Flat White

Pelosi: a caged canary lost in the Pacific

3 August 2022

7:10 AM

3 August 2022

7:10 AM

Last night, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was shipped into Taiwan like a little caged canary sent to assess the geopolitical tensions between America and China. While the Chinese government did not threaten to shoot down Pelosi’s plane, Hu Xijin, former chief editor of China’s Global Times, did in a deleted tweet.

‘If US fighter jets escort Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, it is invasion… The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has the right to forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane and the US fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making the tactical movement of obstruction […] if ineffective, then shoot them down.’

He later added, ‘Our [China’s] fighter jets should deploy all obstructive tactics. If those are still ineffective, I think it is okay too to shoot down Pelosi’s plane.’ It was a comment that saw Twitter issue him with a temporary suspension, forcing Hu to delete the casual threat to start a global war.

Due to the tight control China wields over the press, Tweets from someone like Hu Xijin carry more weight than The Guardian tweeting about Australian politics. The CCP often use these periphery commentators to warn nations, keeping just enough plausible deniability to backtrack if need be.

Despite memes of world war three trending and threats from Beijing that its military would not ‘sit idly by’, Pelosi’s plane touched down safely in Taipei and shortly after was greeted by officials. Pelosi has become the most senior member of the US government to travel to Taiwan in a quarter of a century.

It was a victory for Pelosi’s ego, but her survival also served as a Litmus test for Pacific politics, with America now certain Beijing isn’t ready for war – yet. The loss of face for Xi Jinping may even cause him domestic problems, regardless of how many warships, armoured vehicles, or planes he takes out for a spin while Pelosi busies herself taking selfies. For many years, China has taken effective control of the region by simply ‘threatening’ regional powers. Rarely is their bluff called as it was last night.

A lot of effort was put into making this look a trivial stop-off on a larger tour of Asia – a whim, even, of the Speaker – or at worst a publicity stunt. Joe Biden might be senile, but the puppeteers behind the throne are not. There is no possibility that an event with the potential to spark a third world war happened without strategic oversight.

More likely, it was a mind game played against Xi Jinping to quietly re-assert America’s influence in the Pacific to counteract China’s fierce expansion, as seen with its recent deals in the Solomon Islands which saw Taiwan excommunicated in exchange for money, trade contracts, and military personnel to prop-up the local regime against civil disputes.

Pelosi doesn’t have to say a word. She is a chess piece on a board and in this position, the message is clear: Taiwan is defended.

As with all expansionist, collectivist nations led by dictators – conflict is never their fault. They are always pushed into invading nations they’ve spent decades salivating over.

We can clear one thing up at the start. China has stated, on many occasions and in numerous speeches by President Xi Jinping, that the ‘re-unification of Taiwan’ is a non-negotiable future.

Without reference to the actions of any other nation, Xi Jinping pledged the reunification (invasion) of Taiwan as part of the Communist Party’s 100th birthday celebration. Speaking in Tiananmen Square, Xi Jinping said:

‘Resolving the Taiwan question and realising China’s complete reunification is a historic mission and an unshakeable commitment of the Communist Party of China. It is also a shared aspiration of all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nations. We will uphold the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, and advance peaceful national reunification. All of us, compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, must come together and move forward in unison. We must take resolute action to utterly defeat any attempt toward “Taiwan independence” and work together to create a bright future for national rejuvenation. No one should underestimate the resolve, the will, and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.’

Which amounts to, ‘Dear Taiwan, bow down and surrender your independence or we will take you by force.’ By falsely declaring Taiwan as part of Chinese territory, Xi Jinping is able to claim the ‘struggle’ as a domestic dispute and anyone who comes to Taiwan’s aid is ‘attacking China’ instead of defending a sovereign nation from an invasion by Beijing.

Taiwan has a confusing past, but the complexities of its birth are rendered irrelevant by their present state. Today, they see themselves a unique people, separate to mainland China. This is their determination to make as a nation, and no one else’s.

Recent polling in Taiwan shows its people have turned further against China in recent years, clearly not impressed by Beijing’s repeated threats or the behaviour of China buying off its Pacific trading partners. It is now the case that 9 out of 10 Taiwanese don’t just oppose Beijing, they would actively take up arms and fight against an invading force.

Xi Jinping knows that there is no path to ‘peaceful unification’ with Taiwan. Instead, Beijing first tried to impoverish the regime by scaring off all its friends, and now it is actively looking for a ‘believable’ trigger to justify the crime of invading Taiwan. That way, Xi Jinping can divert blame for his barbaric actions, despite the only entity at fault being his government and its determination to annex the region.

It is in this context that statements like the following have been released by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying: 

‘Well, I think the world has seen very clearly that it is the United States that has been making the provocations that have led to the escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Strait. The United States should and must take all responsibility for that.’

Reality contradicts the stream of propaganda from the Foreign Ministry. No one has forced China to deploy warships to the maritime border with Taiwan – but they have done so. No one has forced China to carry out live trill operations in the South China Sea. No one has forced China to buzz Taiwanese airspace with armed jets. No one forced China to move tanks and other armoured vehicles to ports facing Taiwan. China is not under threat from anyone, with all moves by its neighbours purely defensive in nature – a direct response to repeated acts of aggression.

And finally, no one forced the Chinese Foreign Ministry to make threats such as, ‘The US will pay the price’ for Nancy Pelosi’s visit.

Had China been ready, Pelosi’s visit would have been the perfect opportunity for Beijing to move on Taiwan, but it is too early. Xi Jinping is unlikely to start a Pacific war while his crucial supply partner, Russia, is bleeding resources over in Ukraine. A worst-case scenario for the joint dictators would be a European war with Russia simultaneous to a Pacific war with China. Were this to happen, the gloves would come off almost certainly to Russia’s disadvantage. At that point, there would be no more proxy anything, and not even Xi Jinping is sure if he wants to start a third world war over Taiwan when he has 1.4 billion mouths to feed right at the cusp of a global food shortage.

The most probable outcome for the next few days will be an intense staring contest by China as Xi Jinping seeks to save face while Biden gives another incomprehensible speech about ice cream.

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