6th August 2022
Nancy Pelosi (left) – a willing tool of US imperial ambition
In one sense the question of Taiwan is complicated. Part of China for over two hundred years it was captured by the Japanese in the nineteenth century before being returned to China as part of the Japanese surrender at the end of World War 2. The return was to the nationalists then ruling China, shortly to be overthrown in the 1949 revolution, which established the People’s Republic of China with the leadership of the Communist Party of China.
The defeated Chinese nationalists, who were opposed to the march of the People’s Liberation Army, retreated to Taiwan and proclaimed it to be the Republic of China, claiming sovereignty over the whole of mainland China, as well as the outlying islands of Taiwan. This nonsense was perpetrated internationally until 1971 when the People’s Republic was finally recognised by the international community as legitimately being China.
The policy of the Chinese government has therefore always been that the returned province of Taiwan is part of China and the self proclaimed government of the province has no standing in international law. In this sense the question of Taiwan is not complicated at all, it is part of China, albeit run by an anti-communist clique proclaiming it a democracy. Echoes of Hong Kong.
Only a handful of countries across the world, 14 at last count, recognise the so called ‘government’ of Taiwan; the United States is not one of them. However, this is a classic case of US imperialist smoke and mirrors.
More than 400 American diplomats and staff are based in recently built American Institute of Taiwan offices in Taipei, a $250 million compound built into a lush hill with security provided by marines. Employees offer American citizens in Taiwan consular services and help Taiwanese obtain visas to visit the United States, just as they would anywhere else in the world. In effect this is an embassy in all but name.
Although not officially recognised by the US it is the case that Taiwan is the 11th biggest trading partner of the United States and plays a crucial role in the supply of semi-conductors for Silicon Valley.
The US interest in Taiwan is not about its claims to be supporting or promoting democracy, it is entirely about maintaining its economic interests, restricting China’s role in the Pacific, maintaining a foothold in the region close to the Chinese mainland, backed by its regional allies in South Korea and Japan. Direct Chinese control over Taiwan would, in the view of the US, threaten their economic supply chain for key components as well as potentially diminishing the military leverage the US has in the region.
The US position towards Taiwan is enshrined in the Taiwan Relations Act 1979 (TRA), just over forty years old now, and described by right wing Senator, Marco Rubio, as “the cornerstone of U.S.-Taiwan relations”. Rubio has gone further, effectively articulating the US position towards Taiwan and its geo-political importance, stating,
“We must continue to strengthen our alliance with Taiwan, a fellow democracy, in the face of China’s rising aggression in the region. Taiwan is a critical security partner in achieving our shared goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The TRA commits the US to acknowledge but not recognise, Beijing’s claim to Taiwan; to consider Taiwan’s status as ‘undetermined’, but something that must be resolved peacefully; to view any attempt by China to coerce Taiwan into unification as a grave threat to American security; to authorise the sale of military equipment of a defensive nature to Taiwan in order to keep China at bay; and to establish the de facto embassy under the front name the American Institute in Taiwan.
In July the Biden administration agreed arms sales to Taiwan worth $108m, the fifth of the Biden administration so far, following six separate deals under previous president, Donald Trump. When asked by a reporter in May whether he would be willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan, Biden answered with a clear ’yes’.
China has made its position clear on numerous occasions, with General Li Zuocheng, chief of the Central Military Commission’s joint staff department, advising his U.S. counterpart, General Mark Milley, recently that Washington should end military relations with Taiwan, and “avoid shocks to Sino-U.S. relations and the stability of the Taiwan Strait,” warning that “if anyone provokes arbitrarily, it will inevitably be met with a firm counterstrike by the Chinese people.”
Against this background it is hard to see the visit of the US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, as anything but a provocative piece of sabre rattling by the US. Pelosi occupies a position second in line to the US Presidency, behind Vice President Kamala Harris and, in spite of protestations to the contrary from the White House, could hardly undertake such a visit without official sanction.
Against the background of the US role in provoking and helping sustain war in Ukraine, the Pelosi visit adds a dangerous new twist in the threat to world peace, which the imperialist political and military ambitions of the United States represents.
As Andrew Murray has warned, writing for the Stop the War Coalition, a US – China clash is not a scenario to contemplate as,
“This would be a still more momentous clash than the one over Ukraine. The “proxy” element of the latter war would be missing. It would constitute a direct clash between two great powers, both armed with nuclear weapons.”
The Western media inevitably promotes only the US position and continues its embedded anti-China rhetoric. The anti-war movement must call out Washington’s provocation and win the wider public to the recognition that the status of Taiwan is an issue for China to resolve. Pouring more weapons into Taiwan will simply continue to add fuel to an already raging fire.