Wellie, the US seems unable to stop itself from trying to assert itself despite its status as a declining hegemon, at the expense of its putative causes. The latest is yet another provocation of China over Taiwan, apparently to rub in that we can and will.
In a tiny bit of “in fairness,” this trip, a visit to Taiwan by legislators led by Senator Ed Markey, was previously scheduled. But coming a mere twelve days after the Pelosi visit, it looks designed to show the government in Beijing as unable to prevent American meddling. From Associated Press:
A delegation of American lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Sunday,…. led by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, will meet President Tsai Ing-wen and other officials, as well as members of the private sector, to discuss shared interests including reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and investments in semiconductors.
BWAAAH! “Reducing tensions”? How about virtual visits rather than junkets?
Back to the story:
Markey, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Subcommittee, and members of the delegation will reaffirm the United States’ support for Taiwan.
The other members of the delegation are Republican Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, a delegate from American Samoa, and Democratic House members John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal from California and Don Beyer from Virginia…..
Campbell, speaking on Friday, said the U.S. would send warships and planes through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks and is developing a roadmap for trade talks with Taiwan that he said the U.S. intends to announce in the coming days.
Trade talks? So more official visits? And what about more weapons?
To back up a bit, even though China is a no-bones-about-it authoritarian government, it’s not hard to see that the US’s tender ministrations are about projecting power, and not about the well-being of the Taiwanese.
Recall that China had and still has no formal timetable for Taiwan unification. Some statements have suggested an aspiration for that happening by 2049. That’s an eternity.
Petyr Baelish, in print version of Game of Thrones, put off an accounting of sorts for the death of Lady Arryn by a year. Sansa asked what would the delay accomplish. Baelish replied, “A lot can happen in a year,” and listed particulars.
With China, the particulars that could put off off Taiwan’s day of reckoning include crises and dislocations on the mainland produced by global warming (water scarcity, parts of the country becoming uninhabitable due to extreme heat, food shortages), dustups with important neighbors (India and/or Russia) taking priority, or domestic dissent, say due to pollution, a fall in living standards, etc. And even if China did firm up and stick to its original 2049 target, that translates into Taiwan having things stay more or less the way they are if they don’t make a fuss and embarrass the government in Beijing.
The US is already messaging that Taiwan should be happy to become the next Ukraine-in-the-making, as if that were working out well for Ukraine:
Watch: Taiwan has been taking clues from Ukraine on how smaller armies can inflict heavy losses on larger rivals. WSJ unpacks Taipei’s so-called porcupine strategy to prepare for a potential war with China. https://t.co/44F3UeSDJD
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 15, 2022
Note the “win” is merely inflicting heavy losses (as if that were happening to Russia, as opposed to Ukraine), not being the victor.
Interestingly, the commentary on Twitter is subdued, with a much higher level of opposition to the visit than I anticipated. but mainly from the powerless left”
As predicted, Nancy Pelosi’s provocation against China is being repeated. She opened the gates to the de facto recognition of Taiwan and the trashing of the One China Policy. These Congress-people are worthless war makers unable to solve problems at home https://t.co/jV42gYE0HU
— Brian Becker (@BrianBeckerDC) August 14, 2022
— CODEPINK (@codepink) August 14, 2022
I don’t see anywhere near the same level of English-language expressions of support for this visit as I do either disapproval or tweets of MSM stories.
The Republicans on the other hand are going after Pelosi. As Carolinian put it, “This story getting big ink in the rightistsphere.” From Daily Mail, EXCLUSIVE: Nancy Pelosi’s son – who secretly joined mom on her controversial trip to Taiwan – is a top investor in Chinese telecoms company, despite House Speaker’s campaign to tackle China’s corporate influence in the US:
Nancy Pelosi’s son is the second largest investor in a $22million Chinese company whose senior executive was arrested in a fraud investigation, DailyMail.com can reveal, raising questions about his secretive visit to Taiwan with his mother.
As well as investing, Paul Pelosi Jr, 53, also worked for the telecoms company, Borqs Technologies, in a board or consultancy role, Securities and Exchange Commission documents show.
He was awarded 700,000 shares for his services, making him the fifth largest shareholder in the company. After other insiders sold stock in June 2021 he became the second largest – more stock than one of its two co-founders and topped only by CEO Pat Sek Yuen Chan.
The Internet of Things venture was worth a lot more before the arrest. After being late to sell out, Pelosi fils is no longer in the top ten shareholder list, according to the latest SEC filing.
One wonders why such a small-fry company, even at a higher valuation, went public. And this is all a bit awkward for Pelosi mere since she’s backed legislation limiting the access of Chinese companies to US markets. The fog around what Pelosi the younger did to get his stake is not comforting. Again from Daily Mail:
According to Borqs’ SEC filings in June 2021, Pelosi Jr. acquired 700,000 shares of the company in an ’employee benefit plan’.
‘These are shares that were acquired by our officers, directors and affiliates, or that were acquired by our employees or consultants, under an employee benefit plan. Such officers, directors, affiliates, employees and consultants are the selling stockholders identified in the reoffer prospectus,’ the document said.
It’s not as if the Pelosi has relevant-looking skills aside from access to his mother:
Pelosi Jr. was appointed to the boards of two lithium mining companies in 2020 and 2021. His appointments have drawn new scrutiny following his visit to Taiwan, a lithium mining capital.
He joined the advisory board of Nevada-based Altair International Corp in December 2020. The job involves ‘making explicit introductions between Altair and potential strategic partners in the various industries of interest for expansion,’ according to a press release at the time.
In January 2021 he also became the president of EVSX Corp, a subsidiary of St-Georges Eco-Mining Corp.
A St-Georges press release said the newly formed subsidiary is ‘dedicated to electric vehicle battery recycling and future partnerships in the development of lithium mineral resources.’
At a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday Nancy denied her son went on her Asian trip for business, telling reporters: ‘His role was to be my escort.’…
DailyMail.com has previously revealed Pelosi Jr.’s business partners have been involved in six federal investigations and some were convicted of fraud. Investigators have not accused the Speaker’s son of being involved in the criminal activity and he was never charged.
Pelosi Jr.’s last job related to telecoms was also for a company mired in a criminal investigation.
In 2007 Pelosi Jr. was appointed vice president of a company that was embroiled in an investigation of scam calls that targeted senior citizens, whose CEO was a top Democrat donor.
The speaker’s son got a $180,000 job as Senior Vice President at data company InfoUSA, despite already holding a full-time position as a home loan officer at Countrywide Home Loans in San Mateo and having no experience in database marketing.
Now this is all good seedy fun, but by itself, this goes nowhere. However, the conservative tabloids before the Pelosi visit were trying to position it as motivated by her desire to take the spotlight off her role in presumed insider trading (the related spin was that she was going to get even more investment intel in Taiwan).
However, the Republicans hammering about Biden family corruption as a motivator for the war in Ukraine1 and the escalation in Taiwan does give them a wee bit of wriggle room if they want to try to find a graceful exit. Not that I expect that to happen. Both sides are getting more and more dug in.
China’s problem is it is playing to three audiences: Taiwan leadership, the Chinese public, and the US. Since the US is not listening and not agreement capable, the only way to get through to us is via force, and not mere threat displays. However, China is unlikely to go there until other measures have failed.
As Brian Berletic of New Atlas pointed out, China can bring Taiwan to heel pronto by stopping trading with it. 42% of Taiwan exports went to the mainland or Hong Kong last year, and 22% of imports came from them. All China has to do is go a bit off its usual script and play Japanese: throw up all sorts of passive-aggressive red tape that brings trade to a near halt.
Unfortunately, China also has the issue of appearances, um, face with its own citizens and with Taiwan. So that backs it into needing to engage in at least a tit for tat. Sanctioning the five Congresscritters does not seem adequate.
My first guess was that China would increase the frequency of military drills in Taiwan air space, unannounced, so as to create uncertainty over flights to the island. And better yet, any future stealthy US bigwig visitors might have to cool their heels in an intermediate airport waiting fo flights to resume.
China is not yet going that far. The immediate response was more bristling. From NDTV:
China said Monday it had organised fresh military drills around Taiwan, as a delegation of visiting United States lawmakers were set to meet the island’s leader just weeks after a similar trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi heightened fears of conflict.
The unannounced two-day trip came after Beijing sent warships, missiles and jets into the waters and skies around Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy that China’s leaders claim and have vowed to one day seize….
The bipartisan trip sparked a caustic response from Beijing, which said it had Monday carried out “combat readiness patrol and combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan island”.
“This is a solemn deterrent against the US and Taiwan for continuing to play political tricks and undermining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Shi Yi, spokesman for the Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement, promising to “resolutely defend national sovereignty”.
And a fresh story from the official organ Global Times, US keeps provoking tensions in Straits with lawmakers’ sneaky visit, to face ‘firm countermeasures’:
The latest visit is closely influenced by Pelosi’s visit nearly two weeks ago. It shows that the US has ignored China’s stern warnings and will have to face severe punishment due to its egregious provocations, Zhang Tengjun, deputy director of the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.
However, the delegation’s visit, which was only made public at the last minute when they arrived in a sneaky and stealthy manner, exposed their diffidence in triggering anger from the Chinese mainland, said Zhang.
The latest US move can be seen as defiance of China’s stern response, including military drills, an expert specializing in China-US relations told the Global Times on condition of anonymity on Sunday. “It can be seen that the US has become stuck in the mind-set of making trouble and sabotaging China-US ties so as to make itself a so-called lead player in the Western Pacific region.”
….The country will make them know that those who play with fire will perish by it and the US must pay the price for its own mistake, said Zhang.
On the surface, there’s not much new here. However, China’s military drills resulted in this delegation having to make a more secretive visit than Pelosi did. And the Chinese officialdom may have also worked out that raising the specter of all sorts of things it might do to prevent Pelosi’s visit worked against them when they chose instead to show that they could tighten a noose around Taiwan. So now they are issuing more general threats: “severe punishment….perish by fire.”
Another Global Times story, this an editorial, took note of US efforts to start a chip war and predicted it would fail:
If the US is intended to decouple itself from China in a “chip war,” it will have to rope in other allies to form a technological iron curtain that effectively end up splitting the current global supply chain into two. Yet, it is highly questionable whether the US has the ability to pull the whole world into its “chip war.” In fact, even the long-brewing CHIPS Act has faced questions on its effectiveness and sustainability, not to mention other export control measures….
If Washington is determined to keep the so-called “chip war” going, it must be ready for China to fight back.
China uses a large number of chips to manufacture end products like electronics and auto parts, and a large amount of the final products are exported to the rest of the world, including the US. If the US continues its suppression on the supplies of semiconductor-related products and technologies to China, it may eventually contribute to disruption in the manufacturing sector, which will not only affect China but also weigh down the US supply chain.
Given the scale and capacity of Chinese manufacturing, there is no other country that can replace China’s role, which is why a decoupling from China for US semiconductor supply chain is impossible.
Your humble blogger is skeptical that the idea of bringing semiconductor production home will be sustained. American companies and executives are greedy and want high returns. They are allergic to highly-capital intensive activities and fabs are very capital intensive. And the US is also squeamish about industrial policy, which means the nature and level of support for any “reshoring” efforts are likely to change over time due to shifts in fashion and personnel in charge so as to produce enough uncertainty as to hobble any effort.
And that’s before the US whinging about China’s Covid policy, which is really whinging about the impact of their off and on lockdowns on US supply chains, is a vivid reminder of how dependent US firms are on reliable output from China.
The US and China look more and more to be playing a game of chicken over Taiwan. And no one in a position to do so has the common sense to try to change the terms of engagement.
1 Mind you, this makes little sense as an impetus save as contributing to the US not questioning the logic of getting deeply in bed with a wildly corrupt, and therefore presumably not terribly capable country. However, you could see Zelensky or member of his circle having kompromat on Hunter or Joe as making it hard for the US to exit.