Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan: What lies ahead for China and the US?
Chatham House experts examine the implications for Taiwan, China and the United States of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.
China’s fading ties with Washington?
Dr Yu Jie
US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi’s, visit to Taiwan has plunged China-US relations into a new low as the reservoir of trust forged between the two sides over the last 40 years appears to be almost exhausted.
However, her move will likely not result in the full-scale crisis across the Taiwan strait that some hawkish voices in both Beijing and Washington believe. Instead, Beijing will most likely offer a combination of military posturing toward the US navy and economic sanctions on Taiwanese agricultural and manufacturing products in order to send a clear bellwether to any future potential visits by high-level Western political figures.
Neither Beijing nor Washington has declared a willingness to change the current status quo as the present impasse benefits both governments – but for different reasons. For China, the best approach is to reach a military and economic capability that prevents US engagement with Taiwan without the use of force. For the US, the strategic ambiguity under the Taiwan Relations Act remains an effective card to counter China’s growing military influence in the Indo-Pacific and keep itself relevant within the region as a security guarantor. Yet, both sides have decided to kick the issue of Taiwan’s status down the road, believing that time is ultimately on their side.
Despite a chorus of nationalistic rhetoric, China will be careful not to stumble into an accidental conflict which risks colossal damage on all fronts. Chinese President, Xi Jinping, must weigh all of the options before him as Beijing cannot afford to be perceived as unilaterally seeking to change what it agreed with the US back in 1979 when ties were re-established. If that happens, it will provoke the US political establishment to reach a unanimous agreement to change its ‘One China Policy’ and, ahead of the 20th Communist Party Congress where Xi is expected to be crowned for a historic third term, the last thing he wants is an unnecessary conflict with Taiwan.
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