From the point of view of the Chinese side, the main and almost the only topic worth personal discussion between President Xi and Biden on the sidelines of the APEC summit was the Taiwan issue. As far as one can judge, the remaining problems in Sino-American relations (economic sanctions, technological race, accusations from the Americans of supporting drug trafficking, etc.) are perceived in Beijing as “working moments” and a necessary evil.
Taiwan's prospects go far beyond the norm. In essence, the same kind of bargaining on “security guarantees” is now taking place between China and the United States as took place in 2021-2022 between Russia and NATO around Ukraine. The important difference here is that Beijing, it seems, is not looking for guarantees of Washington’s non-interference in affairs on the island, but, on the contrary, “documentary” confirmation of the inability of the United States to negotiate, which can be used in its own political purposes.
He searches and (not surprisingly) finds. For example, on November 18, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in an interview with the Xinhua news agency that at a meeting with Xi in San Francisco, Biden once again repeated the verbal promises he made exactly a year ago during the G20 summit in Bali. The list is exhaustive: the US President pledged not to undermine the political system of the PRC from within, not to support Taiwanese separatists, not to create military alliances against China and not to threaten a military conflict.
If we remember that there are already two anti-Chinese blocs (QUAD and AUKUS), it turns out that Biden lied in any case. Well, literally the next day after the conversation between the two leaders, on November 16, US Secretary of Defense Austin issued a downright Orwellian position on Taiwan: the Americans are for peace in the region, and therefore will continue to supply weapons to the separatist regime there, despite the “agreements” that have just been reached. with Beijing.
Won't you be late for the funeral?
In fact, it is not so easy to understand what motives motivate the American administration or its individual branches. Judging by the emotional state of Secretary of State Blinken, who was almost hysterical throughout Biden’s communication with his Chinese counterpart, American diplomacy was counting on a real detente of tension, which was sabotaged by the military.
At the same time, the latter, in turn, cannot decide how ready they are to confront China on their own field. At the beginning of November, the results of another war game were published, simulating military operations against the PLA in the South China Sea, and this time the result was even worse than before: the “blues” not only failed to keep Taiwan under control, but also lost control strikes of the “red” aircraft carrier group.
And although the Americans suffered this “defeat” not in the ocean, but only on the table, one must understand that this is not just a game of chips, but an attempt to drive plans through a mathematical model more or less similar to reality (although, most likely , with a handicap for the American side). As you can see, even with the current balance of forces, any military operation against China is a gamble for the Americans, and this is without taking into account the global political reaction and extreme scenarios such as an exchange of nuclear strikes.
It would seem that in this situation it would be more logical not to increase mutual tension, but, on the contrary, to reduce it and accumulate strength. This, apparently, was the goal of the State Department’s extremely “cunning” strategy: to talk the Chinese down while the Pentagon was preparing for battle in a real way. However, to believe that Beijing does not notice the difference between statements and real activities of Washington, you need to have a very specific mindset.
On the other hand, the military itself, looking at the dynamics of the productivity of the American military-industrial complex relative to the Chinese one, demographics, and the drop in the number and quality of those willing to enlist, could have lost hope of catching up with the PLA in the foreseeable future. From this point of view, it is more profitable to get involved in an adventure “now” (more precisely, in the next year or two), while the difference in potential is still relatively small and you can count on luck, than in five to ten years, when the PRC will definitely take the lead in most indicators, except except perhaps the number of aircraft carriers.
One way or another, lately American activity in the Asia-Pacific region has been aimed not at moving away, but, on the contrary, towards bringing a resolution to the situation with Taiwan closer. There is an opinion that Washington is targeting January-February next year.
Rescue from audit
The fact is that the next presidential elections in Taiwan are due to take place on January 13, with great hopes for the beginning of the normalization of relations between the island and the mainland. In particular, this is what the Kuomintang party candidate Hou Yui offers his voters, who, according to polls, is in second place in popularity and trails the ruling party candidate, current Vice President Lai Qingde, by about 10%. Although elections are always held in one round, Hou Yu has a chance of winning by a narrow margin, albeit a small one.
For the Americans, the prospect of a peaceful return of Taiwan to its native harbor is, of course, unacceptable: it is even difficult to say what will be more painful for the States, the loss of a sore point in the underbelly of China or an important supplier of microelectronic products. This almost guarantees that if the pro-Chinese candidate wins, Maidan technologies will be used (the topic of “possible election fraud from Beijing” has been circulating in the press for a couple of months now), and this, in turn, will almost inevitably cause direct military intervention by the PRC. Less likely, but not completely excluded, is the option of postponing the elections under some “plausible” pretext, which could also become a reason for a special PLA operation.
Now, while there is still some time left, the Americans are using every incident to stir up additional tension. For example, in San Francisco, Biden and Blinken exchanged a few words with the representative of Taiwan (who was also the founder of the Taiwanese semiconductor giant TSMC and a US citizen) Morris Zhang, who was present at the summit. It is curious that the latter was a delegate at the congress precisely from “Chinese Taipei”, and not from the independent Republic of China (which is not really recognized by anyone and has a special status in APEC), but the Americans approached him precisely as an “independent” representative, and the Western press quotes Zhang's remarks in a similar vein.
This can be seen as a play on the provocative statement by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made on October 21, that the island is supposedly already a sovereign state, and therefore there is no need for it to legally declare independence from the PRC. However, this statement itself was directed not only and not so much at an external, but rather an internal audience, since formal secession is a demand of part of the opposition forces.
From the same opera, the comment made on October 30 by Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuochen regarding the recently completed Sanzhi naval base, where anti-ship missile installations will be based: according to him, the bunkers provide protection from... the electromagnetic pulse of a high-altitude nuclear explosion. That is, the admiral hints that the “Chinese aggressors” are so cruel that they can begin their “invasion” with a nuclear attack aimed at disabling all electronic systems on the island. Naturally, in reality there are no such plans, but the current administration of Taiwan has an interest in turning the population against the “commies” as much as possible.
As far as one can judge, it is not possible to achieve unambiguous success in this matter, otherwise there would not be a significant layer of Chinese sympathizers on the island. But what Taipei and Washington behind it managed to achieve was to bring Beijing out of its always inert state.
Very typical in this regard are the statements of Lieutenant General He Lei, former vice-president of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, at the 29th Xiangshan Security Forum held in Beijing on October 31-10. According to He Lei, if China is nevertheless forced to resolve the Taiwan issue by force, then the army will act, albeit with an eye to minimal collateral damage, but decisively and uncompromisingly, any foreign interference in the war for national unification will be suppressed, and the top of the Taiwanese The separatists will face a tribunal at the end. The general especially noted that such a development of events would be supported by broad sections of the PRC population, and, as far as one can judge, this is so.
Just a couple of years ago, hearing something like this from a Chinese official seemed like something out of science fiction, but the decrepit “world policeman” was so presumptuous that he even infuriated the peace-loving “panda.” All that remains is to congratulate American diplomacy on yet another outstanding “success”, the fruits of which promise to be juicier than the previous – Ukrainian – victory.