Andrew Murray: The visit fits in with a pattern of aggressive rhetoric and military build-up

As if one major war wasn’t enough, the USA now looks ready to provoke a second one.  At the very least, it is playing with fire in the Far East and risking a fresh crisis over Taiwan.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ visit to Taiwan may have been unauthorised – by the White House at least – and may have been motivated more by personal grandstanding than anything else.

However, President Biden apparently did not even pick up a phone to try to dissuade Pelosi from her trip, despite the Chinese government having made it clear that they would regard her initiative as a breach of understandings governing US-Chinese relations.  She is, after all, the US’s third most senior political figure.

Taiwan is part of China – so much is acknowledged by almost every state in the world, including the USA.  There is only one China and its government is the one in Beijing.  The Taiwan regime, initially installed by the losing side in the Chinese civil war, after it had been driven out of the rest of the country by the Communist Party of China in 1949, is not a sovereign and independent state.  Legally, it is as much part of China as Hawaii is part of the USA (and a good deal nearer).

The Chinese government has long committed to the peaceful reunification of the country.  Economic ties between the mainland and the offshore province are very strong.  However, Beijing has always warned that any declaration of Taiwanese independence or serious moves towards it, something that could only happen with a green light from Washington, would lead to a military response.

A visit from such a senior US politician is seen as indicating support for Taiwanese separatism, and perhaps for its full independence.

However, Pelosi’s visit cannot be seen in isolation. Over the last decade, the US has determined that China’s growing economic and diplomatic strength constitutes a threat to its world hegemony, to its unipolar power.  Effectively, a new Cold War has been declared.

Obama announced a military pivot to the Pacific to confront China, moving armed forces from the Middle East and elsewhere.  Trump ratcheted up this policy, and declared China effectively a US enemy, extending all manner of trade and other economic measures against it.  Biden has not differed from this policy in any respect.

The US has nearly 200 military bases in Japan and Korea, with dozens more in the western Pacific.  Britain has recently joined the US in promoting a new arms race in the region, with the AUKUS pact, upgrading Australia’s submarine fleet with nuclear-powered vessels.  And the Johnson government dispatched Britain’s new aircraft carrier – complete with US fighter jets – on its maiden voyage to the Far East last year.

This has been accompanied by noisy political campaigns.  Various movements in the West have long agitated to separate Tibet from China, backing the Dalia Lama the better to do so.  More recently, there have been campaigns around the treatment of the Uighurs of Xinjiang and around Hong Kong.

It is not necessary to bang the drum in support of Chinese government policies on these questions.  They are China’s internal affairs, subject to United Nations rulings and recommendations on human rights, and will only be aggravated by foreign intervention.  China needs no hectoring by the invaders of Iraq and Afghanistan, least of all by Hong Kong’s former colonial power, Britain.

Other matters, like the disputes over sovereignty in the South China Sea which have pitched China against other countries in the region, including Vietnam and Philippines, should be resolved through diplomacy on the basis of international law and procedures by the states concerned.

China has indeed stood up, as Mao said in 1949, and that is a fact of life other countries must reconcile to.  Unlike the US and Britain it has not invaded other countries, or imposed regime change anywhere.

Recently a Chinese government spokesman stated that “China pursues and independent and peaceful foreign policy, does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, does not export ideology and does not engage in long-arm jurisdiction, economic coercion or unilateral sanctions.”  That may be government propaganda, but it is also true.  Washington, not Beijing, is the global rogue power.

Underlying all these issues is the unwillingness of the US to accept China’s growing prosperity and influence around the world, since it signals the advent of a multipolar order which must limit Washington’s writ.

Biden, who admittedly often seems to not understand the words coming out of his mouth, has said more than once as President that the US would fight China over Taiwan.

That is the context in which Pelosi’s actions threaten world peace.  Under other circumstances, they might be dismissed as vainglorious posturing by a clapped-out politician.  But today it fits in with a pattern of aggressive rhetoric and military build-up.

This would be a still more momentous clash than the one over Ukraine.  The “proxy” element of the latter war would be missing.  It would constitute a direct clash between two great powers, both armed with nuclear weapons.

China has responded to the Pelosi visit by conducting “live fire” exercises at various sites around Taiwan.  It is doubtful that this will make any great difference to the US position, since confronting China is now bipartisan dogma in Washington and more-or-less impervious to reason.

Britain must disengage from the US on this issue.  The AUKUS pact and gestures with aircraft carriers add nothing to Britain’s own security.  They only further inflame the situation.

And the anti-war movement must call out Washington’s reckless conduct.  The Taiwan issue is for China alone to resolve, and Biden’s threats are unwise and illegitimate.

04 Aug 2022 by Andrew Murray

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