Cooling the temperatures: On U.S.-China relations after Pelosi’s Taiwan visit

That the four-day military exercises conducted by China, in the waters and airspace surrounding Taiwan, concluded on August 7 without incident comes as a relief to the region. The drills saw the Chinese military not only cross the median of the Taiwan Strait but fire conventional missiles above Taiwan, aggressive acts that could have easily led to unintended escalation. That they did not lead to any incidents is credit to the sober response from Taiwan’s military, which said it monitored China’s exercises, some of which were held within 12 nautical miles of Taiwan, but chose to neither engage Chinese aircraft and warships, nor shoot down missiles. If the drills were certainly provocative, China’s justification is that they were a needed response to draw a red line after what Beijing has seen as needless American provocation that triggered this entire crisis. The August 3 visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the first such high-level engagement in 25 years, was in China’s view further evidence of Washington “hollowing out” its commitment to a One China Policy.

As the dust settles now, it is difficult to see what all three parties – the U.S., Taiwan and China – will ultimately gain from a visit that appears to have been driven more by Ms. Pelosi’s political inclinations than any well-considered long-term strategic objectives. It is thus not hard to see why even U.S. President Joe Biden and the U.S. military had cautioned against a trip that brings no lasting strategic benefits for Washington. For Taiwan’s 23 million people and for President Tsai Ing-wen, the rare high-profile foreign visit was no doubt welcome in the face of increasing global isolation on account of China’s pressure. That short-term benefit may, however, be offset by the fact that Ms. Pelosi has arguably left Taiwan with a far worse strategic environment. China’s military has indicated its actions have now heralded a new normal in military activity across the Taiwan Strait, bringing it ever closer to Taiwan’s shores. Beijing and Washington, meanwhile, are left picking up the pieces of an already strained relationship that is now teetering on the edge of an abyss. The focus must now turn to cooling the temperatures. Doing so will be easier said than done with the low levels of trust between the world’s two biggest powers. In response to Ms. Pelosi’s visit, Beijing last week said it will cut off military channels with Washington by cancelling three key dialogue mechanisms, that too at a time of heightened military tensions. War, it is said, is too important to be left to the generals. The same may be said of relations between nations: they should not be hostage to personal ambitions of politicians.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2022 4:08:43 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/cooling-the-temperatures-the-hindu-editorial-on-us-china-relations-after-pelosis-taiwan-visit/article65742061.ece