*Editor’s note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.
Political scientist Viktor Pirozhenko discusses what will come out of Nancy Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan and the consequences of her trip.
The issue of Taiwan, at the forefront of tensions between the U.S. and China, now runs the risk of getting out of hand and escalating into armed conflict. The current unprecedented escalation over Taiwan follows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s intention to visit the island as part of the Asian tour she has already begun.
Beijing’s extremely harsh reaction was prompted by the fact that China considers visits of high-profile American officials to Taiwan to be a sign of diplomatic relations with the island and a violation of the “one-China” principle. And Pelosi is, after all, the third-highest ranking official in the American power hierarchy.
It was initially reported that Pelosi plans to visit Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. However, she has not yet confirmed her intention to travel to Taiwan.* China believes this itinerary may be a distraction from Pelosi’s real intentions for this trip, and is preparing to actively counter the provocation.
Taiwanese media, citing its sources, indicate that Pelosi may arrive in Taiwan late in the evening of Aug. 2 local time,* thus confirming Beijing’s fears. China’s concerns are very serious. Should Pelosi visit the island, dire consequences for the Taiwanese administration and U.S.-China relations appear inevitable.
China’s warning about the consequences came from the highest level during a July 28 phone call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden. Xi categorically condemned U.S. policy containing China as a major rival and warned the U.S. of the seriousness and significance of the Taiwan issue.
He also reminded Biden of the three joint communiqués that embody the “one-China” principle and create a political framework for China-U.S. relations. The Chinese leader stressed in the conversation that “those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.”
On the eve of the telephone conversation between the U.S. and Chinese leaders, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense repeatedly and through different channels warned Washington that if it crossed China’s “red line,” China would respond with strong countermeasures, and the U.S. would be responsible for the consequences. In particular, a representative of the Defense Ministry said that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army would not sit idly by if Pelosi visited the island of Taiwan. It plans to resolutely oppose outside interference and any attempts by separatists to assert Taiwan’s independence.
Chinese experts, detailing China’s possible response, point to the possibility that People’s Liberation Army fighter jets could intercept Pelosi’s airplane and escort it to the mainland. Other options include conducting large-scale military drills around the island of Taiwan and prohibiting access to foreign ships and aircraft. The latter scenario effectively means a complete blockade of Taiwan.
China has now deployed navy and air force drills with live fire in all significant maritime regions. This includes the Taiwan Strait, where exercises are held approximately 78 miles from the island’s coast. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army’s command of the southern theater of military operations is put on high alert.
Ultimately, China views Pelosi’s likely visit as a legitimate opportunity and a chance to put itself in control of the situation in the Taiwan Strait and take the process of reuniting the island with the mainland one step further.
Overall, the U.S. is clearly trying to play down the significance of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, absolve Biden of responsibility for her actions and show that the entire situation is under control, thus hoping to moderate the severity of Beijing’s reaction. Biden referred to the fact that his administration has no control over foreign visits by the House speaker, who represents a separate and independent branch of the government. At a briefing after the telephone conversation, the White House spokesman said that the warning about the danger of “playing with fire” was a common reference used by the Chinese leader.
China is ignoring these American tricks, stressing the failure of White House attempts to separate the Biden administration from Pelosi’s actions.
In Washington, these scenarios are also being analyzed. In private, observers say the consequences of Pelosi’s demarche are very serious. According to CNN, last week, Biden administration officials, particularly Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, tried to convey the risks of visiting Taiwan to the speaker, apparently to no avail. The Pentagon later proposed a plan to keep Pelosi safe should she visit Taiwan. Thus, the U.S. Navy relocated an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier from a port in Singapore to the South China Sea.
Chinese experts point to the significant advantage of the People’s Liberation Army in aircraft and navy capability near mainland China, not to mention access to medium-range missiles. These aircraft carrier “killers” could severely limit the capabilities of the U.S. aircraft carrier strike group.
The military-diplomatic measures taken by China have already impacted the situation concerning Pelosi’s likely visit to the island. Whatever the outcome of this U.S. provocation, Pelosi’s plan to formalize the visit to Taiwan as an official, ignoring Beijing’s opinion, appears to be frustrated. At most, it will be a frightened, semi-underground visit, confirming the failure of Washington’s claim that it is the world’s hegemony.
*Editor’s Update: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan for a visit on Tuesday, Aug. 2, after this article was published.
The author is an expert from the Intercultural Research Center at Huzhou University, China. The author’s opinion may not reflect the views of Izvestia’s editorial board.