China showed its military might in the Taiwan Strait last week after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finished a visit to the island. Find out what this trip and another by US lawmakers mean for the future of US-China relations and security in East Asia.
Foreign Brief covers Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. With tensions escalating with China, a US House Speaker visit to Taiwan has held that trajectory. Why did Pelosi decide to go despite backlash in the US and what was China’s response?
On August 2, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taipei for an unofficial diplomatic visit to Taiwan. What followed was an unprecedented showing of military might from China.
For 72 hours, China engaged warships fighter jets, and missile tests in a prolonged military exercise in six different regions around Taiwan. China appeared to be rehearsing its ability to encircle and completely blockade the island. Several missiles were fired over Taipei and others landed in Japanese waters, alarming Tokyo and inflaming tensions and an already hot region. 12 days after Pelosi’s visit, a delegation of US lawmakers led by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey touchdown on the island, prompting Chinese fighter jets to cross the median line of the Taiwan Strait 11 times. What was the intention behind Pelosi’s visit? And how does it affect US-China relations?
To understand the contention of Taiwan on the geopolitical stage, we must first look at its history. Taiwan’s status quo as a self-governed Island is the result of a civil war in China in the 1940s. In 1949, the Communist Party took control of mainland China and the nationalist Kuomintang government was forced to flee to the island of Taiwan. Ever since, Beijing has vowed to see the reunification of the island with the mainland, by force or by other means. In the eyes of Beijing, this reunification is critical to advancing the Chinese Communist Party’s geopolitical ambitions in the region and beyond.
Nancy Pelosi’s visit reinforced unofficial US-Taiwan relations, demonstrating the freedom for unofficial delegations to meet with the governing body of Taiwan. While the Taiwan visit effectively served as a showing of US public support, many in the government, including the Department of Defense criticized Pelosi is a unilateral decision to go, as it upsets the official US stance of strategic ambiguity. For now, the US has deployed a measured response even postponing a previously scheduled intercontinental ballistic missile test for fear of it being perceived as a threat to China. Despite the Biden administration’s call for heightened vigilance, a military mobilization, akin to that of China is unlikely. With the war in Ukraine still raging, the Biden administration is likely to avoid getting drawn into another conflict zone. However, the White House did announce that it would extend the duration of the USS Reagan’s presence in the South China Sea, as well as Shift F -5 squadrons in Alaska to full operations.
China will continue to gauge the level of US commitment to Taiwan in the coming years. Last week, Beijing put out a white paper spelling out China’s official position on Taiwan. For the US, Biden has so far not affirmed a promise to the island’s defense if it were to be attacked by China, as doing so would undermine the US’s long-standing one-China policy, in which the US agreed to recognize Beijing as the legitimate government of China without a formal position on whether Taiwan is within Beijing’s jurisdiction. With China having cut off crucial lines of communication to the US military, a heightened chance of miscalculation will only fuel animosity between the two superpowers.
In regards to economics, the global supply chain experienced delays as ships passing through the Taiwan Strait were rerouted as a result of the escalation. airports were also affected, with flights being canceled during military exercises and some reports of cyber attacks slowing businesses. Regardless of how China may seek to bring Taiwan into its fold, the increased tensions around the island will very likely affect the world’s supply chains, specifically the microchip industry, which overlaps with virtually every tech-involved business. A Chinese squeeze of global trade networks may provoke harsher action from the US and the rest of the world that needs these chips for crucial growth at all levels of their economies.
Daniel is the Chief Operating Officer of Foreign brief. He oversees the production and publishing of all of Foreign Brief's products. His background is in the air, space and cyberspace domains of national security and Indo-Pacific geopolitics. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.