearing in the context of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan that China allegedly promised to shoot down the aircraft with the politician if she was to approach Taiwan.
At the same time, it was said that Pelosi’s visit was of “historical significance” (by the way, this is how the politician herself characterized it) and Beijing’s inaction was China’s political loss (“loss of face”).
The truth, as we know, is much more complicated than the propaganda clichés. We have already explained above that the visit of a US official of Pelosi’s level is not something extraordinary.
Here we should recall that despite much rhetoric from Beijing regarding the inadmissibility of US interference in Taiwan, Beijing has repeatedly mentioned what crossing the “red line” might look like in practice.
For example, at the end of January 2021, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Senior Colonel Wu Qian said that China would not tolerate interference in its internal affairs, including in the case of Taiwan, stressing that “Taiwan’s independence would turn into a war.”
China, therefore, quite clearly marked the “point of no return” in the confrontation over Taiwan, the crossing of which would be the casus belli in relations with any state.
The real “red line” for Beijing is an attempt to recognize Taiwan’s independence and to ensure the sovereignty of the island through military intervention (for example, by stationing a military contingent there or establishing a military base). It seems that only in this case China will dare a real military confrontation with the United States, while in other cases the opposition can be anything but military.
Another aspect of the Western information campaign in connection with Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is the spreading of the thesis that Beijing threatened to shoot down the plane with the politician on board.
In reality, the Western media tried to pass off the post of Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief and party secretary of the Global Times, who wrote on his Twitter that if Washington sent an escort with Pelosi’s plane in the form of US Air Force fighters, the Chinese air force should use all means to land the plane with the politician, and if it was unsuccessful, to shoot it down.
In conclusion, Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan should certainly not be underestimated. However, it should be seen as an element of the US policy of containment of China as part of the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy.
So far, the tactics of small diplomatic attacks creates a positive propaganda background for domestic use in the United States. It is especially important since the US House of Representatives elections will be held in November, where today the US Democratic Party has a slight advantage.
On the other hand, this visit should be seen as a minor episode of the “anaconda loop” around China, in which the creation and development of the military alliance AUKUS, as well as the growing militarization of Japan, which could lead to the emergence of new nuclear powers in the Asia-Pacific region, play a much more serious role than the political show of “slicing Taiwanese salami”.
Source: Rossa Primavera News Agency