With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set to arrive in Taiwan later Tuesday, the world is now bracing for China’s response.
President Xi Jinping told US President Joe Biden during a phone call last week that “anyone who works with fire will be burned” in reference to Taiwan, which China considers its territory. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian then said on Monday that the People’s Liberation Army “will not sit quietly” if Pelosi becomes the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
Neither Xi nor Biden can afford to provoke a conflict that could do even more economic damage at home, and last week’s call showed they are preparing for their first face-to-face meeting as leaders in months. coming.
But bellicose rhetoric and growing animosity in both countries add pressure on Xi to deliver a strong response, particularly as he prepares for a bi-decade summit later this year where he hopes to secure a third term in office.
While the US canceled its mutual defense agreement with Taiwan in 1979, China must weigh the possibility of US military intervention. Biden said in June that Washington would defend Taiwan in any attack from China, although the White House clarified that it meant the US would provide military weapons in line with existing agreements.
“Great restraint on both sides is still a risk of a war that will be very costly from the perspective of both sides,” Andrew Gilholm, director of analysis for China and North Asia at Risk Management, said on Bloomberg TV. However, he added, “the concern is that risks will be taken because of domestic drivers.”
Here are the options for actions China can take:
1. Large Warplane incursions
With daily incursions into the island’s air defense identification zone already the norm, the People’s Liberation Army would need to send either a large mission or a series of unusual flights. The daily record was 56 PLA flights on October 4, which coincided with nearby US military exercises. Some 15 flights flew east of Taiwan, instead of the usual southwest routes, after a US ambassador’s visit in November, for example.
China could keep up this level of aggression for days, or weeks, reducing the already stretched resources of Taiwan’s Air Force as it chases down the planes.
China will have to respond militarily “in a way that is clear from previous signals,” said Amanda Hsiao, a senior analyst at the Taiwan-based Crisis Group.
2. Flying Warplanes Over Taiwan
The Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper has suggested that China should conduct military airstrikes directly over Taiwan, forcing President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to decide whether to shoot them down. Last year, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng warned: “The closer they get to the island, the stronger we will attack.”
Alternatively, sending a similar deep or wide across the central line of the Taiwan Strait, a buffer zone established by the US in 1954 that Beijing does not recognize, would put pressure on Taiwan’s military by requiring planes to stay in the air. PLA aircraft repeatedly crossed the line in September 2020, when then US Secretary of State Keith Krach traveled to the island.
Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of the Global Times, said in a now-deleted Tweet that PLA jets could “forcefully shoot down Pelosi’s plane.” It also suggested that Chinese airlines “follow” Pelosi on any attempted flights to Taiwan, a move that could easily lead to miscalculation on both sides.
Based on what I know, in response to Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan, Beijing has launched a series of countermeasures, including military action.
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) August 2, 2022
3. Missile Test Near Taiwan
The summer of 1995 saw one of China’s most emotional responses to the exchange between Washington and Taipei, when Beijing conducted a missile test in the sea near the island. The move was part of China’s protests against President Bill Clinton’s decision to allow Taiwan’s first democratic president, Lee Teng-hui, to visit the US.
China declared exclusion zones around the target areas during the tests, disrupting transportation and air traffic. More recently, the PLA launched “lethal” ballistic missiles into the South China Sea in August 2020, in what was seen as a response to US naval exercises.
4. Economic pain
China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner. Beijing could take advantage of that by boycotting exporters, slapping a ban on some Taiwanese goods or restricting two-way trade. On Monday, China banned imports from more than 100 Taiwanese suppliers, according to local outlet United Daily News. However, China must press carefully as it needs Taiwan for professionals.
Beijing has already hit several Taiwanese leaders with sanctions, including bans on travel to the mainland. More government officials may face similar actions, but they will have little effect because Taiwanese politicians are unlikely to travel to the mainland or do business there.
China could also disrupt shipping in the Taiwan Strait, an international trade route. Chinese military officials in recent months have repeatedly told their US counterparts that the sea is not international waters. However, any moves that restrict trade will only hurt China’s economy.
5. Diplomatic correspondence
The Global Times warned Tuesday that the Biden administration would face a “significant” setback in China-US relations for Pelosi’s trip. That could mean recalling U.S. Senator Qin Gang, who took over last year. In 1995, Beijing fired then Ambassador Li Daoyu to the US after Washington invited then Taiwan President Lee to visit the US. However, that allusion took place at the highest level of government to Pelosi, who is second in line to the presidency.
Last year, China recalled its ambassador to Lithuania after the Baltic country allowed Taiwan to open an office in its capital under its own name, instead of Kannada Taipei – an issue Beijing considered more neutral.
6. Get an Island
Beijing has other military options than launching a risky offensive across the 130-kilometer (80-mile) Taiwan Strait — such as seizing one of the small islands off the coast of Taipei, though such an offensive is highly unlikely. .
During the early days of the Cold War, the PLA’s military bombing of Taiwan’s Kinmen Islands, located off China’s southeast coast, drew significant US military support. Taiwan attacked the Chinese advance, but not before hundreds of its soldiers were killed. The Taipei-administered Pratas Island, 400 kilometers (250 miles) off the coast of Taiwan, is another vulnerable spot.
China in 2012 seized Scarborough Shoal, a coral reef roughly the size of Manhattan Island, which the Philippines claims as its own, in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. The US would view any seizure of Taiwanese territory as a major escalation that could test the limits of Biden’s military commitment to the island’s democracy.
However, such action also carries the risks of the Beijing government. Taking an island under Taiwan’s control could trigger the US to add more sanctions on China and alarming neighboring countries in Asia, many of which still have territorial disputes with Beijing.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from an integrated feed.)