Proving that you can’t teach an old imperialist dog new tricks, the United States of America is busy repeating over Taiwan the same mistakes that it made over Ukraine.
It kidded itself that Moscow’s warning back in December last year about the urgent need to get serious about establishing security guarantees for Russia’s borders (a pressing matter given the previous 30 years of encirclement by Nato aggression, eight years of shelling inflicted on the people of the Donbass and the impending threat to take back Crimea and the Donbass by force), was just so much diplomatic hot air.
The consequences of this error are visible for all to see in Ukraine. Conclusion: if you keep prodding long enough, the bear will sooner or later respond.
And now imperialism is kidding itself again, this time about just how seriously China takes western efforts to stir up separatist sentiments in Taiwan and undermine Chinese sovereignty.
In flat contradiction with President Joe Biden’s publicly expressed ‘disquiet’ at the plan to send the speaker of the US House of Representatives to Taiwan on an evangelical mission to preach ‘democracy’ versus ‘authoritarianism’, Nancy Pelosi trampled on regardless.
Readers more familiar with the role of the speaker at Westminster, whose job is mostly confined to banging the gavel and yelling “Order”, may underestimate how powerful the US congress speaker really is, and consequently what a high-level affront it is for her to pay a visit to the Chinese territory of Taiwan whilst ignoring the guardians of Chinese sovereignty in Beijing.
According to the US constitution, if Biden passed away (though how could you tell?) and his vice-president Kamala Harris joined him, next in line for president would be Pelosi, making her one of the most senior figures in US politics.
In a farcical own goal, Washington has managed to land itself in the worst of all worlds over Taiwan. By pressing on with its reckless provocations against China, even after the US president and the Pentagon had come out publicly against the plan to send Pelosi to stir up separatist mischief in Taiwan, US imperialism succeeded only in achieving two self-defeating ends.
Firstly, it exposed the weakness and impotence of a president in his dotage (a fitting exemplar for a moribund society), either genuinely unable to forbid the Pelosi trip, or else playing at charades and distancing himself from the decision lest it go wrong. With breathtaking naivete Biden babbled that “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now” – yet he sanctioned the adventure anyway.
Secondly, it has given China a first-class opportunity to display to the world its readiness to defend its sovereignty throughout the entirety of its territory, Taiwan not excluded. The military drills that China organised to coincide with the Pelosi stunt were widescale, complex and carried out to a disciplined timetable.
As the Financial Times reported: “As Pelosi landed in Taipei on Tuesday night, the People’s Liberation Army announced plans for extensive joint air and naval drills and long-range live fire shooting exercises in six large areas around Taiwan, which extend into the country’s territorial waters and airspace near Kaohsiung and Keelung, its largest and third-largest ports. The PLA is planning to conduct the drills from Thursday until Sunday, after Pelosi has left.” (Nancy Pelosi vows US support for Taiwan as officials warn of China military blockade by Kathrin Hille, Financial Times, 3 August 2022)
The report went on to cite the view of a retired US admiral: “It is a change in the way that China can now respond to events in and beyond Taiwan. We will look back at this as a step change in how they are going to operate.”
When Mao Zedong led the Chinese people to victory in 1949, Taiwan served as a bolt-hole for the disgraced nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek. Unwilling to accept the historic decision of the Chinese masses, imperialism conspired to help Chiang’s ‘Republic of China’ usurp China’s seat at the United Nations until 1971, when it was finally restored to its rightful owner, the People’s Republic of China.
Given the overwhelming facts on the ground, even the USA felt obliged to stop clinging to the fiction that Taipei spoke for all China. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter formally recognised the People’s Republic of China and broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
According to the resultant diplomatic status quo, dubbed the ‘One China’ policy, the USA grudgingly recognised Beijing as the sole government of China and acknowledged, but did not accept, its claim to Taiwan. This abstract formula concealed two very different versions of ‘One China’: Mao Zedong’s and Chiang Kai-Shek’s – two versions that cannot indefinitely coexist.
The ‘One China’ policy was, in effect, a frozen conflict which, for a period, until now, neither party has been prepared to resolve militarily. When asked whether the USA would intervene militarily to prevent China from “invading” (!) its own territory, reference is made to the concept of strategic ambiguity. But loose talk from Biden and others about intervening militarily if China “attacked” Taiwan, combined with the likes of the Pelosi stunt, are irretrievably turning up the heat on the frozen conflict.
With the build-up of imperialist provocations culminating in Pelosi’s botched visit and China’s swift and comprehensive response, all ambiguity has gone out of the window.
It is Washington and Taipei that must bear responsibility for this stark new reality – reality with the gloves off. As Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov correctly concluded, the Pelosi stunt showed that the USA is determined “to show everyone how it can get away with everything and do whatever it wants”, adding: “I don’t see any other reason to create an irritant like this basically out of thin air in full knowledge of what it means for China.”
Such hooliganism is a sign of desperation, not strength. The common need to resist such hooliganism is one of the many fraternal threads that bind Russia and China together. Imperialism beware.