Millennium Post
Editorial

A crisis in the making?

A crisis in the making?
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The brief visit of Nancy Pelosi — who holds the third-most important position in the US government — to Taiwan has stirred a controversy that may last for some time to come. The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives received a rapturous welcome in Taiwan, and was honoured with the Order of the Propitious Clouds. The visit left China — which makes territorial claims over Taiwan — fretting. It had been sending warnings in advance but couldn't deter Pelosi's visit. Amid all this, a new global tension seems to be emerging even as the world still grapples to find an end to the Russia-Ukraine war. The moot question is, can the world afford another geopolitical crisis at this juncture? Certainly not. It may be important to have a relook at the developments that have led the involved stakeholders to the cusp of war, or at least a military confrontation. It may also be significant to note how and why the involved stakeholders failed to prevent the situation from heating up. In the first place, China had been sending warning signals in advance to stop Pelosi from landing in Taiwan. This, however, served more as a provocation than a deterrent. A few weeks ago, China had declared that the Taiwan Strait which separates the island from the mainland is not international waters — attracting stern response from the United States. It is being theorized that as the United States is caught up with Russia-Ukraine war in Europe, China is trying to pull a bargain in the Asian region. During Pelosi's visit, China undertook various escalatory measures, and even planned to exercise live-fire exercises later. It is evidently clear that China is exercising no constraints when it comes to preventing possible escalation — partly because it finds itself in an advantageous position, comparatively. Notably, Xi Jinping will preferably try to maintain a hard-line approach on the Taiwan issue ahead of this year's Chinese Communist Party's Congress meet. The Biden administration, on the other hand, discouraged Nancy Pelosi from visiting Taiwan but did little to prevent it. The Biden administration is also heading for Congressional election later this year. Biden cannot afford to give up to Chinese warnings. At the same time, it also cannot think of a parallel military confrontation in Asia at this point of time. The Biden administration clarified that the US sticks to the longstanding One-China Policy. It also sought to draw a distinction by saying that Pelosi represents a different branch of government, and her stand is distinct from that of the White House. Also, the US envoy in China, Nicholas Burns, after being summoned by the Chinese officials during Pelosi's visit, said that the US will not "escalate and stands ready to work with China to prevent escalation altogether." It appears that the US is in no mood to be involved in direct confrontation with China, but is finding it hard to give up to Chinese provocations. As for Taiwan, the applause with which it welcomed Nancy Pelosi indicates that they, too, see America as a harbinger of democracy. The island seems to be enamoured by, what Nancy Pelosi claimed, "America's determination to preserve democracy." It is also a reality that Taiwan is one among many territories that are sandwiched between two superpowers, and it has limited options going forward. Notably, the US has maintained the status of "strategic ambiguity" in its relation with Taiwan ever since 1970. It appears that the time has come when it is trying to replace 'ambiguity' with a certain degree of clarity as, amid rising tensions with China, geopolitical positioning of Taiwan has gained greater relevance. Also, the country has emerged as a powerful industrial hub for electronic chips. While the White House response is still vague, what is clear is that the US is considering creating yet another battleground in the name of democracy — like they did in Ukraine. Any possible confrontation in the region will be unbearable — not just for China, Taiwan and the US but also the entire world. Hopefully, better sense prevails and things are brought back in control, soon.

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