One China Eyepoking Too Far: Biden Signals US Not Backing Down on Pelosi Taiwan Visit as China Promises Military Response

The US is run by spoiled children who won’t take “no” for an answer. While I am not privy to what China has in the way of plans for Taiwan, and I welcome being corrected, I have yet to see any of the neocons make a substantiated allegation that China intended to invade Taiwan prior to the US meddling by arming Taiwan and supporting its nationalists. My impression from a considerable remove is that China was clearly not happy about Taiwanese declarations of independence, but was prepared to be patient and let time do its work.

Specifically, China over time is becoming more affluent, which more high-level, well-paid technical and professional positions. And China has been encouraging Taiwanese to take them. See this 2018 article from Forbes:

On February 28, Beijing announced 31 measures that make it easier for Taiwanese to work, invest and study in China. Wages are 60% lower in China than in Taiwan for ordinary, entry-level jobs, according to ManpowerGroup. But even without the new measures, Taiwanese can earn 1.2 to 1.3 times more pay in China than at home for skilled, non-entry level jobs.

The pay gap in favor of China for these skilled positions is even greater than it appears, since the cost of living is lower in China than Taiwan.

So if China could get more Taiwanese to live in China, or simply see it as not problematic to move back and forth, it would establish among the Taiwanese the notion that China and Taiwan were in practical terms not separate, and the Taiwanese would be worse off by denying themselves opportunities in China. In other words, China could over the long term, say a 20 year horizon, use commerce, not force, to achieve its ends.

But the US is frustrated at the China monster it has created. The US pushed to let China into the WTO even though it did not meet the requirements at the time. The US also ran sustained and large trade deficits with China, so our demand was a key driver of its rapid rise.

It boggles the mind that the US is now upset that turning China into its factory and seeking to enrich 1.4 billion citizens so we could sell them Disney movies and deodorant had led to China becoming a dominant economic and increasingly important military power. If it was obvious enough in 2007 for Putin to talk about a multi-polar order at the Munich Security Conference, it was obvious to anyone paying a smidge of attention.

The neocons above all seem unable to process that the days of US hegemony are over. It boggles the mind that they are not just eyepoking but escalating greatly with China via the still-planned Pelosi visit to Taiwan in August. As we’ll explain, China is fully cognizant of the fact that Pelosi is number two in line after Harris should something happen to the increasingly addle-brained Biden. And they don’t buy for a second that Pelosi is operating without the explicit approval of the Administration.

Note that it’s entirely possible that Pelosi revived her Taiwan trip plan (recall she put it off after coming down with Covid) all on her own. The Pentagon gave her a face-saving out by saying they didn’t recommend it.1

China, which is routinely screechy when it is upset about what it perceives to be foreign transgressions, has managed to find new registers in its objections the proposed Pelosi visit. We’ve cited this passage from an official editorial at the house organ Global Times on Tuesday July 19 (emphasis ours):

Unlike Washington’s opportunistic probing, all options are clearly on the table for the Chinese mainland. The noose around the neck of the “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces is tightening, and Pelosi has one foot on the stool of the gallows. If Pelosi, who has always been fond of playing tough on China, wants to insist on this way, we will definitely prepare sufficient “consequences” for her.

We’ll stick with Global Times. A week later, on Tuesday, the 26th:

After the Chinese Foreign Ministry stressed that China had made sterner warnings to US officials and China is fully prepared for any eventuality over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned Taiwan trip on Monday, the Chinese Defense Ministry on Tuesday vowed that if the US insists, the Chinese military will by no means sit idly by and strong measures will be taken to thwart any external interference and “Taiwan independence” separatist attempts….

Tan Kefei, a spokesperson of China’s Ministry of National Defense, said on Tuesday that if Pelosi, as the No.3 US politician, visits Taiwan, it will be a serious violation of the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, and it will seriously damage China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the political basis for China-US relations…

China demands the US to fulfill its commitment of not supporting Taiwan secessionism and not arrange Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Tan said, noting that if the US persists, the Chinese military will by no means sit idly by….

The New York Times reported on Monday that internal worries have sharpened in recent days, as the Biden administration quietly tries to dissuade Pelosi from going through with the proposed visit.

Another take from the Global Times:2

Yet after the Pentagon cleared its throat and Pelosi played dumb, Biden not only is not be intervening but now fully owns this visit. Biden is trying the lame-brained move of attempting to persuade Xi, via a phone call this Thursday. From the Financial Times:

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will hold a telephone call on Thursday….

The planned call would be only the fifth conversation between the two leaders since Biden became US president 18 months ago.

Biden and the Chinese president had been expected to discuss many contentious issues, from military challenges to technology competition. But those plans have been complicated by Pelosi’s intended visit to Taiwan in August….

The White House is extremely concerned that her visit could spark a crisis across the Taiwan Strait. Biden has sent top officials, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, to explain the risks. But that has been complicated by the fact that Congress is independent and he has no formal power to block her visit.

Bloomberg reports that if Pelosi’s visit proceeds, it would happen “within days” of the Xi-Biden call.

As far as China is concerned, there is not putting lipstick on this pig. The US is demonstrating, just as Russia has charged, that it is not agreement capable. An April post summarized some of the recent cases of US overplaying its hand with China and not having the common sense to recognize its heavy-handed moves were backfiring:

….the US has tried at least twice (three times with China if you count the recent China-EU teleconference with Xi) to get China to side with the West against Russia, pushing China into “What about ‘no’ don’t you understand?” terrain. Rather than hewing to the convention of having summits only after groundwork was laid so that at least nothing visibly bad happens, Team Biden set out to pick a fight with China at their first get together, in Alaska in March 2021, with the US springing new sanctions on China the day before the session.

This humble blog was featuring at least once a week examples of Biden Administration continuing its eyepoking of China in our Links before the war broke out.

Then in March, Jake Sullivan was set to meet with Yang Jiechi in Rome and threatened China with sanctions. The pretext was disinformation in the form of a Financial Times story claiming that Russia had asked to buy weapons from China (this was clearly absurd because by the time the war had started would be way too late; Russia would have needed to procure and integrate equipment months prior).1 Needless to say, Yang didn’t give any ground.

So not taking no as an answer, Biden had the cheek to call Xi that very same week and ask for China’s help. Xi effectively said this wasn’t his problem: “He who puts the bell on the tiger is the one to take it off.” Biden also said he very much wanted better relations with China and gave lip service to the one-China policy in the chat. That allowed Xi to say he took that statement very seriously: What about all these American officials who were promoting a “wrong understanding” about Taiwan?…

I’m not double checking the dates, but my recollection is that it was shortly after the EU-Xi talk that the US announced new sanctions against China, mainly against officials accused of oppressing Uighurs…

And we expect them to side with us? It’s not the most important form of payback, but China has taken to stating regularly in official media that the war in Ukraine is America’s fault.

Needless to say, China is considering far more serious responses to the Pelosi provocation than just jerking America’s chain over Ukraine. But if the pink paper is any guide, the West is again in delusion land about what that might entail:

But he [Zack Cooper, an Asia expert at the American Enterprise Institute] said that if Pelosi proceeded, it would likely spark the biggest confrontation since the so-called third crisis in 1995 and 1996 when China fired missiles into waters around Taiwan to intimidate its government and citizens…..

The US is also concerned about dangerous Chinese military manoeuvres. Milley told the FT and the Associated Press in an interview this week that China had significantly increased the number of dangerous intercepts of US military aircraft by Chinese fighter jets over the South China Sea.

The White House and Pentagon are worried that China could send fighters to intercept Pelosi’s aircraft as she heads towards Taiwan in a provocative move that could bring US and Chinese aircraft into very close contact.

If the Chinese level of ire is any guide, having Chinese fighter jets deny Pelosi a landing in Taiwan is on the mild end of possible responses. If that were to happen and the plane was escorted to land in mainland China, I could see the Chinese rubbing salt in the wound by not letting anyone in the aircraft deplane.

China is considering how to use a Pelosi visit to set far more important precedents. Hu in the Global Times clip above mentioned declaring a no-fly zone or having PLA jets fly with Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan airspace. As the Global Times noted: “That would set a great precedent for the PLA to patrol above the island, which would be far more meaningful than Pelosi’s visit.”

As with provoking Russia, the US may be about to get what it sought with Taiwan and find out that the results are not to its advantage. And as an American, it’s depressing to see so much incompetence and arrogance on display.


1 Biden holds all the cards. He could have hauled Pelosi into his office and reminded her of the Supreme Court decision Haig v. Agee, which allows the Administration to cancel passports in matters of national security. The Pentagon warning gave Biden the needed cover, as do the additional threats by China of military action. Biden to Pelosi: “How dare you challenge me over this. I will cancel your passport if you force me to. You can then see me in court. If you want to precipitate a Constitutional crisis and hand this country to the Republicans at the midterms, be my guest. I’d rather have that than have you start World War III.” LBJ or Nixon would not have hesitated to have that sort of chat even with no favorable Supreme Court ruling in hand.

2 I like that the Chinese publication uses a presumed political expert whose English is less than perfect rather than a polished talking head with lovely pronunciation. I take it as a measure of seriousness that they aren’t pandering to Western prejudices.

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  1. Pat

    Thank you for pointing out that her passport can be cancelled. That was my first thought, but then I remember when not wanting grandstanding idiots to start a war was SOP.

    1. Michaelmas

      The US is run by extremely stupid, spoiled children.

      How did things get this bad? One contributory cause is that the two primary eminence grises of US policymaking — Bzrezinski and Andy Marshall at the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment — aged out, lost power, and died in the last decade. Whatever one thought of those guys they were smart.

      The void has been filled by the idiot neocons.

        1. Michaelmas

          Oh, I agree about Bzrezinski and I know all that about him, and worse. Marshall wasn’t that nice either, in the sense that his calls on Pentagon procurement and strategy through eleven administrations got many people killed around the planet outside the U S.

          But relatively they were much smarter. The current crowd is ignorant, arrogant, and too frighteningly stupid to know that they’re frighteningly stupid.

        2. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Yves.

          Another Polish aristo fighting a war, or getting others to do so. At least, he is an aristo, unlike Ruritanian fake Radek Sikorski. I wonder if Sikorski seduced his missus Anne Applebaum, with his fake aristo schtick.

        3. Matthew G. Saroff

          Yes, and Brzezinski also destroyed Afghanistan by bankrolling banditry in the highlands and turning it into Jihad. (He bragged about it)

          He was a very bad man, and his evil continues to plague us to this day.

      1. LAS

        “The US is run by extremely stupid, spoiled children.”

        “How did things get this bad?”

        I think a lot of it is the structure of power and not so much individuals choosing to be spoiled children. It’s as if the state has less influence but nonetheless has to accept public blame for policy sought by the most influential capitalists. Our federal government is not unipolar but weak while there are other players with power. For instance Pelosi’s decision to make the trip to Taiwan probably is very open to influence — from big campaign donors.

      2. Lex

        Hard times create strong people. Strong people create good times. Good times create weak people. Weak people create hard times. We’re in the fourth sentence.

        1. Janie

          I’m so stealing this; it reminds me of “back to the cotton patch in three generations.”

  2. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    As so often, Yves’ pithy opening remark(s) summarises / depicts what’s going on / wrong.

    I won’t comment much on what goes on in DC, but hope that former UK official David pipes up about the different forces at play in DC.

    Yves is not wrong to call out the children. Why? Much of the UK and US policy making and measures are proposed by people often relatively young and with little or no experience of and even interest in the area of policy making they are currently engaged in. Few speak a (relevant) foreign language and may not even have visited the region in question. They have no concept of the long term, hence NAFTA, China’s accession into the WTO, Ukrainian membership of NATO and even Brexit. The revolving door with think tanks, Wall Street and DC and, increasingly Whitehall, does not require career long expertise a la David or, say, India’s foreign minister Jaishankar. The MSM mirror is similar, hence the coverage and lack of insight and analysis.

    Let me conclude with an anecdote from early 2010. In advance of the UK’s general election, my employer, a City trade body, invited the leaders of the three main parties to working lunches with us, the staff, and the CEOs of the biggest banks operating in London. Cameron, Osborne and veteran bruiser Ken Clarke attended for the Tories. That was a surreal experience, which I will write more about when relevant. The youngsters, Cameron and Osborne, had been advisers at the Treasury and crossed swords with my boss, then a Treasury minister under Major and Clarke. Cameron and Osborne just recited parody neo con and neo liberal talking points. After the trio were escorted out, the CEOs of HSBC and Standard Chartered, with their vast experience in the emerging markets, compared the pair to boys, wondered how they would take on men like Obama, Putin and Hu Jintao, and wished Ken Clarke was Tory leader. Their views on the EU, including withdrawal from the main right wing group in the European Parliament, were equally ill thought out and ill informed.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    Even Reagan and Bush I and II played Taiwan very carefully and to my memory never deliberately eye-poked China. Apart from arrogance and stupidity, the only logic I can see to this is that some neocon’s believe it is better to provoke a direct conflict with China now, when they feel they can win, than in 10 years time, when the military balance may be very different.

    Just a point on Taiwanese people moving to China. Its important not to see Taiwan as some sort of ethnic monolith. From what I’ve heard from Taiwan friends, the people moving are almost all native mandarin or Cantonese speaking ethnic Han – the descendants of the KMT people who took over the island post WWII. From the perspective of many, if not the majority of Taiwanese, its good riddance. While they are ethnically ‘Han’ (many deny this, its very common for Taiwanese to claim indigenous blood, even when that’s unlikely), most Taiwanese speak speak variations on Hokkien and Hakka which are not mutually intelligible with Mandarin and many/most don’t see themselves as Chinese either politically, ethnically or linguistically. While the loss of those people is certainly an economic blow, it reinforces, not weakens the perception of the Taiwanese majority that they are not Chinese.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The self-image you report does not seem well supported by facts:

      According to governmental statistics, in the early 21st century, 95% to 97% of Taiwan’s population are Han Chinese, while about 2.3% are Taiwanese of Austronesian ethnicity…..

      Most Taiwanese speak Mandarin. Around 70% of the people also speak Taiwanese Hokkien and 10% speak Hakka.

      This rather reminds me of every Hungarian I have ever met (I am part Hungarian so I am allowed to say this) claiming they are descended from royalty, or at worst their aristo close relatives. This might be technically possible if the noble families were randy enough, but I don’t see any Hungarians on the “top fathers” lists like this one.

      1. Bill Wilson

        Please … the majority of those that might be “Han” Chinse came to Taiwan 300 years ago. There is a very real separate Taiwanese identity. The KMT propaganda calling everyone “Chinese” worked until the mid 1980’s when Taiwanese were allowed to visit China where they quickly realized that they had been fed propaganda. The Chinese in China (culture wise) are not the same as “Chinese” in Taiwan.

        Remember the vast majority of Taiwanese people’s ancestors lived under Japanese rule for 50 years, and there are still strong Japanese / Taiwanese links.

        What you are saying is akin to calling all Australians English.

        I’m very surprised to see you not supporting self determination.

        Maybe then the US should be given back to the UK if Boris demands it.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Bill.

          Make America Great (Britain) Again (and get health care free at the point of delivery). What’s not to like?

        2. Louis Fyne

          the big issue is that US Establishment and media is feeding Taiwan an impressiom that the US will militarily bailout Taiwan. Not going to happen.

          barring a 9/11, Pearl Harbor moment the US public will not support a war/no-fly zone over Taiwan.

          and that is assuming that the US Navy can project a credible conventional deterrent.

          fighting China todày on its door step? no way. that would be nothing like the Pacific in 1944. The Chinese today are a more evenly matched peer than the Japanese in 1941

          Pelosi and McConnell are rhetorically writing checks that the Pentagon can’t cash.

          1. timbers

            “The big issue is that US Establishment and media is feeding Taiwan an impression that the US will militarily bailout Taiwan. Not going to happen.”

            That’s exactly it. Pelosi and the Establishment couldn’t care less about Taiwan freedom and independence. Look at what they are doing in Yemen and Gaza, Libya Iraq Iran Afghanistan Syria etc. If they did, they’d instead be hard at work giving our freedom back, here in the US.

            Twain freedom and independence is the marketing slogan. Their real goal is probably similar to what it is right now in Ukraine/Russia – weaken China, split her up into segments that the globalists can control and use for greater profit and wealth, and feed the MIC. Nancy probably owns stock at Raytheon after all. Just as Pelosi and the US Establishment are fighting to the last Ukrainian, they probably think they can fight China to last Taiwanese.

            And that could end up as bad or worse for Taiwan as it has for Ukraine. The must know this. But the could not care less about that likely outcome.

        3. WalterM

          Twenty years ago I worked with a couple who had come from Taiwan, both wonderful people. Their ancestors came from China several hundred years ago. They identified as “Taiwanese.” The husband had a remarkably positive view of the Japanese occupation, although he was certainly born after it ended. I think he saw it as responsible colonial governance, and not oppressive.

          They did not support the KMT (preferring, I think, the recently elected Democratic Progressive Party) at all. Taiwanese independence was a tricky subject. They viewed their nation/people/country as culturally, and perhaps historically, distinct from mainland China, but perhaps tied to it by the decades long rule of the KMT, who, even at that late date, still apparently imagined that communism would fall and they would be welcomed back as China’s rulers (I’m sure they were encouraged in this view by the US). I think my friends may have supported independence, but may also have seen how difficult it would be to achieve. I don’t think they waved the flag much.

          My personal view is that, although Taiwan has had a difficult history since 1949, it now provides a decent life to its people, and it would be a pity for it to become just another province of China, especially as the result of a bloody invasion. China started at the same time in a terrible situation, and has done an even more remarkable job of building itself and its people up, but they are two different places, and two different systems. Let them work it out peacefully. If that can happen.

          Finally, I think the most ridiculous comparison would be with Russia and Ukraine.

        4. drumlin woodchuckles

          If 300 million Americans have a shared extended collective ” awwww fukkitt” moment, perhaps we might decide we prefer to restore governing power back to the Indian Nations and then throw ourselves on their mercy, or work things out with them, or whatever; rather than be “given back” to the country which put us on this whole road to nowhere to begin with.

      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves.

        I thought of you when was published and meant to e-mail you.

        Readers from that part of Mitteleuropa, including Vlad, may enjoy, too.

        Your quip sounds like what us with roots in southern Africa joke, “We have never met a Nigerian who wasn’t a chief.” It applies to some Brits in NYC, too. Their claim to aristocracy, often in pursuit of fortunes and nubile women, have poisoned the well for others, vide, er, Lord Levitt.

        1. tindrum

          As a child in Zambia I was brought up on “Van de Merwe” jokes and taking the piss out of the yarpies. I recall hearing (perhaps apocryphal) that the South Africans were convinved that they could dig deep holes better than anyone so they challenged the Russians to a hole digging contest…and lost.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, T.

            I have heard such jokes about Japie and the vd Merwes from anglophone South Africans.

            1. David

              Van der Merwe, for those who don’t know, is the archetypal thick (white) Afrikaner, often a farmer. Curiously (for life is like that) I’ve actually heard educated, urban Afrikaners making vd Merwe jokes.

              1. Jan

                Which somehow reminded me of the first books by tom sharpe; Riotous assembly and Indecent exposure. Both in apartheid south africa.

      3. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves.

        Dad thought his Al Saud patients were bad, but this lot take the biscuit.

        Joking apart, some ambitious City and Wall St women who think about such clinics fear that the Aryan Olympian with a brain like Einstein donor they sign up for will turn out to be anything but.

      4. PlutoniumKun

        Most Taiwanese associate their identity with language. They are all considered Han, but as i said, its a very common thing for random Taiwanese to claim an indigenous ancestor – that doesn’t stop them putting ‘Han’ as their ethnicity on any form. Its a means of distinguishing themselves from the more recent unasked for immigrants.

        They nearly all speak Mandarin because that’s the primary language of schooling and the media. But its not the primary language at home.

        1. Ray in JinShan

          Yikes… try living in Taiwan.
          Outside Taipei it is Taiwanese that people speak (they call it Taiwanese – TaiYu or MinNanYu).
          The only reason Mandarin is spoken is that for many years if you spoke Taiwanese in school you got beaten. Yes … true. And you never used to be able to hear Taiwanese on TV (I lived there during martial law).
          Only with the DPP coming to power has Taiwanese made it back into the school as a class.
          Correction: Most Taiwanese associate their identity as a nationality – they consider themselves Taiwanese. (except for maybe the 20% whose ancestors came in 1949)

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Thanks for the perspective. I should emphasize that I’m only commenting from an outsiders viewpoint. The ‘differentness’ of Taiwan was something that continually surprised me on my first visit as I was expecting it to be… well, like a slightly more advanced version of the China I knew. I was quickly disabused of that notion.

      5. Jessica

        Yves, from the time I have spent on Taiwan, there are two quite distinct Han populations on Taiwan that are quite aware of themselves as such.
        The far larger Han population came to Taiwan during the period from the 1600s until 1895, when Japan seized Taiwan. Until the 1600s, Taiwan was populated by the Austronesian people who are now the 2-3% indigenous. The second Han population, around 10% of the total population, arrived with Chiang-Kai Shek at the end of the Chinese Civil War. They were seen as outside invaders and they celebrated their arrival by killing tens of thousands of Taiwanese. To this day, everyone in Taiwan is very aware of that wave of terror. February 28 is a public holiday. Its name in English is the anodyne Peace Memorial Day, but when I was there, everyone called it something very different in Mandarin and the history of the terror killings was much discussed.
        I have not been to Taiwan in a few years, so I cannot be sure, but if those going to the mainland for the good jobs were mostly from the 10% descended from the 1948 invaders, it would not surprise me in the least if the rest of the Han population was less than distraught to see them go.
        It is in the nature of nations to claim to be of earlier origin and more natural, more deeply rooted, more inevitable than they really are. But nations are also the product of the quirks of history. That the Germanic people wound up having the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria (and the Flemish portion of Belgium) was not inevitable. The rump Austrian state left after all the non-Germans broke away at the end of WW1 named itself German Austria and tried to join Germany. It was only a vindictive veto by France that prevented this. That Scandinavia would be divided into three nations was not inevitable and for most of its history, it was not.
        When I was in Taiwan in 1980, it seemed to be a rival Chinese regime. But when I was there for about a year a few years ago, it had become a separate nation. If there was a plebiscite free of the threat of Chinese interference, I have no doubt that the vote would be strongly, even overwhelmingly in favor of independence. The suppression of Hong Kong will have only made this more true.
        However, this cuts both ways. If China does succeed in absorbing Taiwan, it will eliminate Taiwan as a nation. That process will be nasty, possibly lethal, maybe even as bad as the US occupation of Iraq.

      6. Science Officer Smirnoff

        This rather reminds me of every Hungarian I have ever met (I am part Hungarian so I am allowed to say this) claiming they are descended from royalty, or at worst their aristo close relatives. This might be technically possible if the noble families were randy enough, but I don’t see any Hungarians on the “top fathers” lists like this one.

        Many will recall the references to royalty made by a Hungarian character in Shaw’s famous play (Pygmalion).

    2. SocalJimObjects

      Neither Hokkien nor Hakka is native to Taiwan. Hokkien came from the Fujian province (just across from Taiwan). I don’t know who your friends are, but I went to school with a bunch of Taiwanese and I have friends in Taiwan (did I mention I am going there in September?). Almost everyone hates the CCP to the bones, but they have no problems admitting they are Chinese first. Hokkian is also widely spoken by Chinese diasporas in South East Asia, where I live. Ask a Chinese Singaporean/Malaysian/Indonesian if he/she is a Chinese, and the answer will be yes unequivocally. Being a Chinese does not equal being a CCP supporter. One also does not have to be a Mainland Chinese citizen.

      Saying that the Taiwanese don’t see themselves as Chinese is one of the weirdest things I’ve seen in this site. They don’t see themselves as Chinese, so they:
      1. Celebrate every single Chinese cultural event from Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival, Tomb Sweeping Festival etc.
      2. Speak and use Mandarin daily. Sure Taiwanese use traditional writing, and not the simplified version, but the former is also widely used in the Guangdong province. When speaking though, it doesn’t really matter because the pronunciation is the same. My Chinese teacher is someone who lives in Shanghai and she tells me that many people living in the South can read both traditional/simplified. The way she put it is the following: “no one from Taiwan or Mainland China has ever gone hungry from visiting the other side” i.e. they can read each other’s menus. Heck they can read Japanese menus too, but that’s a separate conversation :)

      1. Ray in JinShan

        You are confusing “ethnicity” and “nationality”.
        This is PRC propaganda – “We are all Chinese”. This is actually almost the text book definition of racism.
        Yes, white people will acknowledge they are white, but it is not the same as saying Canadians are Americans.
        You are ignoring today’s “facts on the ground”. The people in Taiwan want to be a recognized country. There is a strong national pride in the country they have built.
        China is being a “bully” under Xi. It is high time for the world to tell him to back off.
        Taiwan is Taiwan just as Canada is Canada and not the USA. (same language, same general background of the peoples … but 2 different nationalities).

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Saying Hokkien nor Hakka is native to Taiwan is a little like saying English isn’t native to England because it originated in Saxony and France. They have been the primary languages of Taiwan for at least 5 centuries.

        And yes, of course many say they are Chinese – plenty consider themselves the ‘real’ Chinese because they have preserved the older forms of hanzi and so on. Identity is complicated.

        The only true measure is what people vote for. And the Taiwanese people consistently vote for parties who advocate separation.

        1. SocalJimObjects

          And the primary language used in daily life in Guangdong is Cantonese.

          “What people vote for”. That’s from a Western perspective. Seems like you get an automatic seat at Nancy’s plane.

          People are what they repeatedly do. The Taiwanese vote every 4 years, but they celebrate Chinese New Year every year. Likewise Tomb Sweeping Day, Mid Autumn Festival, etc. And of course they speak Chinese every day.

          I can see now how war will eventually happen between the West and the East.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            It seems that half the US celebrates St. Patrick’s Day and Hallowe’en every year, I’m not sure that has any geopolitical meaning.

            And with respect, I’m not sure of any other way of measuring peoples political aspirations than looking at long term voting trends. Unless you think that small countries should do as US leftists tell them is in their interests to do, as seems to be quite a theme for Taiwan. Its possible of course that support for moderate pro-independent parties is down to bread and butter issues or external manipulation, but the long term decline of the KMT as it has switched to being the pro-Beijing party is surely significant.

            1. hk

              That used to have some geopolitical meaning….until about 100 years ago. I do imagine that that was indirectly related to much of the funding for IRA during the various troubled times during 20th century coming from US, though. Having said that, I honestly don’t know what exactly the “Taiwanese” nation looks like to its advocates now. I wrote a while ago about the schizophrenia about Japanese colonial attitude towards Korean cultural identity, waffling between “people to be Japanesed” and “Koreans loyally serving Japanese Empire.” I think they were much clearer about Taiwanese: either “to be Japanesed” or “Taiwanese in loyal service of Japanese Empire, but definitely not Chinese–even culturally.” I wonder how much of that remains today, whether people conscientiously think about this or not, and how much of this thinking (or the suspicion/opposition thereto) is motivating the “Chinese” side of the ledger–both ROC and PRC.

        2. hk

          Many Taiwanese don’t (necessarily) vote for the Green camp because of “independence.” The idea of “independence” is popular in the abstract, as far as I know–indeed fairly overwhelmingly so now. How badly the Taiwanese want to sever themselves from China, whether many will want to actually “fight” for it, seems unclear. The “pro China” crowd is small, but they are more committed to their cause in general as I understand it. But my understanding is out of date by about a decade and there were fears about China infiltrating Taiwan economically and socially–some, like Chinese corporations buying their way into Taiwanese institutions, seemed more justified, but others, like the dislike of “Chinese” women marrying Taiwanese men and settling in Taiwan (most of these, as I understand it, were Fujianese, speaking nearly the same dialect as “Taiwanese”) seemed downright “racist” at times. Overall, there are odd analogues, ethnic culturally, between Ukraine and Taiwan. Most Ukrainians (at least 70 pct or so), see themselves as separate from Russians and don’t necessarily care for Moscow’s direct rule, even as most of them see themselves as part of closely related East Slavic/Orthodox peoples. But only a small minority (including literal Nazis) cared enough to impose an ultranationalist rule throughout the country. A significant minority, cared enough about being “Russian” that they rose in armed revolt. Substitute most of the “Taiwanese” for “Ukrainians,” pro-China for Russophone, and Japan for Nazis (one of the thing that really struck me was how well Lee Teng-Hui spoke Japanese, on NHK, and many/some “Taiwanese” would rather have their capital to the east (ie literal “Tokyo”) than to the north (ie “Beijing”) if the push came to shove, although, again most would, as far as I know, rather not have to think about it.) and there’s a strange symmetry.

        3. Kouros

          The Confederacy was not allowed to vote to leave the Union. China will not allow Taiwan to leave the embrace of Beijing…

      3. hk

        People make distinction between “Zhonghua” vs “Zhonghua”: many Taiwanese will say they are former (Cultural Chinese) but dislike association with the latter (Chinese state, or even “Chinese nation” with political implications).

        1. Jessica

          Respectfully, did you mean that they make the distinction between Zhonghua and Zhongguo?

            1. hk

              NO frick’n kidding. Some ignorant changes introduced by autocorrect are downright chilling. :/

      4. hk

        Well, Kanji IS classical Chinese script. Having learned (some) Chinese script in Korean and Japanese, I found the “simplified” script in PRC to be pretty baffling at times personally.

        1. Procopius

          It’s like one of the great physicists said of quantum mechanics, “When you begin studying it, it’s strange. Then, when you study it some more, it’s very strange. And then you just get used to it.”

    3. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, PK.

      Tory Dr Strangelove and army intelligence reservist Tobias Ellwood and the Grauniad’s Simon Tisdall reckon NATO should strike Russia now, in Ukraine and Russia itself, before Russia and China further cement their alliance and become too big and powerful to contain. These are serious people, apparently.

    4. hk

      But “Taiwanese” dialects are not really different from Fujian/Zhejiang dialects just across the Strait, no?

      1. Jessica

        Taiwanese/Fujian/Zhejiang are not dialect of a language called Chinese. They are languages within a language family called Chinese. Chinese in that sense is comparable to Indo-European or at least Germanic, not to English or French. Some of the Chinese languages have large numbers dialects of their own.

        1. hk

          What’s a “language” vs. a “dialect” is, literally, something that started wars over. Some people would have claimed, in 19th century, that such things as Norwegian or (in extreme cases) Dutch don’t exist, for example. Defining things like what “Arabic” and “Macedonian” are, or, certainly, what “Chinese” is are pretty dangerous things even today. Since the commonly accepted notion today is that Fujianese/Southern Min is a “dialect” of “Chinese,” I’ll stick to this for the time being since I have no bones in that fight personally.

    5. bonks

      Hokkien or Minnan is a dialect of Chinese, which is also spoken in Fujian, Xiamen and Guangdong province in China, same goes for Hakka. I was born into a Hakka family in Indonesia, my mom could speak Teochew and Hokkien, my dad a second form of Hakka different to what I speak. All of us picked up Mandarin easily because these dialects shared common writing, the major difference is mostly how each word is pronounced, and some variations in grammar. Even if I can’t speak Hokkien I can catch a word or two. And the same goes for Cantonese, Shanghainese etc.

      I don’t know how many Taiwanese you’ve spoken to but there are many of them in Shanghai where I’m at. All of us communicate in Mandarin, practice common rituals that involve family and ancestry while sharing similar taste in food, and have an implicit understanding in confucian culture that has spanned centuries without needing to express it in words. For what it’s worth, non-mainland Chinese are not ashamed to be ethnically Chinese, like the Chinese-Indonesians, Malaysians and Thais. The ones who tend to feel ashamed are the Singaporeans and increasingly the Taiwanese, probably correlated to the media and infiltration of western influence painting an uninviting picture of the Mainland.

    6. AlanRoxdale

      some neocon’s believe it is better to provoke a direct conflict with China now

      Our ruling class is desperate for a war to distract from their domestic discontent. As that public’s discontent grows, so does politicians desperation, leading to more warmongering, to more discontent, to more desperation, etc.

      We are in a positive feedback loop of provokationism. Six more months of this, the pitchforks will be glowing white hot, and the neocons will have declared war on the Pope and Moon.

  4. The Rev Kev

    It looks like old Joe Biden can’t recognize a booby trap when he sees one. It is well know that the Democrats hate the Russians while the Republicans hate the Chinese. After all, Russiagate was a Democrat psyops on America while Trump led the Republican sanctions war against China. And now there is Nancy. The DC establishment has decided that the best way to get use out of her before she loses her job in November is to not only threaten to have Russia declared a terrorist state but to make a trip to Taiwan for no conceivable reason except to poke the Dragon. After all, what could possibly go wrong? But here is what old Joe misses. The Republicans are fully on board with this idea. Some, like Mike Pompeo, have said that they will even travel with her. In fact-

    ‘Michael Tracey
    Would it surprise you to learn that Nancy Pelosi got a round of applause at a meeting of the Trump-backed America First Policy Institute? Because that’s exactly what just happened, when Newt Gingrich declared support for her upcoming trip to Taiwan. “I commend Nancy,” said Newt’

    So after having the Republicans oppose every single thing that he wanted to do since becoming President, would not the fact that they are all in on this idea be enough to set of warning klaxons? What does he hope to gain out of letting her go? China has threatened military measures against the US so what if they ban ALL spare parts and accessories that go to the US military. Does the US military have an idea on how much they depend on the Chinese for supplies and spare parts? This sounds like the Ukraine project when a financial war was launched against Russia without any input on what that might actually mean and how it would play out.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      In the video clip, Hu discusses the Pelosi visit as a Republican trap, although the does not speculate as to why she is participating. Must be too many trading opportunities.

      1. rmml

        Pelosi husband’s heavy investment in the industry (Millions before vote), Taiwan supplying most of the world’s semiconductors, the global microchip shortage, the $280 Billion CHIPS bill clearing the Senate filibuster today and her visit to Taiwan is not a coincidence. One would have to study the CHIPS to see what the US has in store for Taiwan re: their resource. I don’t think the Republicans are behind this one (Feels more bipartisan in nature, each side playing their script).
        Pelosi might be there to facilitate certain investments (hers) and MIC donations for her successfully heightening the conflict, leading to more weapons sales.. And a distraction from Ukraine: A win!

  5. SocalJimObjects

    Who knows? Biden might tag along as a surprise, and then we’ll get something akin to “Escape from Taiwan”.

    Since I am still scheduled to move to Taiwan this September, the only “upside” I can see is that airplane tickets may get cheaper come next month/early September.

  6. Amateur Socialist

    No sanity prevails among the Democratic caucus, here’s Ro Khanna on CNN claiming the “Chinese Communist Party doesn’t get to dictate the travel schedule of the Speaker of the House”.

    Perhaps some kind of educational process could be managed to explain the implications of the “One China” rhetorical dance.

    1. Bill Wilson

      It’s time to end the “dance” and deal with reality.
      Time for a new One China Policy. One China, One Taiwan.

    2. DanB

      Kahanna takes the fall back appeal to “freedom” because there’s no publicly justifiable reason for Pelosi’s visit. As other here have noted, it’s childish -and yet another sign of the dangers posed by an empire in decline.

  7. Bill Wilson

    Hmmm … Having lived in Taiwan and having close relations there …

    Taiwan is functionally already independent.
    Taiwan is NOT part of any China and China has no legitimate claim to its territory.
    Taiwan’s culture and society are now very different from China – remember Taiwan was occupied by Japan from 1895 to the end of WW2 (effectively renounced in 1952). No PRC there, ever.
    The Taiwanese want nothing to do with being part of China. Some of the remaining descendants of mainlanders being the only ones who may want a stronger relationship with China.
    There is a strong and growing Taiwanese identity and pride.
    Taiwan has 23 million citizens, more than the majority of the 193 UN member states possess.
    Self determination should be supported by the worldwide community.
    Let’s be honest here. Taiwan is independent and the only reason it does not have international recognition is because of China’s bullying.
    For too long Republicans have been the main supporters of Taiwan. It is good to finally see the Democrats stepping up – as in reality Taiwanese values (DPP platform) are more in line with Democrats anyway.

    It is high time the world as one told China to back off. Taiwan is Taiwan and the rest of the world should say so.

    1. NN Cassandra

      Should the “world” say so even when it induces China to resolve the issue by force? Right now Taiwan is independent de-facto, while we are pretending it’s part of China, but some people seems to want to change it to situation where we will be pretending Taiwan is independent while in fact it will be part of China.

    2. The Rev Kev

      I agree with a lot of what you say but however – and I bet that you knew that there was going to be a however – does Taiwan really want to be turned into the Ukraine of the East? Remember that Hong Kong had a good chance too of coming to an ‘understanding’ with China. That is, until their activists turned to countries like the US for financial as well as diplomatic support to the point that some of their leaders were actually going direct to Washington DC to meet with US politicians. And we all saw what happened next.

      1. playon

        Hong Kong was scheduled to be returned to China after the British 99 year lease was up, there is nothing comparable in the case of Taiwan.

        1. hk

          The “New Territories” were. Hong Kong Island was ceded to UK “in perpetuity.” But when UK couldn’t afford to maintain its empire, they just got bundled together.

            1. hk

              The Vatican-PRC relationship, specifically, has been hampered not just by Taiwan recognition, but the status of Catholic Church in PRC. The “official” Catholic Church had been illegal (sort of) in China for decades: all Catholics in China had to belong to CPCA, which formally disavowed Vatican and was subject to direct control by the Chinese state through Religious Affairs Bureau. Over past half a century, all sorts of informal arrangements were made to legitimize CPCA (sort of) in the Catholic world, but no satisfactory arrangement could be made for the long term (the recent agreement between the Holy See and Beijing is a breakthrough in that dimension, but even that’s only renewable after a few years, not a permanent agreement). Now, if Beijing allows a Catholic church independent of overt state control to operate in China, will the Taiwan issue go away? Who knows. But I think CPCA is bigger issue between PRC and Vatican than Taiwan in the grand scheme of things.

    3. gsinbe

      Unfortunately, it isn’t the “world as one” telling China to back off, it’s the self-appointed, global hegemon. Are we supposed to provoke China into a military confrontation that would probably drag in Russia and could result in most of the world being radioactive ash floating in the stratosphere? The underlying assumption in your post is that this is somehow our business. Why?

    4. Andrew Watts

      No, it is allowed a certain amount of self-governance because the US Navy intervened to prevent an attempted second invasion any time tensions flared. The mainland never gave up on reunifying the country and territory that was under control of Qing China. I say the mainland because Chiang Kai-shek would’ve acted in the same manner and never allowed an independent Taiwan if the situation was reversed.

      The parts of Fujian province under Taipei’s governance date back to Sun Ce’s Southern Expedition after the collapse of the Han Dynasty. To say that it’s never been part of China is silly propaganda.

      1. hk

        I’ve had ROC maps that show “Chinese” (under Blue Sky White Sun flag, of course) rule over Mongolia as evidence of Chiang Kai-Shek’s attitude. :P

        1. Andrew Watts

          As amusing as we find it now that probably did reflect KMT thinking at some point. Mongolia had to declare independence from China twice. The first time while under nominal Qing rule in 1911. Then again a decade or so later because the country was briefly re-incorporated into the nationalist-controlled Republic of China.

          The Soviet Union even agreed to facilitate the transfer of the country later on and Moscow promised Beijing they would work out the final details the very next meeting they had about it.

          (Narrator’s voice) The meeting never happened.

      2. Scylla

        I do not think I have ever seen anyone state that Taiwan was never a part of China. What people say is that Taiwan has never been under control of the current PRC government, just as the Ukrainian regime has never had any control over the Donbas. If we believe that the people of the Donbas have the right to self determination, we must be consistent and state that the people of Taiwan have this right as well.
        All that said, while I do believe that when a majority of the people of a territory are seeking independence, they also have the right to ask *neighboring nations* for assistance (for example, Bangladesh getting help from India), I do not see it as prudent or ethical for a nation from the other side of the planet to intervene in any way.
        Just my thoughts.

        1. tegnost

          the Ukrainian regime has never had any control over the Donbas

          Ukraine had/has (now provisionally) control over the Donbas and they abused the privilege.

          All that said, while I do believe that when a majority of the people of a territory are seeking independence, they also have the right to ask *neighboring nations* for assistance (for example, Bangladesh getting help from India), I do not see it as prudent or ethical for a nation from the other side of the planet to intervene in any way.

          Totally agree with this.

          6,524 mi
          Distance from San Francisco to Taiwan
          170 mi
          Distance from Fujian Province to Taiwan
          1,150 mi
          Distance from Beijing to Taiwan
          7,952 mi
          Distance from Washington DC to Taiwan

          1. Scylla

            “Ukraine had/has (now provisionally) control over the Donbas and they abused the privilege.”

            Apologies, but I have disagree. Please note that I am talking about the revolutionary government of 2014 (just as the PRC was/is a revolutionary government), not historical Ukraine (the analog here is imperial China) As soon as the regime took power, they began passing abusive legislation- the people of the Donbas immediately revoked their consent to be governed by the Kiev regime. To be able to state that Kiev had control means that they were able to assert their will over the territory- that simply never occurred. They never had physical control. We must also remember that the LDNR militias were successfully taking territory in both the first and second Donbas wars. In each instance they stopped not because they were unable to continue taking territory, but because the Russian government told them to halt their advance. If someone had control over the Donbas since 2014, it certainly was not Kiev.

            Yes, I simply do not understand how the distances involved are not more clarifying to everyone. Blows my mind how so many regular people (let alone elites) think it is our (America’s) god-given right to fiddle with every nation on Earth

            1. tegnost

              Please note that I am talking about the revolutionary government of 2014

              Thank you, I see your point now

    5. Richard

      Aside from the premise that China has no claim on Taiwan, I would agree with most of your claims. That said, Taiwan is where it is, 150 miles off of the mainland, and most of the 1.4 billion Chinese citizens want it back in the fold. Whatever the politics, the U.S. and Soviet Union/Russia has amply demonstrated in the last eighty years the enduring truth in the words Thucyclides put in the mouth of those noble democratic Athenians as they went about enslaving the weak Melians for simply wanting to remain neutral in Athen’s war with Sparta (now that has a ring of familiarity): The strong do what they can, the weak endure what they must. No amount of words will deter China, and it will be interesting to see if the Pentagon brass who own those strategic exercises that keep showing American defeats in the China Seas can finally convince our brahmins that all this posturing will only guarantee a highly unsatisfactory conclusion.

    6. sluggodacat

      If China takes Taiwan, there’s nothing you or anyone else can or will do about it. It’s that simple.

    7. Partyless poster

      Puerto Rico has their own language and culture and yet the US “owns” it. They only get partial citizenship but does that mean China could sell weapons there and Xi could visit and we’d be cool with that?
      The US really has no moral standing to tell other countries what they can have when we consider everything South of the border ours.

      1. Lex

        I was thinking about PR after reading this too. Maybe the Chinese should start funding a Puerto Rican independence movement. I’m sure that the USG would consider it just a strong stance in favor of self-determination and sovereignty.

    8. ACPAL

      Since 1971 China has been patiently waiting for Taiwan to agree to terms of reunification. Now you’re saying that their patience should be rewarded by saying they waited too long and Taiwan is no longer part of China? That all those years of “one China” policy in the the US, UN, and the world mean nothing? That would be one hell of a precedence taken by many to mean that patience is not a virtue and that they should strike at your earliest opportunity. I really doubt that China will ever agree with that nor will any country seriously try to float that with the UN.

  8. Quentin

    Amidst all this knowledgeable talk about Taiwan, its languages, ethnicities and political/social composition, I still have not found out WHY Ms Pelosi is going to Taiwan. Can anyone tell me? The question could hardly be more basic. Or am I dunce? Don’t feel obliged to answer.

    1. rhodium

      Have you ever had a fever dream where you felt overwhelming compelled to do something, even though you had absolutely no idea why? Could be something like that. Or else it’s just the warmongers and MIC feeling Ukraine isn’t enough for them. After 60 years of recent history I think you could bet on that.

      It will be interesting to see what stupid excuses the media makes though. How are they going to spin it this time? I figure a large number of Americans will believe this was a completely benign diplomatic mission if that becomes the narrative. “Oh we had no idea China was going to react this way. Can you believe they took military action over Nancy Pelosi? Ridiculous! They obviously wanted to destroy us all along, so now we have to defend ourselves against this unprovoked attack on our sovereignty!”

    2. Andrew Watts

      I’m guessing there’s probably a sizable contingent of dip—- imperialists in Washington who want to provoke Beijing and place China under the same sanctions regime that Russia is under.

      It should be emphasized this would be a very bad idea.

    3. Susan the other

      That’s the question I can never get answered too. Why would sweet little Nancy, who is always “for the children!” go off half-cocked and take a chance on starting WW3? That alone lets us all know who Nancy really is. But Why is harder, especially Why can’t we adjust? Our new “policy” in the Pacific is to court all the islanders (since the Solomon debacle) to be our loyal trading partners – and we want to make the statement that Taiwan is part of the Island Pacific – more than it is part of China. That’s just absurd. It is really foolish since Taiwan is clearly more China than Oceania. Clearly China has justification to make Taiwan, gradually, well-assimilated into One China. (Look at Alaska. Look at Hawaii.) Not because they have a successful semiconductor and microchip industry (thanks to us) but more importantly, Taiwan is militarily very strategic for China. And we are really asking for trouble when we mess with that one. This obnoxious move by Nancy is as stupid as it gets, imo. But look who’s running the country – can’t expect anything too sophisticated. The smarter move for Nancy and her ilk would be to restart American microchip production, etc. So, again, Why?

    4. Polar Socialist

      The cynic in me is willing to believe that main purpose of her visit is to get a strong reaction from China, since that would increase the sense of insecurity in Taiwan. And that, meine damen und herren, will make sure Taiwan stays in US sphere of influence for the foreseeable future. And thus USA would have access to the latest and the smallest chips since those are the currency Taiwan uses to buy military security and diplomatic support.

      It’s cheaper (for corporations) to risk WW3 than to build chip foundries in USA.

  9. Palaver

    Taiwan could have been coaxed in reunification with the mainland, but Xi’s impatient heavy handedness with Hong Kong burnt that bridge.

    People will give up liberty for security, but taking both out of spite was a strategic blunder on China’s part and put their political allies in Taiwan in an untenable position.

    As much we might applaud the one party totalitarian state with the absolution necessary to play the long game, they are still vulnerable to crimes of passion.

    The CCP doesn’t have the logistics to take Taiwan. So their blustering is routine and performative. Pelosi’s trip is unremarkable in the grand scheme of things.

    1. Andrew Watts

      The period of good relations between the mainland and Taiwan occurred under the KMT government in Taipei. That changed when the Democratic Progressive Party won a fairly significant electoral victory ’bout five years ago. Beijing has maintained that the DPP is a secessionist party with foreign and less then covert ties to Japan. The increase in military activity in the Strait and South China Sea soon followed as the leader of the DPP and President Tsai Ing-wen did little to disprove that notion.

      These developments with Taiwan predate anything that happened in Hong Kong.

      1. Palaver

        If you had read the papers at the time, the DDP was vindicated for their suspicion of closer ties to China and KMT no longer pressed the issue as public opinion turned against the issue. The CCP could not be trusted to honor a one country, two systems approach.

  10. Dr. Phips

    “The Taiwanese want nothing to do with being part of China”. Seriously? You lived in Taiwan and I lived in Shanghai and half of my friends there are Taiwanese. There is a huge number of Taiwanese living and working in China, most of them in the big cities, some having a very good life and some not so good. But none of them, just quoting my friends and the acquaintances I met there, expressed any desire to go back to Taiwan and/or having any problem with China per se. In other words, Taiwanese have no problem taking advantage, even more, enjoying what China gives to them. They have no illusions that sooner or later the “Taiwan question” will be resolved one way or another, and almost all of them don’t like the CCP either. And yes, most of them (based on what I heard) plan to go back to Taiwan once they retire. But asking for independence from China? They, and their fellow citizens back on the island know very well that Taiwan depends economically much more on China than the other way around, in all the sectors except computer chips. It’s one thing to wish for something, and another thing to get it. If China expelled all Taiwanese and blocked all their exports, things would go downhill for the Island pretty quick. With China being their main customer for ALMOST everything, even their movies and songs, the Taiwan as it is now would soon look quite different.

    1. Jessica

      Dr. Phips, the Taiwanese who move to Shanghai and stay there may not be representative of the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese who don’t move to the mainland.

    2. marcus

      Unfortunately your friends in China are not representative of the majority of folks in Taiwan, so your perception is warped. Many/most are probably descendants of the 20% of folks related to the KMT group that came over after 1949 – and kept power until the DPP has been able to wrestle it away. There is still a real social divide between the families of the old mainlanders and the Taiwanese.

      You can think of Taiwan and China a bit like Canada and the US. Many Canadians go to work in the US and Canada depends a whole lot on trade with the US … but it does not mean you have to have one country, or that Canadians want to become Americans.

      1. hk

        That’s a good analogy that I think one could take further: even without formal subordination, Canada is politically and diplomatically aligned with US, mostly by choice. Yes, US would not tolerate a hostile Canada, but that’s not why Canada aligns with US. So does it make sense for PRC, or for that matter, Taiwanese, to make so much of the “formal independence”? If PRC plays its hands well in social, economic, and soft power politics realms, a nominally “independent” Taiwan in the long run could be almost as useful to it, or perhaps even more so, than as a subordinated province, I think.

        1. HotFlash

          Canada has/Canadians have fought the US before and, if necessary, will do so again. Most Americans have never heard of General Isaac Brock. Nor of the Battle of Queenston Heights, in which the American forces had their first disappointment regarding candy and flowers. As for the Fenian Raids, it is to laugh, and we still do.

          Yes, we are governed by poodles these days, but in my exp, the soldiers, sailors, and airforce of Canada not only swear allegiance to Her Majesty*, but also in my exp, they really mean it. Not to mention how hard it is to hold occupied territory when the ‘natives’ don’t want you there and know the territory, eg Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

          *very likely misplaced loyalty, IMHO, but still operative.

          1. hk

            I think you are missing an important of my point: the alignment in the political/diplomatic sphere between US and Canada is the product of long and productive social, economic, and cultural relationship, enough that more “thuggish” application of power to compel the weak to obey the strong is generally avoided by both sides, although US, being much stronger, exercises disproportionately larger share of influence. The interesting development between Taiwan and China today is that the economic, social, and cultural linkages are extensive, and these ties are acting as conduits for influence, more from PRC than Taiwan, obviously. My hunch is that this Chinese soft power
            today is what makes the Taiwanese nervous, even more than the PLA, as these may enable PRC to exert significant informal control over Taiwan even without political control.

  11. David

    It’s interesting in itself that the Chinese put up a Defence Ministry spokesman to comment on the trip. The Chinese don’t do things like that without lot of thought, and it’s a clear message to the US to back off if it wants to avoid a potential military confrontation. It would be relatively easy for the Chinese simply to make it too difficult and dangerous for the plane to land, although of course there are also rougher options.

    But I wonder if the US system is capable of understanding this. It’s so huge, so conflictual, so inward-looking, that sometimes I think the rest of the world only exists in some notional sense, and that there are never any real consequences for US actions. It’s all cinema, and nobody is going to risk their career by saying it isn’t. In any event, nobody is really in charge of anything, as we see here, and to expect “a policy” or even “a view” is to ask more than the system is capable of giving.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, David.

      “It’s all cinema.” Dare one say the rot started or took a turn for the worse with the actor’s election?

      Joking apart, what you say reminds me of what Blair’s spinmeister Alistair Campbell said about controlling the news agenda / cycle and having a few announcements for the airwaves daily. It’s the PR, not substance.

    2. hk

      One should note, though, that the Chinese are reacting in a quite heavy handed manner. If the “authoritarian” Chinese reaction in HK did much to galvanize the “pro-independence” crowd in Taiwan, the way Beijing is acting now won’t help make it popular in Taiwan. One does almost wonder if PRC might be better off trying for some sort of more “supranational” union with Taiwan in the long run, based on cultural, social, and economic ties (all of which are strong and getting stronger) while burying “politics,” especially symbolic yet controversial politics, for now. (I realize Lee Teng-Hui suggested a version of this back in 1990s, but things seem to have changed enough that PRC can use this to its advantage now, if they play their hands well). But this is too “emotional” an issue for most Chinese and the PRC leadership probably lacks finesse to pull this off.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Even though the Chinese army is not seasoned, my understanding is that Taiwan’s military is really not capable despite all our arms.

        And China could blockade rather than invade.

        But then the US sends an aircraft carrier. Scott Ritter predicts China sinks that, we retaliate by hitting a secondary Chinese city with a tactical nuke, and China then strikes the west coast. End of world as we know it.

        1. hk

          Yves, are you replying to the comments I had made? I’m puzzled since several of your replies make no sense in context of my comments you seem to be replying to. Or, is there someone who is making comments about UN recognition or military matters under my pen name that you are replying to?

        2. H. Alexander Ivey

          I just wonder when the Taiwanese will realize that being an American lackey, ala Okinawa, is not better than being a Hong Kong to China. Do these people really think they can be “independent” without becoming an American unsinkable aircraft carrier? (Maybe that is Biden’s solution to Ritter’s thoughts on the vunerability of a floating aircraft carrier).

  12. none

    Anyone know of a write-up somewhere about the claim that Biden/Blinken etc. basically provoked Russia into invading Ukraine? That seemed like accepted wisdom around here, at least for a while. Maybe it is true, idk. There are certainly examples of stupid stuff they did scattered around, but not much in any single place that I remember. Thanks.

    1. David

      People have tried to make this case, essentially by taking various different events and trying to postulate a causal connection between them. It’s clear that the Russians felt “provoked” by US/NATO behaviour over Ukraine, and that was a factor in the invasion, though almost certainly not the only one. It’s also true that there were idiots in Washington (and elsewhere) who set out to “provoke” Russia, and may indeed have hoped for an invasion. But tidy and exclusive cause and effect is something you never get in politics, although Realists like Mearsheimer are always trying to reduce international politics to such simplified models.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        And let’s not forget the US-sponsored coup in 2014 that removed a more pro-Russian leader and replaced him with a US-favored puppet, all over a trade deal that didn’t favor the West. Pretty direct provocation, that. As was the ensuing eight year long civil war directed at Russian speaking people in Ukraine.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I think its important to make the distinction between the usual ‘poking’ all countries do to each other in an attempt to make the international situation more favorable. And of course, when we say ‘countries’, we often mean a small disparate grouping of competing agencies directly or indirectly trying to achieve their own bureaucratic ends as well as acting in their own interpretation of their job.

          Apart from very small, or uber-autocratic states, I doubt there are many examples of countries in history who have had an absolutely unambiguous set of objectives and pursued them without any internal contradictions or conflicts.

          I have very little doubt that there is at the very least a clique within US, and US associated nations that thought the idea of dragging Russia into a Ukrainian quagmire would be a good idea – many seem to think they’ve succeeded. Whether this was the secret strategy or not, is an open question. I doubt it was ever expressed in such a direct way – more likely it was thought that constant interference in Ukraine would weaken and humiliate Russia by default by pushing Nato influence right up to the Azov Sea.

          My personal theory is that we are suffering from having a western leadership made up of a generation of people who have never witnessed a real war, or have had to suffer personally in a major conflict – those people never send their own sons to war. This has created a fuzzy line between provocation and actual war that has not usually existed in the past – usually that line was always pretty clear. This has made it too easy for a very radical clique to push policy to their own ends. We know from history that strong leaders like Kennedy or Eisenhower would firmly stomp on any subordinates who pushed things too far when it came to the possibility of a real war. Those ‘brakes’ don’t seem to exist anymore. In may ways, Biden is even worse than Trump in this regard.

        2. David

          “Provocation” isn’t measurable on an objective scale, nor is it a mechanical process, and history is full of misjudgements about what was or wasn’t actually provocative. An extreme case is the Argentine invasion of the Falklands in 1982, where the Junta genuinely seems not to have understood that its invasion threatened to bring down the British government if they didn’t respond. So what I’m suggesting is that a plan that says “we will do X, Y and Z after which the Russians will be so provoked they will invade” is simply not possible. Thing don’t work like that. I think historians of this grisly episode will certainly identify individual incidents as helping to provoke the crisis, and partisans of one side or the other will claim that those incidents did or did not constitute a “provocation”, and so by extension a “justification.” But it’s all pretty subjective.

          As PK says, much policy is made by disparate and competing agencies, and this is especially true in the US. Quite often, the only real virtue a given US policy has, is that everyone more or less agrees with it, or at least that nobody can be bothered to try to oppose it. The reasons for supporting (or not opposing) can be extremely parochial, and often uncoordinated, or even in opposition to each other. I suspect that’s largely the case for Ukraine, and even more for Taiwan, where there’s probably nothing actually in the box, if you could ever get to open it.

          Don’t forget also that it’s easy to become trapped in a policy, even a failed one, simply because it’s so incredibly difficult to change it. For a start you need an articulated alternative, and then you have to persuade everyone to go along with it. The US system has a limited repertoire, and different parts of the system are heavily invested in different elements of it. If all you have is a megaphone and a stick, and there’s no agreement on what else you should acquire, then your options are pretty much pre-determined. Sometimes there really is nothing there.

          1. lyman alpha blob

            I agree that there was no plan to do x,y, and z to provoke a certain response. It was more along the lines of everyone among the elites agrees that Russia is a problem for the US for various, usually stupid and/or venal, reasons, and they’re going to throw a bunch of muck against the wall and see what sticks. But they are deliberate provocations nonetheless.

            Doing nothing is not an option for the go-getters among the US elite. Something always must be done.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Russia had been negotiating with the US. The US would not deign to provide written responses to Russia’s written proposals. This is fall through year end 2021.

      In Oct, Nuland visits the Kremlin, tells Lavrov in the most abusive and sailor-like Russian that Russia must stop supporting Donbass and let Ukraine clear it, as in kill tons of separatists, or the US will destroy Russia’s economy.

      Macron in IIRC December tries reviving the Minsk Accords.

      At the very year end, Putin called Biden asking him to reconfirm no US missiles in Ukraine. Biden reversed himself. That is a huge escalation.

      On Feb 15, Zelensky repudiates Minsk.

      On Feb 17, Zelensky said at Munich Security Conference that Ukraine wants nukes. Ukraine independence conditioned per treaty on it not having nukes. US officials are there. No walkback afterwards

      Around this time. shelling increased massively in Donbass, evidence of Ukraine troops massing, intel of planned big attack on Donbass in early-mid March.

      1. Scylla

        Absolutely. I have zero doubts that eventually there will be leaks or declassifications that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that US leadership wanted to provoke Russia into a military response (We already have the Rand proposals and just a couple of weeks ago we saw published maps of a balkanized Russia- complete with the names of the new nations) as they were so arrogant and sure of their own views that they thought they could turn then entire globe against Russia, and then also defeat Russia both militarily and economically. Again- no doubts whatsoever in this. Just give it time.
        This will go down in history as one of the most colossal (not to mention cruelest) geopolitical misjudgements in human history.

      2. Grebo

        That was just the end game. Since Clinton broke the gentleman’s agreement not to expand NATO to the East in 1997, and especially since Putin ejected the Harvard Boys from the Kremlin in 2000, the US has been moving on all Russia’s neighbours with ‘color revolutions’ and other shit-stirring. They probably had a hand in the Chechen war, were almost certainly behind the Georgian war. More recently they attempted regime changes in Belarus and Kazakhstan. The US has rebuffed all Russian attempts to have normal friendly relations with NATO and the EU and refused to recognise that Russia has any legitimate security concerns outside its borders. They have surrounded Russia with missiles and mysterious biolabs.

        In the full knowledge that Russia regards Ukraine as the keystone to its security the US overthrew neutral Ukrainian governments—twice—after the first time declaring Ukraine would join NATO, cos that would really piss off the Russians, and after the second time installing a Nazi regime, cos if there’s one thing Russians hate it’s Nazis.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Some time ago commenter Vlade’ ( name remembered right?) reminded us that part of the pressure getting US to push NATO eastward was suction applied by Eastern European leaderships themselves. He mentioned Vaclav Havel in particular personally lobbying Clinton hard to bring Eastern European countries into NATO, to protect them against a theoretical ” Russian threat” which it is apparently part of their sense of national identity to be afraid of.

          If that is indeed true, and pushing NATO east was not just a Clinton-Brzezinski initiative, then NATO’s ongoing existence is very much a European goal and imperative.

          1. David

            Vlade did say that, and so did I (I was there). In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, the 3 (later 4) Visegrad countries said publicly that they were not interested joining another military alliance, having just left one. This changed with the realisation that they were effectively positioned between a resurgent Germany to the West, and a pissed-off Russia to the East, which had, after all, occupied their countries for forty years. Then there was the question of Ukraine and Belarus, and the negotiations about handing over ex-Soviet nuclear weapons. So joining NATO began to seem like a prudent option, not because they feared an attack, but as a hedge against instability more generally. Don’t forget either that in Poland and Hungary there was literally no recent democratic tradition to fall back on, and such issues as the political role of the military and the intelligence services, as well as the basics of making national security policy in a completely new environment, had to be developed from scratch. So for a lot of European countries (by no means only in the East) NATO expansion was a less bad alternative than having a series of new states with questionable democratic traditions, border disputes and historical enmities playing potentially lethal games with each other. The experience of Yugoslavia was very much on peoples’ minds, and it could easily have been repeated. It’s a fundamental error to see the continuation and expansion of NATO as a US directed initiative.

            1. NN Cassandra

              It should be noted that when we talk about what countries want in such cases, it’s more often than not what (some) elites want. For example in the case of the Czech Republic, the actual accession was rammed through parliament by caretaker government right before elections because it was feared the next parliament might be less enthusiastic about it and can even reject it. So yes, Vaclav Havel lobbied mightily for inclusion in NATO (and then for bombing Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc…), but it wasn’t some categorical demand from the people.

            2. Polar Socialist

              So by taking a shortcut by not learning this democracy thing we now have a series of European states with questionable democratic traditions, border disputes and historical enmities playing potentially lethal games with everyone’s future. Well played, NATO!

              I do believe that those Visagrad countries were occupied for decades mostly as a reaction to NATO and it’s categorical refusal of holistic security for Europe.

            3. Grebo

              While there is no doubt that (elements within) the former Soviet Bloc countries wished to join NATO, NATO was under no obligation to accept them, and if it had wanted to maintain good relations with Russia it would not have accepted them.

              I also cannot disagree that US foreign policy is somewhat haphazard. Nevertheless, there is a clear pattern over more than 20 years of the US taking every opportunity to antagonise Russia, and deliberately creating more opportunities. And when Russia complained the US essentially laughed in their face and said “What are you going to do about it?”.

      3. Stephen

        This summary fills in some details I was not aware of. Thank you.

        Given that Victoria Nuland (I believe) even needed to have a travel ban on entering Russia lifted to be able to go there in October 2021, kind of sums things up I guess. Historians in the future will surely focus on the appointment of Nuland, a known Russophobe, to lead relations with Russia as in itself part of the provocations committed by the Biden administration.

        These guys possibly may not have wanted to provoke war with Russia but it is hard to come up with a different hypothesis that fits the facts. Other than incompetence or madness.

        To seemingly now be deploying a similar aggressively provocative playbook towards China in parallel (and of course with Iran too just as a matter of course, and whomever else that is lost in the fog) is simply unconscionable.

        As a sad comment on where we are in the collective West: I totally avoid corporate media these days but caught a headline from GB News where they were addressing the question of whether President Putin would be more afraid of Truss or Sunak! This type of thing is beyond parody.

  13. Marcus

    To a large degree you are correct, but given how the Taiwanese regular folks looked down on Chinese mainland tourists (when they could visit) I doubt reunification would ever have been supported by 50% + 1.

    They really do not see themselves as the same.

    But yes, Xi’s return to authoritarianism has definitely not helped the situation. It is time for the world to stop putting up with his belligerence.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      It’s really awful how Xi has been belligerently been making peaceful trade deals, building new infrastructure in other countries, setting up less predatory financing vehicles, purchasing publicly owned assets in Europe that the Troika forced European countries to sell, etc. The nerve of that guy!

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The internal shut down of dissent and intensification of monitoring every aspect of personal life within China is very real – even very pro Xi voices don’t deny it. The contrast with just 10 years ago is very obvious, even to anyone who only casually uses Chinese social media.

        Whether or not the average Chinese person is content with this or not, I really have no idea, but I strongly suspect that many are fearful of the potential consequences, even if they are willing to give Xi the benefit of the doubt. Xi is personally popular, so far as anyone can tell. The CCP is certainly not, and I’ve had members of the CCP (including one friend who used to be a policeman in Guangxi) tell me that directly. The Princelings who are potentially in line to inherit power in the longer term are widely loathed and feared.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          I don’t disagree on Chinese domestic policy. I’ve seen plenty in the news about the ubiquitous surveillance and I’ve read a decent amount of Chinese scifi touching on it too, and it doesn’t sound pleasant. How much worse it is than the creeping surveillance of all aspects of life in the West is hard to tell without living there. I don’t really want to find out though. The UK did jumpstart all the video surveillance now seen across the world, being an early adopter of having cameras everywhere from what I understand. Would be great if all nations would knock this off.

          But on the international scene which is what I was referring to, China has a long way to go to match the belligerence of the US and its Western poodle dogs. From what I’ve seen in recent years, China’s emphasis has been on cooperating with other nations, not threatening them.

          1. hk

            If Taiwan is “part of China,” it is China’s domestic politics that should worry them. The Chinese state has been very keen about ensuring its control over all territories and even major institutions operating in them. Hong Kongers think that Beijing has abrogated promises of significant autonomy. At the heart of the dispute between PRC and Vatican is the extent of control that PRC government seeks to impose on internal governance of the Catholic Church in China, etc. If Taiwan is to peacefully become a “part” of some sort of Chinese confederation or whatever in the future, what guarantee does it have that Beijing will stick to whatever agreement it makes in the long term?

    2. sluggodacat

      “It is time for the world to stop putting up with his belligerence.”

      Good luck with that.

    3. hunkerdown

      Facts not in evidence include that Western values, interests, or tones of speech can or should be respected or recognized at all, rather than desecrated, humiliated, or simply dismissed with utter indifference.

  14. John

    Had the pot been allowed to simmer, I have long thought that Beijing’s target date for “bringing Taiwan into the fold” was 2049, the 100th anniversary of the PRC. But no, we have the present crisis? circus? I fear what these careless and foolish people that infest our government might next do.

  15. Gregorio

    I wonder what it will do for the Pelosi’s semiconductor investment when China invades Taiwan and supplies from TSMC get shut off?

    1. Amateur Socialist

      As so often happens in technology the situation is evolving rapidly and more complicated than expected. This post from Moon of Alabama provides details of a 7nm commercial process production capability from China’s SMIC.

      As he points out there, this will eventually mean the $300B mainland business split between TSMC and other foundry vendors in Taiwan will = 0. The $300B will stay in China and Taiwan’s foundry vendors will have to find other customers or get smaller. This is happening despite attempts to limit exports of latest generation lithography equipment, apparently the Chinese have developed their own leading edge tools for production.

      If Taiwan’s export business to the mainland goes away the military options probably get a lot simpler. And once the write-offs start among the western investors like Madame Pelosi it may even undermine the saber rattling. Here’s hoping.

      1. Ashburn

        I’ve read that China annually produces 8 STEM graduates for every one in the US. India apparently is a close second producing 6 times the STEM grads as the US. The best and brightest in the US are going into law and finance while Asia’s best are mastering the hard sciences and engineering. It doesn’t take any expertise to see where all this is headed.

      2. hunkerdown

        That $300B is Chinese total imports. A good chunk of those will be re-exported in value-added products. Taiwanese production is $1.3T and 77% of total world production.

        There are factors other than price competition that inform the choice of one or the other manufacturing site. Design security (loyalty to IP) is particularly important to fabless semiconductor firms which contract leading-edge merchant foundries like TSMC, whereas China is known to play IP freely. Some designs might incorporate dual-use technologies. Hostile countries won’t buy there due to supply chain risks. So, Taiwan isn’t going to zero, though Chinese imports from Taiwan might approach that, and that much is interesting to the reunification game.

        But we are talking about luxury goods. Leading-edge products include things like the upper ends of FPGAs, GPUs, CPUs/SoCs, cryptography accelerators, and other machines that deal with a whole lot of bits at once very quickly. In other words, almost everything made on “leading-edge” nodes is immaterial lifestyle crxp we could better do without. “Optical” nodes (≥28nm) make the food and shelter happen.

      3. John k

        Imo china’s rapid progress here is ominous for Taiwan.
        I read a couple chip plants are coming to the AZ desert, and that separately 31 chip plants are planned in China. (My guess is the Chinese plants will come on line sooner.) My point is China sees itself independent of Taiwan in the near term, so while losing Taiwan might hurt everybody in the short term, it will be only the west that suffers after a year or so. Sanctions are a two-edged sword.
        Seems to me that when donors make the decisions we don’t end up with strong leaders – why would a donor fund such a dangerous person? – but with idiots that are programmed to do whatever the donors want. I wonder if China is beginning to see Ukraine and the Pelosi adventure as an opportunity.
        Doesn’t seem to me that western economies would do well if Taiwan stops chip production.

  16. Stephen

    Reviewing the comments above, I guess the rights and wrongs of Taiwan being fully independent versus the one country, two systems logic that may morph over time to unification are genuinely tricky. Indian Punchline made a very sage comment some time ago in a different context that was along the lines of morality not being a very useful way to determine diplomacy between states. I did not read that as a recommendation to have no values, but simply a comment on utility and the fact that rights and wrongs in geopolitics tend to be ambiguous.

    Applying that to Taiwan, it is hard to see what poking the Tiger achieves right now for the US. in conventional logic. That is unless the Neo Cons are set on some of pre-emptive action which could be based on an assessment that China is less powerful now than she will be in five years: “so if we are going to fight, we had better do it now”. If so, then Thucydides’s Trap may be in play. We may also recall that part of German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollwegg’s rationale for backing Austria so recklessly in 1914 was his perception that Germany could win a war with Russia and France at that point but would struggle to do so later as Russian industrialisation accelerated. One would at least hope though that the Neo Cons might resolve their issues with the bear before moving onto the tiger.

    Putting myself in China’s shoes it is hard to create an analogy. Being English (albeit with ancestors from all countries that constitute the British Isles) the closest one for me is if someone such as Medvedev went on a visit to see Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh and discussed aid for how Scotland could declare full independence. This is rather than the relatively self governing autonomy it already has (and in some ways never lost after 1707, although that is a whole different controversy…). I can just imagine the headlines in London based newspapers if such a visit took place though.

    1. Louis Fyne

      I think you’re correct re. the civilian neocon sect wants to fight China now rather than later and is encouraging explicit Taiwan independence—especially as there is a power vacuum in the White House due to Ukraine and Biden’s mental non-presence.

      And upper echelons in the Pentagon believe their own full-spectrum dominance propaganda and are letting the neocons drive the bus.

    2. Marcus

      … except Taiwan is now fully independent from a realistic “facts on the ground” point of view.
      The only thing it lacks is formal diplomatic ties – it has many “informal” ones, including with the US and other nations where it has de facto embassies (called trade offices).

      Is it really so hard to see that Taiwan is Taiwan, not China?

      China has NO legitimate claim to Taiwan. Its efforts are instead imperialistic, and that is not something that should be countenanced by anyone … because yes, China under Xi, is a prime opponent.

      1. Louis Fyne

        If one is in the Mearsheimer school of realpolitik, “legitimacy” under international law is irrelevant.

        What matters ultimately is which side will be more committed to fighting/killing/dying for a hunk of rock.

        1. Stephen

          Exactly. It is not pretty but it sums up human history. Spheres of influence are a reality.

          For example, even in Europe we have the EU. It is popular with some people but not with all. It clearly uses incentives and threats to get countries to toe the line and it is not really democratic. An unkind person might see it as an organ of empire. It may not behave so differently either to how China seeks to exert influence.

          Beauty is a little bit in the eye of the beholder. The EU is not uniquely virtuous or evil and nor is China uniquely evil or virtuous.

      2. ambrit

        And how is China’s “imperialism” any different from American hegemonism?
        From what I’ve learned over the years, the Chinese tend to think and plan for the ‘long term,’ as in decades if not centuries.
        Taiwan has been “not China” now for only a hundred and twenty-five some years, (measuring from the initial Japanese acquisition of said island.) Thus, to Pekin, the island is still a “province in revolt.”
        I remember Nixon going to China. The rationale was that the exposure to the “delights” of Western Capitalism would slowly ‘corrupt’ the Chinese until they became Oriental Westerners. The upshot of that strategy was that China developed it’s own version of a mixed exonomy. The West woefully underestimated the Chinese.
        Further, it appears that the past few decades of the “One China” policy was a realpolitik accommodation to events, and looked to continue on into the future with Taiwan as being essentially a state within the Chinese “Sphere of Influence.” Now, some spoiled brats in Washington are going to kick the game table over and expect subsequent events to favour them. Fools.
        Crazy idea, but i can see the PLA Airforce cratering the runway of the Taipei Airport just before Nancy’s plane is set to land and then offer the facilities nearby on the Mainland for “emergency use.” Then watch Pekin blame it all on Uyghur separatists.
        Anyway, we have our potassium iodide tablets to hand.
        Stay safe all. We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.

        1. marcus

          The west does not realize that Xi is not like Chinese leaders since Mao. He is much more akin to Mao in the use of authoritarianism and propaganda. The time to be “friendly” with China has passed (worked so well with HK). Get real and realize that China is now the enemy … and an enemy with a very wobbly economy heavily dependent upon unproductive infrastructure and real estate. Anyone with any brains is trying to get out of there.

          Taiwan, though far from perfect (and would be a heck of a lot better without Chinese meddling, and having to spend so much on defense) deserves international recognition. The time to end the verbal dances is done. Russia taking on the Ukraine is actually a positive event for Taiwan. It will make China more leery to attack. Now is the best time to push back at Xi, because he is now, more than before, less likely to react aggressively.

          Plus if you know your Sun Tzu – the highest skill is to win without fighting. China has a massive destabilization effort ongoing inside Taiwan. They use cash to try and create divides within society. They will not use force unless it is a guaranteed quick win.

          1. hunkerdown

            You can always tell the neocon shill by how their enemies are simultaneously more and less competent than they are, and also by their weak bladders somehow constituting an obligation of global urgency.

            “Marcus”, (I’ll be polite and use your desk name) can you tell me why an individualistic value system that produces this much trashy drama, entitlement and vicarious impotent rage, never mind the dissipation and destruction of countless lives it is directly responsible for, should be allowed to propagate, instead of listed in the DSM under mass formation psychosis then driven out of the public discourse as cancer?

            1. Tom Pfotzer

              Lay it on ’em, HD. Can’t ridicule the neocon monsters enough.

              No single group has ever damaged the U.S. more.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                The Free Trade Conspirators damaged the US pretty severely. Less or more than the neocons? It would be an interesting discussion.

                1. hunkerdown

                  Neocon-neolib manifests primarily as a division of guard labor. One is an outward-facing ideology of predation; the other is an inward-facing ideology of digestion. Both stand back to back at the border to capture what they propose is theirs. From the perspective of actual people, they look and feel more like opposing teeth. Neither could have lasted as long as they did without the other to hold down the other side of the work.

                  Or, by the German proverb, one hand washes the other. Both are clean.

          2. Polar Socialist

            I’m in no way or form an expert on China, I’ve only followed events with one eye. So pray tell me what was “friendly” in handling the issue of Hong Kong?

          3. K.k

            The CPC was fine with the status quo, as well as the majority of Taiwanese who have more or less been fine with the status quo. Arming and supporting a secessionist movement is something the Chinese as they have abundantly made clear will not tolerate. They have made it clear for decades that they will not allow Taiwan to become an unsinkable aircraft carrier potentially armed with nukes aimed at them. The only message the Taiwanese should be taking away from Ukraine is that the U.S and the “west” will only get Taiwan wrecked and not defend it as they hopefully understand that a direct war with China to “defend” Taiwan could very likely spiral out of control into a nuclear holocaust.

          4. hk

            Has Xi been more belligerent than Jiang Zemin, who used open “demonstrations” of missiles in attempt to blackmail Taiwan? If anything, Xi and, for that matter, 21st century PRC leaders generally have been more pacifistic in their approach towards Taiwan, other than occasional lingo that is. I think the current PRC approach is more threatening to Taiwan b/c it is actually forcing the society and economies of the two countries to intermingle even more, making a “formal separation” increasingly more difficult. It certainly does not help that Beijing, under Xi, has been increasingly centralizing authority–I think it is mostly driven by CPC’s internal politics, but it is also behind the situation in Hong Kong, in a sense. And the Chinese influence, compared even to 1990s is real: there is a lot of benefits to cooperating with the Chinese. The idea of a conflict between “sovereign” Taiwan and Taiwan under indirect Chinese rule, via social, economic, and other linkages, is not just theoretical any more. I guess what I do wonder is how problematic would it be for either Taiwan or China if the relationship winds up becoming more like Canada and US–or, as I understand, how Russia wanted its relationship with Ukraine to be: closely tied by cultural, economic, and social ties, with the politicians and the publics in the weaker countries peacefully orienting themselves in line with the stronger not (primarily) because of threats and blackmail but because that’s where their bread is buttered. I suppose the example of Russia and Ukraine somewhat answers the question: US can Zimmerman (telegram) the weaker country to subvert the mutual cooperation. But then this becomes an ugly escalatory game unless the great powers can somehow commit to lay their hands off.

          5. lyman alpha blob

            China also has a manufacturing infrastructure, something the West has largely eschewed for a generation or so, watching it all turn to rust. China might be “wobbly” by Westerns standards, but China doesn’t operate by Western standards. And where are all those brainy Chinese heading anyway? – to the crumbling West?

            And I’m no military strategist, but I fail to see how the Ukraine situation would give China pause. Russia hasn’t been attacked, and it has got in some good target practice for its new weapons systems by taking out US deliveries.

  17. Roquentin

    There are few things more dangerous than the hubris of an empire on the downgrade. I think the Biden administration simply can’t grasp that they straight up aren’t calling all the shots on the world stage anymore. It breaks their brains to even consider it. They just keep going around the globe, stirring up trouble because they don’t know how to do anything else, like how sharks have to keep swimming so they don’t die.

  18. Louis Fyne

    the Russian military annually spends at most 15% of the Pentagon, and yet Russia is setting the pace of the war in Ukraine entirely at its pace—-Ukraine has not had one single successful counteroffensive against hostile fire since February (reclaiming territory Russia abandoned doesn’t count).

    Russia has deterred direct American conventional military intervention precisely because there are still sane heads at the Pentagon who realize fighting at Russia’s doorstep is untenable for American forces. (Let’s be honest, if there was a realistic chance at a successful US no-fly zone over Ukraine, that operation would have started months ago)

    A war in Taiwanese waters will be no different. The US Navy hasn’t fought a peer navy since 1945.

    And what is the US going to do over Taiwan in the event of war? Run a PRC blockade of Taiwan? Throw up a blockade of China-bound oil in the Indian Ocean? What happens if a Russian tanker wants to run the blockade? Is the US going to seize a Russian tanker?

    Diplomacy is the only way in Taiwan . Even a wholly conventional war over Taiwan will be a disaster for the US and will only accelerate the US’s terminal decline.

    the PRC cares more about Taiwan than the US ever could. That is just the reality of things….but of course, the US has the “white man’s burden” and so the US just has to interfere and cause more havoc than if the US just stayed out of it and acted as an honest broker.

    It’s going to be Thucydides’s Trap alright—-a trap that will doom the USA

  19. Tom Finn

    A conservative friend says should China invade Taiwan we will have to (he says nuke) destroy its chip manufacturers/facilities to keep them out of Chinese hands.
    A military action in the China Straights in reaction to a Chinese show of force, could similarly lead to a real nuclear option being promoted by the crazies.
    A halt to trade, another functional “nuclear option” for the Chinese would lead to unimaginable privations and hardships for the US citizenry.
    Blame it on ‘Charlie McCarthy’ (POTUS) if you like but I’ve got to wonder who’s insane enough, psychopathic enough, to want this?

    1. sluggodacat

      The Chinese just produced their first 7nm chip. They won’t need Taiwan’s chip tech anymore.

      1. Anthony G Stegman

        Maybe soon, but not yet. TSMC is at least a decade ahead of China with respect to semiconductor wafer technology. TSMC already has working 5nm circuitry.

  20. Stephen

    Unfortunately, the U.K. is also aiding and abetting them. We ought to have had eighty years or so to adjust to our own loss of hegemonic status but seem to see ourselves as the Greeks to America’s Rome.

    To that end, Rishi Sunak in the Tory leadership contest stated that China is our greatest long term threat and has made all sorts of allegations. Clearly, he is playing to a gallery but this kind of external xenophobia is very dangerous. He and the equally lamentable Liz Truss seem to be vying with each other for who can be most Sino- and Russo-phobic.

    In realpolitik terms the biggest danger (as Roquentin suggests) is that the there is a major imbalance between the rhetoric and our true power. That is super dangerous. Especially if these juveniles end up believing their own rhetoric, as invariably humans do.


    The issue is it’s very hard to understand (really, predict) how legitimate “Taiwan independence separatists” are. Che Guevara and Fidel Castro were two guys knocking on doors in the Cuban countryside with no backing. The Bolsheviks weren’t even the most viable communist group in Russia…until they took power. Even a “soft” power shift like Trump running for office was a total joke…until it wasn’t.

    History shows it’s not outside the realm of possibility that some fringe political movement in Taiwan becomes the next big thing. And if it does then we’re talking about an existential threat to the CCP since some kind of spillover into the mainland is possible.

    With that being the stakes I wouldn’t underestimate how China may respond to something like this.

    1. hk

      “Independence” is not a “fringe” movement in Taiwan: it is favored by up to 70% of the population, or more, I think nowadays. How “concrete” their desire for “independence” is not clear: only a few really wanted to push the envelope while most wanted things to stay quiet. But PRC’s own actions have been making the “do nothing crazy” subset of this group increasingly uneasy and making them more serious about formally turning away from “China.”. How far this has gone, I have no good sense, though.

  22. Charlie Sheldon

    From 2004 until 2009 I made many trips to China, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan to visit with shipping lines, as at the time I was the director of maritime operations for a West Coast container port. With regard to China, Taiwan, and the future, two short stories…..(1) Once we were having lunch in one of the dazzling new towers in Beijing with a group of Chinese officials and talk turned to the Long March, the iconic story of the great journey in the 1930s that eventually became the Peoples Republic of China, and several of the people present said something like, “We are now on another Long March. An economic Long march.”…..(2) As a container port, we needed to replace our container cranes as ships grew ever bigger, and ZPMC was the biggest crane make in the world, a Chinese firm located on an island near Shanghai, 15,000 workers, miles and miles of steel and structures, employee housing, and dozens of cranes being loaded onto ships with amazing block and tackle systems. We visited there, to see the progress of our three cranes, just then being painted in our Port colors, and we had lunch at their offices, we and about 15 other customers from around the world, including several Taiwanese. I watched, very carefully, the interaction between the Mainland Chinese officials and the Taiwanese, and then engaged in a discussion with them, learning that many, many Taiwanese worked in China and many Taiwanese children were in China for education. This was an extremely small sample, perhaps meaningless, but it was clear to me that as least as regarded business and economics the Chinese and Taiwanese were on exactly the same page. At that table, on that island, it was very very clear that in the minds of ALL the Chinese present China and Taiwan were considered one country.

    This was 16years ago.

    1. Maxwell Johnston

      Thanks for sharing that personal anecdote. I’m always more impressed by direct experience than by indirect experience. There’s no substitute for boots on the ground. China is not my field of expertise, but my intuition matches yours.

  23. ex-PFC Chuck

    Given the evidence of Biden’s cognitive difficulties that continue to slip out in video clips etc., in spite of his administration’s best PR efforts, is he even capable of taking the initiative to act as you suggest in footnote #1? Or would he get shut down by the behind-the-curtain advisor(s) who seem to be managing his public appearances and perhaps his actions in the privacy of the Oval Office as well?

  24. Tom Stone

    Step back and look at the West’s “Leadership”, Corrupt,stupid, incompetent, openly delusional and in some cases depraved.
    The system is FUBAR.
    And there is no mechanism for peaceful change.
    Absent Nuclear Armageddon it’s going to be an interesting next few years.

  25. Carolinian

    Wow this is quite the discussion. Thanks to all you experts.

    As for Pelosi, perhaps it’s as simple as every Klown needs a stage, or perhaps three rings. It seems hard to believe that someone in their 80s would still be questing after money with damned the torpedoes recklessness.

  26. carycat

    I wonder if Ms Pelosi will come down with a mild case of Monkeypox if the Chinese state department announce that if any high profile foreigner arrives without a visa, they will be given a choice of renouncing existing citizenship and seeking political asylum in front of the international press, or put into accommodations modeled after say the one in her home state at Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego.

  27. spud

    there is no confusion about this period. the people who came to power in 1993 are not imperialists, imperialism through out history there has always been some give and take, many losers, but not always blowouts of other countries.

    the people who came to power in 1993 are not imperialists, they are fascists. under fascism whats mine is mine, whats yours is mine, and there will be no discussions period.

    they are the hammer, everything else is a nail. when you understand this, then you can see why there was NAFTA and letting china into the W.T.O.

    and above all, white supremacy. that is why they thought it was safe to let china in, but they are to stupid to understand what they did, it ended their reign of terror.

    china and russia are not sub human as the free traders thought they were.

    “Free trade, democracy promotion, and the use of force to uphold global norms comprised the core of Bill Clinton’s foreign policy – and they remain the central ideas of today’s Democratic foreign policy establishment.”

    when bill clinton signed nafta, destroyed GATT and replaced it with the W.T.O., then let china in, was the equivalent of hitlers operation Barbarossa.

    hitler never attempted peace with the soviet union when it became apparent he would lose, because he viewed them as sub humans, and what was theirs, was really his.

    once you understand this, then you can understand what appears to be irrational.

  28. Lex

    I really appreciate the in depth knowledge on Taiwan shared in this thread. I wish it mattered more. I guarantee that nobody informing US policy is digging into these details, because nobody informing US policy actually cares about Taiwanese independence except within the context of how it serves US foreign policy. Consequently, no serious analysis of the situation can take these details into consideration. They simply don’t matter and that’s the fundamental problem.

    What does matter is that a carrier task force just left Singapore for Taiwan, indicating that the US is all in on turning this escalation up to 11. The POTUS promised to defend Taiwan with military means, but it seems unlikely he’ll put US personnel in the way of Chinese bullets. We’ll have to wait and see whether the carrier group is there to participate or vaguely threaten in hopes that our threats matter to our adversaries. (They do not.) None of it makes any sense because it’s clear that we cannot fight a two front war against China and Russia, even by proxy. It’s also clear that we do not actually hold the economic leverage to force their behavior. Maybe with China, but one would think that a sanctions from hell against China would just allow it to clean house and massively intervene to support the economy. I’m not well enough informed to have an opinion of chance of success either way.

    Regardless, we’re really pushing to make this a world war and we’re in a bad position to fight one even if it’s primarily economic. Do our leaders understand this, do they care? I think the answer to both is no and it makes them extremely dangerous to everyone on the planet.

  29. Louis Fyne

    If the US Navy fought China smack in the middle of the Pacific, the US would win hands down.

    but that is the furthest thing from Taiwan, which is 80 miles from the PRC coast—that is less than the commute for millions of Americans.

    if one was to create a scenario that plays to the strengths of China and weaknesses of the West, that would be a fight over Taiwan.

    The loons are running DC.

    1. Jams O'Donnell

      Bit of patriotic delusionism there. China is now way ahead of the US in almost all technological fields. And as for military power – ahead there too. US navy uses 20/30 year old ships, Chinese – 0 / 15. Numbers almost equal. Chinese anti ship missiles outdo the US by a large percentage. China has more effective fighter planes, and more of them, with less downtime for maintenance. It’s ok to be patriotic, but not to be misguided.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        China’s navy has no meaningful operational experience. Andrei Martyanov, who is generally dismissive of US military prowess and as he put it has an advanced degree in sinking the US navy, deems ours to be the best in the world, most of all the subs, which are way ahead of anyone else’s.

  30. LawnDart

    Oh shit– you better take a look at this and factor it in to your analysis (shit’s about to get real):

    US aircraft carrier group heads towards Taiwan as tension over Nancy Pelosi’s possible visit continues to grow

    The USS Ronald Reagan and its escorts left Singapore on Monday sailing northeast, according to ship tracking information

    The ship’s deployment comes after Beijing warned it would ‘take strong measures’ if the US house speaker visits the island

    1. LawnDart

      Oh shit II– just released by China’s Global Times:

      China reinforces bilateral ‘guardrail’to US; Partisan struggle may ‘bring crisis to Taiwan Straits’
      By Yang Sheng and Liu Xuanzun
      Published: Jul 28, 2022 12:20 AM

      China has set a “very high guardrail” to keep the China-US relations away from falling off a cliff, but now it seems that the US, or some US politicians, are intended to crash through that “guardrail,” Lü said.

      Chinese mainland analysts and experts said that Tan’s remarks indicate that the PLA is fully prepared to respond if Pelosi does visit the island.

      The PLA can send fighter jets to intercept Pelosi’s plane if it approaches Taiwan, then escort it and have it landed in the Chinese mainland, another Chinese mainland military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday.

      An alternative is that the PLA can declare air and maritime zones around the island of Taiwan as restriction zones for military exercises, Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

      In addition, the PLA can conduct large-scale military drills around the island of Taiwan, including on the waters between Taiwan island and Japan as well as between Taiwan island and Guam, experts said. The drills should include joint efforts of all PLA service branches, with all combat elements including electronic warfare, missile and long-range rocket strikes, seizing of air superiority and control of sea, amphibious landing, as well as anti-access and area denial against external military interference, they said.

      Didn’t the Cuban Missile Crisis teach these assholes in DC anything?

      1. marcus

        Global Times is a PRC propaganda outfit.
        Do you really want to give it more coverage?

        As always China bluffs … then walks back. Like all bullies.

        1. hunkerdown

          “Marcus”, is that why you didn’t answer my question above, about why we should value your war-horniness or your obviously institutional, color-by-numbers bot behavior here? Because you know exactly what you are and why you’re bade to post here?

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          You are no longer welcome here. You have no business policing other commentors.

          That’s what people assumed about Russia.

          China has defied the US on the Russia sanctions and has now started openly trading with Russia, defying counter-sanctions.

          The US would crater in 3 months if China cut off pharma and Vitamin C exports.

          I suggest you rethink who holds the cards here.

  31. Louis Fyne

    to put the scale of things into perspective,

    If Washington DC was a house on one end of a block and Taipei was a house on the other end of the block and the Taipei and DC front doors were 100 yard-100 meters apart, then the coast of PRC is 4 feet/1.3 meters from the Taipei’s door.

    and if Taiwan was overlaid onto the US, Taiwan would stretch roughly from Westchester County, NY to the southern tip of Delaware with a width a bit more than NJ state.

  32. Karl

    Unwelcome cross-border visits from high level dignitaries can easily trigger unforeseen consequences. I’m thinking of the visit of Archduke Ferdinand’s to Serbia 1914. What’s to be gained from another eye-poke? More importantly, what can be lost? The context (U.S. war fatigue, Ukraine not going well) is not auspicious for further risk-taking by the U.S. abroad.

    I’m wondering where cooler heads among U.S. economic elites stand on this situation? We know that silicon valley (e.g. Apple) has a big influence on Northern California politics, including Pelosi’s District, and has big investments at stake in both Taiwan and Mainland China. Surely they are advocates for stability and embrace continued ambiguity to keep their business models/games going? There is nothing ambiguous about Pelosi’s visit.

    I’ve also heard that the Asian community is a big political force in San Francisco politics. Is this an example of a myopic politician pandering to local interests?

    Or maybe this is what politicians need to do to get the CHIPS-plus bill passed, which happened today, passing a filibuster by 64-33 — $54Big Ones for the U.S. computer chip industry. This bill is now headed back to the House, and will go to Biden’s desk. If true, Pelosi will have achieved her objective, and can now cancel her trip on some convenient pretext. If this is how U.S. politics works today, it’s very sad indeed.

    Aside from CHIPS-plus pork, none of this makes sense from a military, political, or economic perspective when considered from the standpoint of long-term national interest. And except for Ukraine aid pork, the same can be said for our improbable “help” — and Pelosi’s vist — there. At least Iraq was for oil, which backfired, and Afghanistan was for revenge, which also did not end well. Nothing about U.S. foreign policy today seems to pencil out from any pragmatic perspective, except maybe MIC profits. We do need to test our new weapons systems, after all, and keep our troops well trained. Apparently real fire works best for this…?

    1. tegnost

      it will indeed be interesting to see if the dog wags a different way now that the CHIPs bill has passed That seems to be our industrial policy in a nutshell, shower money on the c suites of favored sectors.
      As to our current weapons systems, I think they’re (f 35 especially but many others in different degrees) never meant to be used for anything other than vehicles for carrying patentable R and D on the .gov dime to later be privatized. That’s our whole game. And like with abortion, we’ll just scare the plebes with the threat of nuclear war and no one will know our junky mish mash of self driving crap still doesn’t work, not surprisingly. the full “ten years” later. We know how abortion worked out, can we expect more for nuclear war”

      I’ll lift from PK’s 11:34 am reply
      “My personal theory is that we are suffering from having a western leadership made up of a generation of people who have never witnessed a real war, or have had to suffer personally in a major conflict – those people never send their own sons to war. This has created a fuzzy line between provocation and actual war that has not usually existed in the past – usually that line was always pretty clear.”

      I think this really cuts to the chase.
      It’s just a game.

  33. Anthony G Stegman

    Pelosi may well have been bluffing all along, and never seriously considered paying a visit to Taiwan. She is an attention seeker not far removed from Donald Trump. Like Trump Pelosi is smart enough not to cross certain lines.

  34. Anthony G Stegman

    For national security reasons China can never accept a fully independent Taiwan. Think about the implications of an independent Taiwan? Massive and permanent US military bases ala Okinawa less than 100 nautical miles from mainland China. Nuclear weapons could be based there. Impossible for China to accept. In fact, things need to be reversed. Taiwan becomes a full fledged province of China, and China builds its own military bases on the island to defend against hostile actions by the United States.

  35. bassmule

    Ever meet a Formosan Nationalist? I did once, in a cab in New York City, of course. 1983, I’m pretty sure. As he was crossing the Queensboro Bridge, he said “Mrs. Chiang Kai-shek says she loves her country so much, how come she got a big house on Long Island?”

  36. Phenix

    Why do people assume that the US will directly fight China in the Taiwan straits? The US can engage China with carrier groups that are at the edge of the China’s range. The US needs to keep China from landing on and taking Taiwan’s territory. The US does not have to fight China on Chinese territory.

    I would honestly just blockade China. Cut off the Stait of Malacca. Russia can not supply China via pipelines.

    Millions of people will die. Millions of Chinese may starve if the US is willing to completely cut China off from food and oil. China’s Achilles heel is that it imports everything that makes modern life possible. They can not function like Russia and as far as I know there is not sufficient infrastructure to allow for China to import these goods over land. There is no Navy that can stop the US from blockading China. The other top navies on the planet are US allies.

    …but it appears we are heading towards a global war. Russia, China and Iran/Shia proxies vs NATO, Israel, Japan?, Saudi Arabia/Islamic radicals. I think we will all lose. China and Russia lose regardless because of demographics. I don’t see how this ends with out nuclear exchanges if we somehow manage to not nuke the planet then I think the US wins in the long run because of demographics.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      What about “China regards Taiwan as part of China” don’t you understand? As indicated above, only 13 countries recognize Taiwan, none of them even remotely a military power.

      Aircraft carriers are sitting ducks. That was demonstrated in the Millennium 2002 war games.

      Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, adopted an asymmetric strategy, in particular, using old methods to evade Blue’s sophisticated electronic surveillance network. Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to front-line troops and World-War-II-style light signals to launch airplanes without radio communications.

      Red received an ultimatum from Blue, essentially a surrender document, demanding a response within 24 hours. Thus warned of Blue’s approach, Red used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of Blue’s fleet by the second day of the exercise. In a preemptive strike, Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the Blue forces’ electronic sensors and destroyed sixteen warships: one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five of Blue’s six amphibious ships. An equivalent success in a real conflict would have resulted in the deaths of over 20,000 service personnel. Soon after the cruise missile offensive, another significant portion of Blue’s navy was “sunk” by an armada of small Red boats, which carried out both conventional and suicide attacks that capitalized on Blue’s inability to detect them as well as expected.

      China and Russia both have weapons that can take out an aircraft carrier.

      Russia has also made clear it will join China if the US attacks. They just did joint exercises in the Pacific to make the point.

      Russia hypersonic missiles can hit the US, including via South Pole routes, and cannot be intercepted. So they could also take out an aircraft carrier or US base.

      1. Karl

        This should cause our leaders to exercise caution. Instead, they are reportedly dispatching the USS Ronald Reagan to the scene. Depending on what happens next, it could be like pouring gasoline on burning embers. This creates a situation where a miscalculation can have fatal consequences. Scenario: China attacks this carrier; our wingnut politicians and pundits scream “Pearl Harbor II”; “Nuke ’em” talk gets out of hand. Then the feeling of existential threat ricochets around the world. The pressure to strike first with nukes could then intensify to the point where WW III is upon us.

        History would point to Nancy’s visit to Taiwan the way they now point to Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s visit to Serbia in 1914 — another deliberately provocative act at a very delicate time — as the tragic tipping point.

        The U.S. continues to escalate with sanctions (Ukraine) and rhetoric (Taiwan). Where are the adults in the room at the Pentagon? They seem totally absent from NSC and the State Dept.

      2. Phenix

        This exercise took place in the strait of Hormuz not in deep water. The bulk of China’s Navy is based on coastal defense. I think the current carrier range is less than 1200 km and China’s carrier killers are line of sitelaser guided weapons. The US will try to stay as far away as possible.

        I do not know the depth of water around Taiwan but there is no way that the US carrier would enter the Taiwan strait. If it does, then those sailors are all dead and everyone involved in the decision making process should face a similar fate.

        The US does not have to enter the strait to contest the area. Can China sink a carrier? Yes. Is it guaranteed like the 2002 war games? No.

        If Russia enters the fray then NATO will attack Russia and it’s a mute point. We will probably all be dead.

        Is it agreed that China taking Taiwan is an existential threat to the US (Global Imperial) economic elites. They made the Chinese economy through their own hubris. China would have never developed with out Clinton making mistake after mistake followed by other US elites selling out the US economy to the Chinese. The US will not back down here and neither will China. I just think China is making a mistake.

        China should play the long game but both China and Russia are facing a demographic cliff. I can only assume that both countries have agreed that this is their best chance to overthrow the US empire and replace it with a multipolar read Chinese/Russian dominated global system.

        If I have not made it clear. I do not support my position. I am an old antiwar activist. I helped organize the first protests after 911. I could see what was coming then and I think the same ideological operatives are still in charge.

        In my view they will not allow China to break out of the outer island chains. The only way for it to happen is for the Chinese to take it from the Americans. I don’t know if they can, or if the world will be the same if they do. As in nuclear exchanges. It appears all countries are moving towards an end game. The US will not give up all of it’s Empire and it appears China is done waiting.

    2. Polar Socialist

      Chinese commerce is only about 20% of the Strait of Malacca traffic, so closing it (just a threat of military action would raise insurance fees astronomically) would make pretty much all Southeast Asian countries very, very unhappy. And also Taiwan, South-Korea and Japan, since their economy depends on unhindered passage.

      China is pretty much the only country in the area that can survive (albeit narrowly) trough land traffic. If we think the Global South is annoyed by all the issues caused by the current sanctions set by West, we can only assume the level of annoyance if West actually, physically blocked one of very arteries of global commerce.

      1. Tom Pfotzer

        They wouldn’t be likely to block all traffic, would they? They’d be selective.

        1. OnceWereVirologist

          But what are the practicalities ? Assuming you’re using a carrier group to enforce a blockade, do the military realities allow you to let hundreds of ships steam past every day ? I would assume that that would play merry hell on your ability to detect the approach of enemy submarines. Ship-killing missiles can be camouflaged and fired from standard shipping containers these days, too.

          1. Phenix

            You do not use carrier groups to enforce blockades. You sink vessels that are entering the straits with nuclear submarines. This is the veiled threat that the US made when it moved to arm Australia with nuclear submarines which really meant base US submarines in Australia.

            Carrier groups should be used to project power from deep water. Only our peer competitors can sink a carrier at range.

            Japan has a Navy that can escort it’s ships. France and England can also escort allied ships.

            BRICs can not escort their trade.

              1. Phenix

                You do know that both China and Russia are “peer competitors”.

                Yves I am a long time poster. I take breaks because well I work and have kids and it’s hard to take the necessary time to post on your blog.

                I do not disagree that our foreign policy experts are idiots. I do not have a time machine. Our entire relationship with China has been a mistake. I honestly wonder if the US has made one correct long term foreign policy move in the past 50 years.

                I have two young kids. I am constantly concerned about their futures.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          A blockade = nothing gets through. It’s impractical to inspect ships, which is what would be required.

          In the Millennium Challenge I mentioned above, an aircraft carrier was sunk in war games with a fleet of commercial + very small boats.

          Since the infamous Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC ’02) concept-development exercise, run by the now-defunct U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), was leaked in the press 13 years ago, strong opinions have been expressed about its failure and lessons. When it was conducted, this exercise was the most ambitious and costly military simulation in American history. It pitted the U.S. military (with capabilities projected five years into the future) against a nameless potential adversary, with outcome intended to inform future strategy and procurement decisions. Controversy immediately arose when the opposition force, or red team, learned that the results were scripted to assure that the U.S. forces would win….

          At the start of MC ’02, to fulfill the forced-entry requirement, blue issued red an eight-point ultimatum, of which the final point was surrender. Red team leader Van Riper knew his country’s political leadership could not accept this, which he believed would lead the blue forces to directly intervene. Since the George W. Bush administration had recently announced the “preemption doctrine,” Van Riper decided that as soon as a U.S. Navy carrier battle group steamed into the Gulf, he would “preempt the preemptors” and strike first. Once U.S. forces were within range, Van Riper’s forces unleashed a barrage of missiles from ground-based launchers, commercial ships, and planes flying low and without radio communications to reduce their radar signature. Simultaneously, swarms of speedboats loaded with explosives launched kamikaze attacks. The carrier battle group’s Aegis radar system — which tracks and attempts to intercept incoming missiles — was quickly overwhelmed, and 19 U.S. ships were sunk, including the carrier, several cruisers, and five amphibious ships. “The whole thing was over in five, maybe ten minutes,” Van Riper said.

  37. Tom Pfotzer

    This post is made in the spirit of thoroughness, and it required a great feat of self-discipline. I am going to debate from the perspective of the NeoCons. You already know how much I love the NeoCons.

    There is a way for the U.S. to play this game and win it. Here goes:

    a. Provoke China enough to close off exports from China. This would surely involve substantial short-run losses to U.S. interests, as it will idle significant China-US supply chain components owned partially by U.S. interests. Those China-based assets’ value will plummet. Fire-sale.

    b. Use the trade shutdown as impetus for massive re-investment in U.S. domestic production. This has already been telegraphed by, for example, Walmart’s ad campaign touting the re-domestication of their sourcing. “We will invest $200B in domestic production”. Another telegraph, tangential, is the sale of the Cleveland Cliffs massive steel complex on lake Erie. It had been bought by Arcelor-Mittal (Indian global steel-maker) some time back, and has recently been purchased by U.S. domestic interests. Consider the politics of that sale. Why did India bail out? Those events _may_ signal policy decisions to re-domesticate production.

    c. While production repatriation will certainly cause major wage inflation, recall that any re-domestication of production will entail the installation of the most automated factories in the world. The resultant inflation will be primarily caused by middle-class wage increases. Because of the degree of automation, the elite will continue to extract handsome rents, and the middle class will be gratified. That is a major domestic political win.

    d. There will be additional economic carrots to re-distribute. What we don’t buy from China, and what we don’t produce domestically will be imported from what remains of our allies. You’ll recall that I wondered why Germany was willing to sacrifice their economy in pursuit of the NeoCon plan. I speculated that the deal was “if we roll Russia, you get some of the spoils”. It may also have been “even if we fail to roll Russia, we’re going to block out China. That leaves a lot of U.S. domestic consumption that you could re-direct your production toward”.

    So, there may be ways to play this card game that deliver domestic political benefits, keep the elite’s rent extractions going, and keep the Western allies on-board.

    1. John k

      Maybe this is an insight to neocon fantasies. Perhaps they’re thinking how in ww2 we turned from making consumer stuff to war machines on a dime.
      But at least then we had a major industrial economy. We’ve spent the past 40 years shipping ours to low income countries bc profits. It would take a crash program to get back to that in half that time. We don’t produce mfg engineers bc there’s no money in it. Imo the profs are at least mostly retired. Not that many us kids are interested in math science. Plus, we don’t have the manpower, 10-mil out with long Covid, help wanted signs everywhere. We can’t make masks at scale!
      I read Taiwan sells $1.3T chips, maybe 300b to China. If that closes our economy will take a major hit… and we will need those chips for the labor-free factories a la the fantasy. China and Russia already have the factories… and China right now produces better chips than we do.
      Granted, there must be some fantasy they’re clinging to, maybe just as realistic that Ukraine with 8 years nato training and western funded/supplied arms would break Russia into bits. As big a fail as cia saying in 1988 that ussr was stable for 50 years.
      One thing I notice among friends is the assumption that unlimited spending can solve any problem. Problem is that all fiat, or gold, can do is focus available resources. We no longer have have either the people or the mfg base. And imo our trade deficit will begin crashing as import prices rise and ROW hunger for us$ Wanes.

    2. Karl

      The end point you propose is the kind of strategic manufacturing and trade shift envisioned in the CHIPS+ Act that passed in the Senate today. But is “provoking” China an appropriate means to that end?

      Repatriating much of our hi-tech manufacturing base from China will require years, and perhaps decades. We would need China as a cooperative (or at least not hostile) partner in this endeavor.

      The U.S. economy and the MIC sector in particular depend way too much on low cost supplies from the “China factory” for this kind of long drawn out trade attrition and strategic shift to pan out reliably well for the US. Biden’s people couldn’t even anticipate how the sanctions against Russia would impact basic commodity flows in Europe (oil, gas, fertilizer, foodstuffs). The U.S. and Europe are now confronting inflation, then recession. In your scenario, where would the enduring domestic political support come from to maintain this aggressive trade posture? What would prevent China from doing to our chip supplies what Russia is doing to Europe’s gas supply? How would this kind of global supply chain disruption affect other countries’ suppliers we depend on in the global trade web? After 40 years of globalization, everything is more connected to everything else than ever before. Your scenario could well lead to a global depression.

      A fatal flaw: the benefits the U.S. would be getting are very long term; the costs and disruption risks are all up front. Wall Street would have to write off huge investments in China. We would be cutting off our nose to spite our face. Of course, we seem to do that quite a lot. See Cipolla’s five laws of stupidity.

      1. Tom Pfotzer

        Karl: Great response. All the right objections. Here’s rejoinder:

        Karl: where would the enduring domestic political support come from to maintain this aggressive trade posture?

        Tom: from the provoked retaliation. See the Poke Russia playbook.

        Karl: What would prevent China from doing to our chip supplies what Russia is doing to Europe’s gas supply?

        Tom: That’s exactly what they’d do, and we would counter by importing more from other countries, and building our own capacity, which we’re doing already. Can you identify a chip or chip family made in China not available elsewhere?

        Karl: How would this kind of global supply chain disruption affect other countries’ suppliers we depend on in the global trade web?

        Tom: We’d get the same types of disruptions we got from Covid. Annoying, but only a few years’ disruption. The difference would be that we’d know the duration, and we’d get domestic capacity at the end of the tunnel.

        Karl: the benefits the U.S. would be getting are very long term; the costs and disruption risks are all up front.

        Tom: Yes. That’s the nature of “investment”. And innovation.

        Karl: Wall Street would have to write off huge investments in China.

        Tom: Correct. That’s going to happen anyway; that’s what the China Trade War is all about. U.S. is getting shut out of the China Rent Extraction game. Those investments are toast already. And every provocation that’s inflicted on China makes those investments lose value faster.

        One more point: the U.S. has clearly decided to cause major disruption. We’re going to get disruption, and China isn’t going to back down, so that means it’ll be a lot of disruption. And it isn’t just the NeoCons that are behind the disruption. This is all-across-Congress approved disruption (at the moment).

        1. Phenix

          Yes, I agree that this is their plan. I don’t see how this will happen with out a major war.

        2. Karl

          Thanks for this very thoughtful response. All I can say is, it’s easier to wreck a complex machine (the global economy) than keep it running (with global stability).

          The U.S. used to have a “peace through strength” mission, which was fundamentally defensive in orientation. To the neocons, peace is no longer the objective, it seems, but domination. Have the American people signed up for this goal and this level of risk-taking to achieve it after recent endless wars? Europe? Japan? If this is indeed the neo-con fantasy, and I don’t disagree that it probably is, the neocons have a different understanding of the politically (and economically) possible than I do. To American voters, it’s still “the economy, stupid!”

          Would U.S. domination of the world be a good outcome if we could achieve it? After the orgasmic rush recedes, we might discover that such a world might require even more costly military maintenance (post disruption)….. Lots of guns and less butter for the American people, and probably less security to boot.

  38. jan van mourik

    For our reading pleasure:


    203. Joint Statement Following Discussions With Leaders of the People’s Republic of China

    “The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, it will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes.”

  39. Claudia

    Has everyone forgotten 1999? All Taiwan needs to do is look at Hong Kong to see their future of 24/7 surveillance and freedom to hunker down and STFU. This was no time to blink.

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