In the past few days, the focus of attention of all world media has switched from Ukraine to China. There were two questions. Firstly, will Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who is on a tour of East Asian countries, decide to turn to Taiwan and, secondly, what will happen to her.
The fact is that China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, and therefore it is extremely tough on any steps by third countries that can transform de facto independence (with which the Chinese have more or less reconciled) into de jure independence. The PRC has an agreement with the United States that Washington recognizes the unity of China and does not recognize the formal independence of the island. The official visit of the third person (after the President and Vice President) of the United States, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to Taiwan without Beijing’s permission is a demonstration of Taiwan’s formal independence.
And China promised to respond to this provocation as harshly as possible. Yes, 25 years ago – in 1997 – the then speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, also visited Taiwan, but what makes Pelosi’s visit even more provocative is the fact that he was preparing exactly for the historic convention of the Chinese Communist Party (scheduled for autumn). Historical because the current leader of the PRC, Xi Jinping, is going to break the tradition established under Deng Xiaoping of “one ruler, two terms” and become the first head of China in more than 30 years to be re-elected for a third term. Accordingly, he must prove to everyone – and, above all, to the leaders of the party – that he is worthy of breaking tradition. That he is the strong, respected leader that China now needs to get through this era of change.
That is why, when Pelosi announced her visit to Taiwan, China reacted as harshly as possible. A promise not of a politico-diplomatic, but of a military response. There was talk that the Chinese might shoot down Pelosi’s plane or even launch an operation to take over the island. However, the Americans risked the speaker (there is no pity for the grandmother, her rating in the US is about 32%, while 55% of Americans do not like her) and won. The plane with Pelosi landed safely in Taipei, no military operations were carried out to seize the island, and officials in Beijing only symbolically shook their fists in the direction of the United States.
Of course, China will not forgive the Americans for this and, perhaps, will more actively support Russia in its conflict with the West. But in the eyes of the American administration, China is no longer a superpower, but, in Chinese terms, a “paper tiger.”
For the status of a superpower, it is not enough to have a million-strong army, the latest military technologies and aircraft carriers. It is necessary to have the political will to take advantage of all this when there is a threat to national security. Or use it when you warn that you will use it.
Take, for example, Russia. The West assured that Russia could not be a superpower because of its relatively small economy. However, Moscow promised countermeasures if Washington did not make concessions on security guarantees – and on February 24, 2022, it kept its promise. Now the West can talk as much as it wants about the fact that “the Russian army is not so strong”, “Moscow has been wallowing in Ukraine for half a year” – Russia has shown political will, confirmed its status and deserved respect. Including from their enemies, which sharply reduced their desire to arrange some kind of anti-Russian provocations.
If earlier China’s constant retreats under American pressure could be explained by the words “Beijing seeks not to enter into a confrontation over minor issues and instead gathers strength,” this explanation does not work with the Taiwan issue.
Feeling weak, given the general attitude of the Republicans and Democrats to contain the PRC, the United States will again and again arrange provocations. They will be followed by less influential opponents of China – Vietnam, Japan and others. And then China’s partners and clients in third world countries, who previously relied on the economic and political power of Beijing, can draw their own conclusions.