Call it the diplomatic version of the Silent Treatment. Angry over Nancy Pelosi’s high-profile official visit to Taipei this week, Beijing announced this morning that they would cancel or suspend a number of cooperative forums with the US. Those include military contacts that likely have deconfliction components, the kind of bilateral communications that keep wars from erupting by accident — especially in regard to “military maritime safety”:
China on Friday said it is canceling or suspending dialogue with the United States on a range of issues from climate change to military relations and anti-drug efforts in retaliation for a visit this week to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The measures, which come amid cratering relations between Beijing and Washington, are the latest in a promised series of steps intended to punish the U.S. for allowing the visit to the island it claims as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary. China on Thursday launched threatening military exercises in six zones just off Taiwan’s coasts that it says will run through Sunday. …
The Foreign Ministry said dialogue between U.S. and Chinese regional commanders and defense department heads would be canceled, along with talks on military maritime safety.
Cooperation on returning illegal immigrants, criminal investigations, transnational crime, illegal drugs and climate change will be suspended, the ministry said.
Likely this is nothing more than a petulant pout by Xi Jinping, who can ill afford a war at this time too, thanks to civil unrest over Xi’s Zero Covid policies. That doesn’t make this any less risky, as the lack of communication could lead to an unforeseen clash — especially with the aggression that China’s navy has exhibited over the last few years.
As for the engagement on “climate change,” well … that’s more of an example of China cutting off its nose to spite its face. They’ve cheated all along on even the minimal changes demanded of them in accords. All that does is make it easier for China hawks and global-warming skeptics to argue for a complete end of “cooperation” with China on the topic and an end to any more American concessions on it.
Taiwan may have wished for the silent treatment. Instead, they got treated to a series of missile launches over and into their territory:
Missiles have also been fired over Taiwan, defense officials told state media. China routinely opposes the self-governing island having its own contacts with foreign governments, but its response to the Pelosi visit has been unusually vociferous.
That drew a sharp response from Antony Blinken, at least rhetorically:
China’s firing of missiles during military drills around Taiwan was an unjustified escalation, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, as Beijing said it would impose sanctions on House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting the island.
Blinken said Washington has made it repeatedly clear to Beijing it does not seek a crisis, as diplomatic ructions continued over Pelosi’s visit this week to the self-governed island that Beijing regards as its sovereign territory.
“There is no justification for this extreme, disproportionate and escalatory military response,” Blinken said, speaking at a news conference during the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia. He added, “now, they’ve taken dangerous acts to a new level”.
So what did we get out of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan? What did the people of Taiwan gain from it? There has been plenty of bipartisan cheering for Pelosi’s decision to visit Taipei as a way to stick a thumb in Beijing’s eye and to “support democracy,” which certainly was satisfying in an emotional sense. But did Pelosi do that — or make democracy more precarious on Taiwan?
Perhaps we now have at least recognized that China is a major geopolitical foe of the US, along with Russia. Ten years ago, plenty of those cheering Pelosi either refused to acknowledge either threat or painted them as of little consequence. Pelosi didn’t have to go to Taipei to make that point either. All that was required was for people to open their eyes.