Could Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan trigger a war between China and the United States?


US ‘salami tactics’ have brought tensions to the brink, and top Democrat’s trip could light the fuse

In recent years, the United States has unilaterally withdrawn from security agreements with its main adversaries, which has triggered an uncontrolled escalation. This has put Americans on the path to war with countries like Russia and Iran, and Washington is now also taking steps towards an accidental war with China by gradually abandoning the one-China policy. Beijing is now warning of an unprecedented military response if US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes ahead with her planned trip to Taiwan.

The One China Policy and the Policy of Strategic Ambiguity

The United States and China established full diplomatic relations in the 1970s, when Washington transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Washington has pledged to abide by the One China Policy, which states that there is only one China and Taiwan is one of them. However, the United States is simultaneously strengthening Taiwan’s ability to act as an independent state, by supplying weapons.

Thus, for the past four decades, peace between the United States and China has been based on strategic ambiguity over the status of Taiwan.

All the while, the United States and China have been engaged in a “dilemma of deterrence.” Washington has worked to prevent Beijing from forcibly reuniting with Taiwan, by supplying the island with weapons, while China is making Taiwan think twice before officially seceding, by threatening military intervention. As Beijing has grown stronger, US efforts to prevent China from using its military are pushing it to intervene instead.

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In the past, the United States has been reckless in handling the one-China policy, but in recent years Washington has begun to deliberately crowd out that policy. The rise of Beijing threatens the US security strategy based on global primacy, and there is no will in Washington to adapt to a multipolar order. Time seems to be on China’s side as its influence in the region will only increase. On the other hand, American power is declining, which encourages a change of posture vis-à-vis China and the Taiwanese question.

A decade ago, Barack Obama’s administration announced its Asia Pivot, which involved moving US military infrastructure to East Asia in an effort to contain China. His successor, Donald Trump, launched an economic war against Beijing and began using the one-China policy as a bargaining chip. Under President Joe Biden, it looks like the United States will completely abandon its commitments.

Beijing sees the continued efforts to squeeze out the one-China policy in the larger context of the United States’ reluctance to adapt to the multipolar world, and thus to sort out relations with other major powers.

Hollowing out the one China policy

US military cooperation with Taiwan has become more frequent and open, and Washington has pushed for expanded Taiwanese representation in the international system – for example by supporting Taiwan’s participation in the United Nations system. Restrictions on official trade with Taipei have been eased and more US officials have visited the island in what some US lawmakers hail as support for Taiwanese sovereignty. American media and think tanks have also become egregious in denouncing the one-China policy and calling for secession from Taiwan. Biden has repeatedly proclaimed in recent months that the United States would defend Taiwan if China attacked, unraveling the decades-old policy of strategic ambiguity about how the United States would respond.

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These events occurred at a time of growing military and economic rivalry, coupled with broader efforts to destabilize China from within. Yet, as always, Washington proclaims that it is not seeking confrontation with Beijing, but simply defending American values. This is consistent with the larger concept of American hegemony, in which belligerent policies aimed at advancing global primacy are framed as benevolent support for democracy and human rights.

Nancy Pelosi is now tipped to visit Taiwan this week – the first trip by a civil servant of her rank in decades. How should Beijing interpret and respond to this action? Is Pelosi simply a rogue element in the United States, playing grand demagoguery to distract from her personal corruption scandal, or is this part of the larger American salami tactic to gradually separate Taiwan from the China?

Towards an accidental war

Beijing has warned of the most serious consequences if Pelosi follows through on his threat to visit Taiwan. This leads many to believe that Beijing is just bluffing, because risking a war with the United States for a trip by a Washington official seems neither proportionate nor rational.

However, the nature of salami tactics is to portray all responses as disproportionate and irrational. They involve limited but repetitive advances to create new realities on the ground. Small-step revisionism is designed to avoid rapid escalation and eliminate opposition from adversaries and allies, as any response can be described as disproportionate or unprovoked. The political dishonesty of salami tactics is how accidental war begins.


RT

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