AUG 9 — Pelosi’s trip is used as the needed pretext for Beijing to initiate the greater strategic and bellicose actions in forcing Taiwan’s hands with starker threats and deterrence.
The fierce responses are intended to intimidate and to provide direct threat and coercive tactics to force Taipei to face the harsh reality that Beijing will remain fully in control of its fate, and that Washington can only do so much in periodical and limited terms.
The largest military drills with firing of missiles and incursions of more than 100 planes are all geared as preparatory drills and tests for potential blockade and invasion, using this platform as the most useful avenue in testing the capacities to execute the full invasion option.
Aggressive methods will be deemed as the new status quo, pivoting away from the sustained but controlled pressuring and grey zone tactics used, as can be seen in the decision for the drills to remain in place.
It remains irresponsible and provocative for Beijing to take this countermeasure disproportionately, in responding to the visit. It will only heighten the risks of missteps and miscalculations, which will then be galvanised by Beijing in pinning the blame on Washington as the first provocateur and justifying its moral and sovereign card in future potential fall-out.
The six zones assigned are also meant to be a strong message to Taipei that Beijing’s military might and invasion capacity is not confined to the Taiwan Strait alone.
It signals the start of the intention by Beijing to justify its new norms of greater bellicose actions in cutting off Taiwan from the rest of the world, using means of intimidation, coercions and direct deterrence. By using Pelosi’s trip as the persistent pretense, it now gives Beijing freer hands to mount a more comprehensive and greater options on the table to exert considerable force and other cards in strengthening control and grip over Taipei.
The responses are also needed as a timely distraction from the current internal crises of economic and financial squeezes and the discontent on the Covid-zero policy, and to galvanise national resolve by the reliance on growing patriotism and nationalist sentiments of the people. It risks backfiring on the future stability with unyielding hypernationalism will risk overheating and creating a different challenge and demand which will be a challenge for the CCP to bear.
Ties with other countries will be affected by the forceful public intention and demand, although so far it has been used as a positive card in giving national credence to the actions by Beijing in its competition with Washington. The recent call between Xi and Biden reinforced the sentiment and public demand card, with Xi highlighting the call for reunification with Taiwan is the wish of the more than 1.4billion Chinese people and warning Biden not to play with fire. Xi needs the unequivocal responses both to meet internal demand at the public and party levels, in riding out a difficult year for him personally in managing his crises and to cement his leadership grip in the party Convention come this Fall. Greater options on the table remain on Xi’s hands after his leadership consolidation, where a full scale island invasion or greater assertive moves in the region in the future will be justified by Beijing, in tracing the roots of the causes to this ,among others, and will pin blame on the Americans as the provocateurs.
The dangerous and new tactical game played by Beijing risks greater backfiring, with Washington and the containment team now having higher moral card in justifying their counter-responses and in cementing their ironclad commitment in defending the international law and norms established, besides raising greater realisation and support in the framework and cause of defending the ideals of rules-based order and democracy in opposing autocracy and the mantra of might is right.
Beijing has justified its actions as needed based on the provocations by the US and accusing Washington with the intent to change the status quo and in using the Taiwan card in its containment and encirclement of China. Beijing has also furiously and steadfastly asserted that it was the US which has been undermining the international adherence to national sovereignty and territorial integrity by instigating the Taiwan card, notwithstanding the fact that the People’s Republic of China has always maintained that Taiwan remains an inseparable part of the PRC and that it has always been the ultimate red line.
As hypocritical a stance as it can be, Beijing has continuously undermined the rules-based order through its sustained provocative and dangerous actions in the region and beyond, disregarding the genuine concerns and rights of the affected states in protecting their national sovereignty and territorial integrity. All actions that are deemed to threaten the strategies and interests of Beijing are seen as the containment efforts from the West,and framed as anti China narratives. From incursions to other states’ EEZ to downright coercive tactics in claiming territories, the states on this end of the pressure and threats by Beijing remain persistently under-equipped to defend their own national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Washington has also repeatedly assured Beijing that it has no intention to change the status quo and will stick to the agreed policy, a point further reinforced by Taiwanese Premier Tsai-ing wen herself together with Pelosi during their joint press conference in Taipei, further reinforced by the constant and consistent same message from the White House. For Beijing to act dangerously in response to this trip will then be seen as an act of unnecessary escalation and confrontation with provocations to change the stakes at play.
The missiles fired during these drills last weekend also fell on the EEZ of Japan, prompting strong diplomatic responses and rebuke from Tokyo and Washington as well as other concerned parties. The targeting of Japan’s EEZ also sends a two-pronged message; underlining the ability and readiness for China to push Japan into the game over Taiwan with its target capacity and as an indirect threat and deterrence to Tokyo in keeping out of its internal affairs in dealing with Taiwan.
By capitalising on this systemic imbalance in power parity, Beijing continues to up the ante and to widen the gap by galvanising other tactical tool of using economic interdependence and risky capital ties to further push the impacted states to the level of subdued responses through this divide and conquer strategy. These also include increasing depth in measures of influencing other states’ internal affairs through various channels from media influence to political interference as has been accused by Canberra and Taipei and other states, as well as espionage in various forms including cyber in providing Beijing with critical advantage in its long term strategies of both soft and hard power projections. Great success has been attained, with dominant sways and prevailing anti-West narratives in higher levels of platforms and openings in painting the picture of US-China rivalry.
Other players have been practising restraint in avoiding escalation and worsening tensions in this saga, resorting to diplomatic engagement and protests and playing their part in toning down the risks of miscalculations from the intense pressuring and sabre-rattling methods by Beijing. China should play its part as a matured player in the region in realising the impact and reorienting its strategies of using these hard-hitting responses to Pelosi’s visit as its tactical and strategic advantage in the medium range game, which will risk greater backfiring.
*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.