Let the 'games' begin
Nancy Pelosi has come and gone but her Taiwan stopover will resonate – in fact, it may come to be seen as a defining turning point in the standoff between China, the US and Japan.
Nancy Pelosi, center, President Tsai Ing-wen to her right, at the Presidential Office in Taipei. Photo: Office of U.S. House Speaker.
Nancy Pelosi took off from Taipei at about 6pm Taiwan time yesterday, less than 24 hours after she arrived.
We are officially entering our fourth Taiwan Strait crisis.
According to Bloomberg, China has asked its public to give it more time to carry through on threats to punish the US and Taiwan.
So far, the People’s Liberation Army will be conducting live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait until Monday in what effectively amounts to a simulated blockade of the entire country.
The concern is twofold: the military exercises are unprecedented in terms of their encroachment into Taiwan’s territorial waters. Second, is whether the encroachments gather pace to include military flights and missiles.
At the time of publishing they already had.
Even though an accident is undoubtedly low probability, in general that doesn’t stop accidents happening.
China’s provocations should be seen in that light – and should be assessed as high risk.
The G7 foreign ministers stated:
We are concerned by recent and announced threatening actions by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), particularly live-fire exercises and economic coercion, which risk unnecessary escalation. There is no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait. It is normal and routine for legislators from our countries to travel internationally. The PRC’s escalatory response risks increasing tensions and destabilizing the region.
Back to the fourth Taiwan Strait crisis.
The first was in August 1954, when the KMT and the CCP duked it out over Kinmen and Matsu, two small islands just a few miles from the mainland, bringing the US and China to the brink of conflict.
The second once again involved Kinmen and Matsu, with Mao Zedong’s forces launching bombardments, leading US President Dwight D Eisenhower ordering his military to escort and resupply the Taiwanese. Beijing was unable to take the islands and announced a ceasefire.
The third, 37 years later, was in 1995, when China test-fired missiles in Taiwan waters to protest a visit by Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to the United States. More missile tests ensued in the following year when Taiwan held its first direct presidential elections, which Lee won.
On a far less aggressive note, China has also banned imports of a large number of Taiwanese goods and banned sand exports to Taiwan.
Notably, as the Associated Press (among others) reports, Beijing has avoided an own-goal by not acting on Taiwanese-made … chips, which the Chinese need to “assemble the world’s smartphones and other electronics …
Two-way trade soared 26% last year to $328.3 billion. Taiwan, which produces half the world’s processor chips and has technology the mainland can’t match …
“The global economy cannot function without chips that are made in either Taiwan or China,” Carl B. Weinberg of High-Frequency Economics said in a report.
Meanwhile, reports Bloomberg:
Gas suppliers are rerouting or reducing speed on some liquefied natural gas vessels currently en route to North Asia, according to people familiar with the matter. Shipments to Taiwan and Japan this weekend will be affected, said the people, who requested anonymity as the information isn’t public.
Regional shipping delays are not unusual at this time of year – although usually due to typhoons, not to live missile tests.
‘If there is live firing in the part of the straits that are used for navigation, then tanker traffic is likely to divert,’ said Anoop Singh, head of tanker research at Braemar. He added, however, that ‘it is likely counterproductive economically for China to close navigations through the straits.’
Obviously, this fourth Taiwan Strait crisis comes at a time when China is far more powerful than it was during the last one.
We’re almost certainly not looking at several days of military drills and then everything back to normal. All parties are now digging in.
Thanks for reading ChinaDiction! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Mortgage boycotts: the most effective act of protest in China yet?
One day, one of these could be all yours … maybe. Photo: Francisco Anzola, Creative Commons.
Middle-class Chinese home owners are revolting, reports Bloomberg – and Beijing might be paying attention.
It began with a 590-word letter penned by angry purchasers of the half-built Dynasty Mansion project, whose pleas for China Evergrande Group to complete homes they’d long been paying for had fallen on deaf ears. “All homebuyers with outstanding mortgage loans will stop paying,” unless construction resumes before Oct. 20, they threatened.
The ultimatum raced across social media platforms WeChat and Douyin, becoming a call to action for those caught out by China’s rapidly deflating property bubble. In days, the letter became a template for protests from Shanghai to Beijing, and Shenzhen to Zhengzhou, with homeowners cutting and pasting from it to draft their own boycott manifestos. Within four weeks, more than 320 projects in about 100 cities were facing similar protests, roiling markets and forcing authorities to corral banks and developers to defuse the unrest.
It’s a movement that has taken on an unusual momentum for China.
With social stability a must ahead of this year’s Communist Party Congress, their [the protesters] voices have reached the highest office. President Xi Jinping’s Politburo last week called on local officials to “ensure the completion” of housing projects, and state-owned banks are being strong-armed to finance the work.
Despite that, China’s usual stifle dissent processes have kicked into gear:
As the protests mushroomed—and even spread to construction suppliers—authorities took steps to stifle them. Document-sharing links such as kdocs and wolai were banned, as well as overseas platforms like Google Docs and Notion. Only a web page on the GitHub community remains accessible, in part because the platform is vital for many Chinese tech companies.
The boycott shows “something is really wrong with China’s real estate sector,” said Goebel in Vienna. “In terms of teaching a lesson, I think the government is more likely to target the companies than the homeowners.”
Still, it remains to be seen whether all the proposed money will be delivered and how soon the apartments will be finished.
Psst … Wanna a passport?
Sorry, they’re getting hard to buy …
Bloomberg reports that the Chinese elite are losing their favorite escape route to Europe.
Portugal has long lured wealthy Chinese with its mild weather, laid-back and affordable lifestyle—and investor visas that cost €350,000. But these days it's not so easy to get hold of the golden visas, with Portugal tightening the process and Cyprus and Malta scrapping their initiatives.
The Greater Sinosphere
Military preparedness under review
Australian soldier in training, Queensland. Photo: WikiCommons.
Australia’s reviewing its military preparedness, writes the Wall Street Journal (paywall).
A new wide-ranging review of Australia’s military reflects concerns that growing US-China rivalry is making Asia and the Pacific a more dangerous place, the Journal reports.
The issue of Australia’s relationship with China and the US is contentious in Australia, which likes to pride itself on being sensitive to its geographical proximity to “Asia.”
The review will be the most significant reassessment of Australia’s military in decades, said Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles, who has been in the job less than three months. The review will determine what capabilities should be a priority for investment and where those assets should be deployed given the rapidly changing geopolitical situation in the Indo-Pacific, officials said.
‘It’s a fast-changing environment,”’said Angus Houston, who was formerly the highest-ranking officer in the Australian military and was appointed to help lead the reassessment. “‘t’s absolutely imperative that we review the current strategic circumstances, which I rate the worst I have ever seen in my career and lifetime.’
Hissy fits vs diplomacy
Tsai Ing-wen has presented Taiwan to the world with a dignity that will no doubt be to Taiwan’s advantage on the global stage and will increase the electability of her party, the DPP in Taiwan. Image: WikiCommons.
Taiwan has emerged – so far – from the Pelosi visit looking poised, diplomatic and “vibrantly” democratic.
Pelosi met President Tsai Ing-wen and spoke at the legislature, stressing “shared values of self-governance and self-determination” as the basis for abiding friendship between the US and Taiwan, according to Taiwan English-language website New Bloom.
Pelosi herself wrote in the Washington Post:
The Taiwan Relations Act set out America’s commitment to a democratic Taiwan … And it made a solemn vow by the United States to support the defense of Taiwan: “to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means … [is] a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.”
In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.
Indeed, we take this trip at a time when the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy. As Russia wages its premeditated, illegal war against Ukraine, killing thousands of innocents — even children — it is essential that America and our allies make clear that we never give in to autocrats.
But what did Taiwan get out of all this?
Michael Fahey, long-time Taiwan and China observer, told ChinaDiction the question should be, “What did Taiwan and the Tsai administration/DPP get?
If it’s really true that Taiwan is facing a Chinese invasion in the next few years, then the US and the rest of the world are moving too slowly to prevent it. Taiwan’s biggest risk in this scenario is continuing benign neglect.
This visit and the Fourth Taiwan strait crisis that officially begins today focuses unprecedented world attention on Taiwan’s security situation after several years in which Taiwan has been far more prominent on the world stage than before.
But, Fahey and other Taiwan insiders note, China’s reaction to the Pelosi visit will likely play into the DPP’s hands electorally.
This is the point in Tsai’s presidency that she is at the apex of her power and she’s seeking to change the course of Taiwanese history just like her mentor Lee Teng-hui did at more or less the same point. This visit and crisis gives her an opportunity to do just that.
It puts the KMT in a bad position. They are fracturing yet again. The deep blues will want to condemn all this and will probably do it thereby consigning themselves even further to un-electability.
In sum, Taiwan and Tsai got a lot out of this.
Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan, proudly sponsored by FlightRadar24.