China reinforces bilateral 'guardrail' to US; Partisan struggle may 'bring crisis to Taiwan Straits'
By Yang Sheng and Liu Xuanzun Published: Jul 28, 2022 12:20 AM
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's unconfirmed plan of a trip to the island of Taiwan keeps troubling the US as Pelosi, US President Joe Biden and Democrats are now facing pressure instead of "encouragements" from the Republicans on the matter, with Chinese experts warning that if the US eventually let the partisan struggle and internal politics hijack its strategic decision-making, it would definitely bring a new crisis in the Taiwan Straits.
Republicans knew that Democrats, especially Pelosi and Biden, are now facing a dilemma - visiting the island may prompt China's military reaction and a serious geopolitical crisis will emerge and Pelosi will be in danger as well. According to analysts, canceling the trip will benefit Republicans, as they can say that Democrats are being too weak and dare not to challenge China. The Biden administration and Pelosi still have a chance to keep the mistake from becoming a much bigger one, and if they - both Democrats and Republicans - underestimate China's warning, it would be extremely dangerous.
China has issued six warnings in the past few days and has stressed the danger of the US provocations, including those coming from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.
On Tuesday, China's top political advisor Wang Yang stressed the importance of upholding the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, and called for jointly striving to achieve the reunification of the motherland, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Wang, at a meeting in Beijing marking the 30th anniversary of the 1992 Consensus, said the Taiwan authorities' denial of the 1992 Consensus, along with certain countries' connivance and instigation of the secessionists' provocation, will only plunge Taiwan into catastrophe, and cause misery for Taiwan people.
He warned that no individual and no force should underestimate the resolve, the will, and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Analysts said the high-profile commemoration for the 1992 Consensus has once again highlighted the bottom line of China on the Taiwan question. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had already told US State Secretary Antony Blinken at a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Indonesia that "the three China-US joint communiquÃ©s are the most reliable guardrails for the two countries."
China is telling the US loud and clear where the bilateral "guardrails" are, and the US should keep its promise of not supporting Taiwan secessionism. If Washington doesn't keep the bilateral ties away from the edge but instead, insists on crashing against the "guardrails," the consequence will definitely be a deadly disaster, experts warn.
Sick partisan politics
Pelosi's reported plan has "upended Washington's political divide," with prominent Republicans offering encouragement to a political opponent they normally scorn, AP reported on Tuesday.
Pelosi's supporters include a conservative Republican senator, at least two former Trump administration officials, including former secretary of state Mike Pompeo who is sanctioned by China, and Newt Gingrich, the speaker of a Republican-controlled House under Democratic president Bill Clinton, who made a trip to the island in 1997. They are urging Biden to back the trip even as China threatens a forceful response if she goes.
Some Democrats' Congress members also joined the choir of encouraging voices, according to NBC News on Wednesday. This dangerous trend reflects that the US partisan struggle has made politicians in Washington blind to actual risks that could cause geopolitical disaster, while they keep only the midterm elections in sight.
"Republicans' encouragements to Pelosi are more like setting a trap than real approval. If Pelosi eventually goes to the island and causes a military crisis that the US can't handle, Republicans can still criticize the Biden administration for the failure to handle a crisis," said a Beijing-based senior expert on international relations who asked for anonymity.
A Chinese proverb goes that "When the weasel pays respects to the hen, his intentions are certainly not good," which perfectly describes the Republicans' push for Pelosi's possible visit, he noted.
LÃ¼ Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday, "Republicans would love to see the Biden administration's situations, both internal and external, to get as messy as possible, because they want to maximize the advantage to win the upcoming midterm elections."
Pelosi just made a very big mistake to have made such a plan though she still refuses to confirm or deny it publicly, which could only bring trouble and nothing good for Democrats at the moment, LÃ¼ said.
"Maybe before the information got leaked to the media, she had underestimated how serious the consequences would be, and the firm response made by China," LÃ¼ remarked.
The above-quoted anonymous expert stressed that "the Biden administration and Pelosi still have an opportunity to keep the mistake away from worsening into a huge geopolitical crisis, otherwise, if Pelosi gets eventually taken over by the pressures from Republicans, and decides to make the provocative move to visit the island of Taiwan, the US partisan struggle would spark a new round of Taiwan Straits crisis."
Possibilities and consequences
Pelosi's plan is a big headache for Biden, and the White House has publicly told media multiple times that Biden is seeking talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, about which the Chinese side has released no information. Experts say Pelosi's plan of visiting Taiwan island will definitely worsen the atmosphere and the conditions for possible talks between the two heads of states.
"Biden wants to engage with the Chinese top leader to seek help for the relief of inflation pressure as well as for the management of the competition and differences between the two sides, but when Pelosi, the House speaker who is in the same party as the president, is likely to make an extreme provocation against China on the most sensitive Taiwan question, it's very unlikely to be conductive to constructive and friendly talks, and the agenda of such an exchange would also be greatly impacted," LÃ¼ noted.
China has set a "very high guardrail" to keep the China-US relations away from falling off a cliff, but now it seems that the US, or some US politicians, are intended to crash through that "guardrail," LÃ¼ said.
Tan Kefei, a spokesperson of China's Ministry of National Defense, said on Tuesday the Chinese armed forces will by no means sit idly by, on the contrary, they will take strong measures to thwart any external interferences and "Taiwan independence" secessionist attempts, resolutely safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Chinese mainland analysts and experts said that Tan's remarks indicate that the PLA is fully prepared to respond if Pelosi does visit the island.
The PLA can send fighter jets to intercept Pelosi's plane if it approaches Taiwan, then escort it and have it landed in the Chinese mainland, another Chinese mainland military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday.
An alternative is that the PLA can declare air and maritime zones around the island of Taiwan as restriction zones for military exercises, Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
In addition, the PLA can conduct large-scale military drills around the island of Taiwan, including on the waters between Taiwan island and Japan as well as between Taiwan island and Guam, experts said. The drills should include joint efforts of all PLA service branches, with all combat elements including electronic warfare, missile and long-range rocket strikes, seizing of air superiority and control of sea, amphibious landing, as well as anti-access and area denial against external military interference, they said.
On Monday a TB-001 drone of the PLA made a full circle flight around the island of Taiwan for the first time, media on the island reported on Tuesday, but Taiwan's defense authority failed to report its activity. This exposed the island's defense loopholes against drones, which is a great vulnerability the PLA can exploit, analysts said.
LÃ¼ noted that no matter what military actions the PLA may take, one thing is for sure, "as the status quo has already been broken by the US' side due to Pelosi's visit, China will actively shape a new status quo with comprehensive measures including military actions, aimed at making the best use of the US' mistakes and at fully taking control of the Taiwan Straits situation to better promote the reunification process in the future."
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