Taiwan puts the ball firmly in Xi Jinping's court

August 4, 2022 5:38 am

[Source: BBC]

The danger with escalation is that it is hard to pull back.

Now that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has managed to visit Taiwan – the highest-ranking American official to do so in 25 years – won’t others want to do the same in the future?

Now that China has held major live fire exercises of such a scale, so close to Taiwan, why not do that again? Each time Chinese fighter jets fly nearer to the island or in greater numbers, a new standard of “normality” is established. So, if the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) doesn’t fly as close next time, what message is it sending?

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Not so long ago, Beijing’s plan with Taiwan involved engagement. Young people from the mainland were backpacking around the breakaway province claimed by China, and businesses from Taiwan were popping up all over China.

However, the approach under Chinese President Xi Jinping has become much more belligerent, with ever more pressure being applied on Taipei.

Those with more militaristic tendencies in the upper echelons of power here must have secretly welcomed the visit by Ms Pelosi. It has provided an ideal excuse to ramp up the war games around Taiwan in preparation for what they see as the inevitable day when it will be seized by force.

The biggest challenge perhaps for regional stability is that everyone’s public position on Taiwan is ridiculous. It’s like a giant game of pretend which is becoming harder to maintain.

China pretends that Taiwan is currently part of its territory, even though the island collects its own taxes, votes in its own government, issues its own passports and has its own military.

The US pretends it is not treating Taiwan as an independent country, even though it sells it high-tech weapons and, occasionally, a high-ranking politician visits on what looks very much like an official trip.

It’s apparent that it would take nothing for this flimsy show, designed to guarantee the status quo, to fall apart.

The danger for the world is that there are those in Beijing who would like to see it fall apart.