Economic Statecraft
The Fourth Taiwan Crisis: Democracy vs. Logic

The visit of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island of Taiwan was undoubtedly an unpleasant event for Beijing. At the same time, the step was fully consistent with the spirit of modern US foreign policy. Washington, in an effort to maintain its own hegemony and the position of a world democratic leader, is constantly testing the boundaries of other states, which, in the opinion of the American authorities, are a threat.

According to the authoritative American journalist Thomas Friedman,  Pelosi's arrival in Taipei seems to have been against the will of President Biden. According to the warnings of the military and intelligence agencies, it was a reckless, dangerous and irresponsible move. According to the author, one visit will not make Taiwan safer or richer, but in the context of the current Russia-West conflict, it will lead the United States towards a clash with China, which is fraught with “vast and unpredictable consequences.”
Asia and Eurasia
The Potential Impact of the US-Chinese Conflict in Asia
Yana Leksyutina
The countries of the Asia-Pacific region are motivated to join forces with Washington on the issue of containing China, not because they share democratic values, but because they are concerned about the strengthening of China’s military and economic power amid unresolved territorial disputes and Beijing’s assertiveness in promoting China’s interests and narrative in the region, writes Valdai Club expert Yana Leksyutina.
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In a July 28, 2022 telephone conversation with US President George Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that “those who play with fire will get burned” (玩火自焚). Translated from diplomatic Chinese, Washington was given a direct warning not to interfere in the “Taiwan issue”, which the PRC considers an exclusively internal affair, and in particular not to indulge the aspirations of local authorities for independence, which it regards as separatism.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian stated several times that “China will take resolute and firm measures to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Earlier in June, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe noted that Beijing invariably uses force if someone tries to tear Taiwan away from China, and will fight to the bitter end.

It is worth mentioning that none of the Chinese officials threatened to directly use military force against the island of Taiwan and the United States in the event of a visit from the Speaker of the House of Representatives or any other official. In the Chinese blogosphere and the media, they went beyond official declarations and offered various options, of which the most peaceful was the organisation of an escort for Pelosi’s plane by the combat aircraft of the PLA Air Force in the airspace of Taiwan with suppression of air defence. However, despite online air traffic monitoring sites getting more than 300,000 viewers, the desired picturesque shots were not forthcoming, as the stakes in the relationship between the two nuclear powers and one small island are still too high.

Lu Xiang, a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that the Americans are clearly testing Beijing's patience and trying to push back the conflict threshold, allowing themselves bold and demonstrative actions. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the arrival of the incumbent speaker of the US House of Representatives in “Chinese” Taiwan is nothing less than “a serious political provocation to raise the level of official contacts between Washington and Taipei as part of the policy of ‘de-sinification’ of the island and support for separatist forces.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov very accurately explained Washington's behaviour by the desire prove its own permissiveness and impunity.

It is interesting that on the sidelines of the meeting of foreign ministers of the ASEAN countries and dialogue partners in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2022, Wang Yi proposed to the Russian side to strengthen strategic cooperation to effectively defend the international system on the basis of UN and international law. Considering that the issues of Russian-Chinese strategic partnership today also include, for example, the creation of a missile attack warning system, the hint is more than clear.

The theme of the speaker's visit to Taiwan to receive the Order of Propitious Clouds (卿雲勳章)  was actively used by the Western media and social media users to emphasise China's alleged weakness. Thus, the BBC called the incident “putting the ball firmly in Xi Jinping’s court”  (however, ball in court can also be interpreted as a “ball on the side”) and questioned the possibility of effectively conducting a large-scale PLA landing operation against Taiwan. The Australian media noted that Beijing had not been able to prevent Pelosi's visit and is therefore preparing for a defensive war. Bloomberg believes that Washington was looking down on Beijing's threats and had revealed to China the unpleasant truth about its own capabilities (reality check). The Washington Post believes that the speaker's visit just happened due to increased Chinese pressure on Taiwan, but not vice versa. Japanese publicationsgenerally called the incident “a test of Xi Jinping's leadership abilities.”

The references to the upcoming 20th National Congress of the CCP this fall are quite clear, where the current leader may be re-elected as the General Secretary of the Central Committee, and in the spring of 2023, at the next NPC, he will probably become the chairman of the PRC for the third time.
However, despite all the intricacies of the Chinese internal political struggle and obvious outcome, no foreign forces have any real influence on the decision-making process within the country's ruling elite.

Much more dangerous are ridicule at the lack of a “strong response” from Beijing and the deliberate underestimation of the potential of the PLA. Without waiting for clarity with the flight route of the parliamentary Boeing, the PLA command focused more on the movement of the naval group led by the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which was located in the Luzon Strait, covering the southern part of Taiwan. As a result, the Chinese military announced the complete closure of the Taiwan Strait, some sections of the South China Sea, as well as areas beyond the island for exercises. According to the South China Morning Post, the PLA may well increase deadlines for restricting air and sea traffic and closing additional areas, effectively implementing a sea and air blockade.

In the course of impressive manoeuvres, long-range MLRS, as well as medium and short-range missiles were fired and joint actions of the fleet and aviation forces were practiced. The nature of the actions unambiguously demonstrated the PLA's ability to suppress the strike weapons and air defences of a potential enemy, disable command and control systems, and prevent the intervention of any third party. Tokyo protested regarding the fall of missile parts within its own exclusive economic zone, but the head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry not only did not answer, but even refused scheduled talks with Japan on the sidelines of the ASEAN events in Phnom Penh. The US military also complained that the Chinese defence department had cut off contacts, including communication between the leaders of the combat command zones, which, in their opinion, poses the threat of undesirable escalation.

The real potential of the PLA and the ability of Beijing to resolve the Taiwan issue by force is a topic of discussion for many experts of various levels of competence who constantly count and compare the ships, aircraft and missiles of the parties involved.
However, when analysing the “fourth Taiwan crisis”, it is still a constant that the PRC leadership only considers a military path in the event that the Taipei administration declares independence and the direct intervention of a third party, that is, the United States and any of its allies.

A “Reunification of the Motherland” simply because the Weibo users demand it is a completely impossible scenario. China always acts according to its own plan, at its own pace and solely in its own interests.

Washington would probably have arranged the option of military operations in the Taiwan Strait and on the island itself. While refraining from direct intervention in the conflict and calling on the parties to dialogue in every possible way, the American authorities would continue to pump weapons into Taiwan, provide intelligence information, and the capabilities of their own satellite constellation, communications and control systems. It is possible that they would have dragged their Japanese and European allies into a "hot" confrontation with Beijing. Moreover, Tokyo has already indicated its intentions to defend Taiwan, and the British have spoken out in favour of the permanent deployment of a naval strike force with an aircraft carrier in the Indo-Pacific region.

However, it should be remembered that Beijing is extremely alarmed, first of all, by the course towards the “de-sinification” of Taiwan, considering the 23 million residents to be their countrymen and brothers, no matter what they think in response. Therefore, while Chinese missiles are flying over the island, trade bans are being introduced across the strait - there is still time to think. If Russia “does not get angry, but concentrates” at a difficult moment, then the Chinese will prefer not to endure disasters from a bred tiger (养虎遗患).

Economic Statecraft
Taiwan: Is the Threat of a Military Conflict Between the US and China Real?
Yury Kulintsev
Despite the desire of the United States to shake up the situation in the Taiwan Strait, creating additional internal problems for China, Biden has not yet managed to achieve a strategic advantage in relations with China. Beijing is clearly aware of all possible risks and is taking the necessary actions to minimise them. Therefore, one should hardly expect China to allow itself to be drawn into an armed confrontation with Taiwan, writes Yury Kulintsev, Deputy Director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies (IFES) Russian Academy of Sciences.
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Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.