US policy could lead to another stupid and dangerous war

The Taiwan Policy Act passed a Senate committee on a bipartisan vote. This is the latest example of the weakening of the US strategy to support the one-China policy. The result could be the very war the bill is supposed to prevent.

Source: Jacobin Mag, Branko Marchetich
Translated by readers of the Les-Crises website

Two Taiwanese military corvettes are at sea during a naval exercise to increase readiness ahead of the Chinese New Year amid an escalating Chinese threat to the island, Keelung, Taiwan, January 7, 2022. (Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

While a war is raging in Europe that is ravaging one country and causing economic upheaval around the world, the conditions for another war with equally dire potential may be brewing on the other side of the continent. And if it did happen, we can say in retrospect that it probably wouldn’t have happened without a series of futile provocations on the part of Washington leaders.

Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved by a vote of 25 to 17 the Taiwan Policy Act, billed by its authors as “the most comprehensive review of American policy toward Taiwan since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979,” which was intended to establish basic principles for American relations with Taiwan after the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and mainland China. The main provisions of the new bill lead to a change in American policy, which is aimed, on the one hand, at granting Taiwan the status of a “major non-NATO ally” and, in this perspective, at providing military aid in the amount of 6.5 billion dollars allocated for training, equipment and weapons, and on the other hand, which provide for a range of sanctions in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

The text of the bill was reportedly changed after Joe Biden’s administration expressed concern that its original wording could jeopardize the “one China” policy that has been the basis of stable and peaceful relations between Beijing and Washington for decades. Instead of being “designated” as a major non-NATO ally, as the original text of the bill stated, Taiwan will now be “considered as designated” by that term, and there is no longer a “directive” to change the name of what is actually the US embassy in Taiwan ; now it’s more of a “recommendation”. At the same time, lawmakers added $2 billion in military aid to the originally planned $4.5 billion.

However, these developments did not reassure the Chinese government, which still considers the bill a true denial of the one-China policy. The cautious diplomatic arrangement involves Washington agreeing to recognize Beijing as the sole legitimate government in all of China, while remaining evasive about which government is sovereign in Taiwan and opposing any reintegration of the island into mainland China by force.

“The one-China principle is the political foundation of Sino-US relations,” said Mao Ning, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, the day after the bill was passed:

If the bill continues to be debated, pursued or even passed, it will significantly shake the political foundation of China-US relations and have extremely serious consequences for the latter, as well as for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

The bill is still a long way from passage, as it must be passed by the entire Senate and House of Representatives and then ratified by the president. But it is possible that the project is moving forward, as there is a broad bipartisan consensus in Washington in favor of a more aggressive American policy toward China. The Taiwan Policy Act was drafted by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and passed by a bipartisan majority in a Senate committee. One of his supporters is Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), generally considered one of the more moderate voices in the Senate, who brought his own delegation to Taiwan last month.

According to its supporters, the bill’s rationale is to serve as a “credible deterrent” against China. This would reduce the risk of a “military offensive” by Beijing on the island, ensuring it does not “show weakness in the face of Chinese threats” and “increasing the cost of taking the island by force so that it becomes too risky.” and unattainable.”

But as the former professor of the US Naval War College, Lyle Goldstein, told Jacobin last month’s bill could easily have had the opposite effect, forcing Chinese leaders to decide that an invasion is now their best option, as ever-increasing US military support for the island could delay a more costly potential invasion for them. Even Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of the “yes” supporters on the Senate committee, has bluntly acknowledged the risk. “We’re doing something very provocative and inflammatory in nature,” he said.

It’s just the latest provocation this year by Democrats against China, which has long made clear it views sovereignty over Taiwan as a key national issue it is willing to go to war with. A controversial visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) last August fueled tensions and prompted Chinese retaliation in the form of threatening military exercises and a breakdown in dialogue with Washington. Since then, at least three other delegations of US officials have repeated Pelosi’s trip, while the US Navy has continued to send warships into Chinese waters.

It goes without saying that any decision by Beijing to attack Taiwan will be the choice of China’s leaders, who will be rightfully responsible for what happens next. But US leaders will bear full responsibility for the consequences of their decision to take a series of actions of a “highly provocative and inflammatory nature” that unnecessarily increase the likelihood of armed confrontation.

And a Chinese attack on Taiwan would be catastrophic and would go far beyond its consequences for the island’s residents. We have already seen at the global level the destabilizing effect of the confrontation between the great powers in Europe. The situation would be much worse in the case of China, whose economy occupies a much larger role in the world economy in several respects. Unlike Russia, China is the main financial sponsor and largest trading partner for most of the world. It is also much more directly related to the evolution of the American economy. (It is estimated that nearly a quarter of a million jobs have been lost as a result of Donald Trump’s trade war against China, and the trade impact of that trade war would be disproportionate to the impact of a war against Taiwan).

From a purely strategic point of view, the approach of the United States is surprising. Even in normal times, in recent years, experienced observers have assessed the risk of the United States losing any war with China over Taiwan as high. These risks would be worse today, as the United States now finds itself actively involved—indeed, almost complicit in war—in a separate war against another great power. (Among other things, this war led to the depletion of US arms stocks due to an unprecedented flow of arms to Ukraine). If, sooner or later, a crisis situation arose in Taiwan for one reason or another, the Americans would be well aware of this reality, which would increase the likelihood that the United States itself would consider itself denied military assistance. actions in the area of ​​the Taiwan Strait. Hardly anyone would deny that Taiwan is incomparably more important to the Chinese leaders and people than to the Americans.

We are not yet at the point of no return in this conflict. But averting the worst will require concerted pressure not only on the Biden administration, but also on Democratic and Republican lawmakers to adopt radically different—that is, more rational—policies toward China. If we don’t, the consequences will be unimaginable.


Branko Marchetich is one of the editors Jacobinhe is also an author Yesterday’s Man: The Case Against Joe Biden (The man from the past, the case against Joe Biden, NdT). He lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Source: Jacobin Mag, Branko Marchetich, 09/19/2022

Translated by readers of the Les-Crises website

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