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China and the US: the tension over Taiwan and the policy of containment

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Less than two weeks after the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan, a delegation of congressmen arrived on that island to meet with local authorities. Beijing’s reaction was swift.

The Chinese government accused Washington of seeking a confrontation and, once again, warned that there will be a forceful response.

Beijing pointed out that with this visit the White House only fuels instability in the region, for which it blamed Washington for a potential increase in tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

The congressmen’s visit is a flagrant violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communiqués; It infringes on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and sends the wrong signal to separatist forces in favor of “Taiwan independence,” said Wu Qian, spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense, which has announced more military exercises in the zone.

The local press affirms that the presence in Taiwan of the bipartisan delegation, headed by Senator Ed Markey and made up of five other congressmen, shows that Washington is sabotaging the peace and justifies more countermeasures from Beijing.

Following Pelosi’s trip, on August 2-3, China launched live-fire military exercises, summoned the US ambassador to Beijing and applied trade sanctions.

It also canceled several bilateral dialogue mechanisms in defense and other strategic sectors and applied personal sanctions against the president of the House of Representatives and her relatives.

However, the provocations from Washington have not stopped. Pelosi even hinted that she doesn’t care about Beijing’s sanctions and that her trip had been worth it.

The US politician spent at least 19 hours in Taiwan, during which time she visited the Taiwanese Parliament, she met with the president of the island’s government, Tsai Ing-wen, and held a meeting with other separatist leaders.

A similar agenda is being carried out in Taiwan by the delegation of US congressmen.

The Taiwan Letter

This is not the first time that relations between China and the US have been strained over Taiwan. In 1996, after then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui visited the US, China fired missiles into waters near the island and Washington sent two aircraft carriers to the area “in support” of Taipei.

In addition to constantly flying over the aerial identification zone with army planes, the US carries out military exercises with many countries in the region, including the so-called Rimpac (the largest naval exercises in the world).

In the last 18 months, Washington has also approved five arms sales to Taiwan and allowed visits by three groups of parliamentarians.

In the wake of these events, China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has warned that the US should not fantasize about manipulating geopolitics.

“Attempts to delay China’s development and undermine its peaceful rise, by creating problems regarding the Taiwan issue, will be totally futile and will certainly be doomed to total failure. The US should not fantasize about manipulating geopolitical games,” said the chancellor in some reflections published by the Xinhua agency.

He charged that the visit of Washington’s third political figure (Pelosi) to Taiwan seriously violated the one-China principle.

“Some US politicians have become troublemakers in Sino-US relations,” he said, denouncing that “the US has become the biggest destroyer of peace on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and regional stability.” “.

Wang Yi stressed that Taiwan is part of China’s territory. “No matter how the US supports or colludes with the Taiwan independence forces, it will all be in vain, and the US will only leave another ugly mark on its record of blatant meddling in other countries’ internal affairs.” .

He added that “the one-China principle has become a basic norm governing international relations and an integral part of the post-World War II international order.

“What the US should do is immediately stop violating the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and stop playing the Taiwan card to disrupt the Asia-Pacific region. should fantasize about distorting the facts at will.”

The policy of containment to China

The constant provocations of the US towards China respond to its “containment” strategy in the face of dizzying Chinese socioeconomic and military development, as well as the influence of the Asian giant in the world. In other words, the US sees its hegemony threatened and acts accordingly.

In May 2022, Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a speech at George Washington University in which he outlined the script for the Joe Biden administration regarding China.

Blinken described China as “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order”, assuring that it is “the only country that has both the intention and the power to reshape the international order” in a perspective that, according to the Secretary of State , “it would distance us from those universal values ​​that have championed world progress in recent decades.”

The head of US diplomacy acknowledged in his speech that China is a world power with “extraordinary” reach, influence and ambition, but also with a “worrying” domestic and foreign policy agenda for Washington’s interests.

That is why, Blinken said, the US aspires to shape “the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision of an open and inclusive international system.”

Analysts agree that the strategy to be followed by the current US Administration is summed up in the triad “invest, align, compete”, taking into account that the US knows that it has lagged behind in important aspects of industrial and technological development with respect to China, a condition that, according to Blinken, it is a first-order task to reverse.

The White House has called on its allies and partners to be united to “promote a shared vision” that will have as its basic reference the Indo-Pacific region with its IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity) and QUAD (Australia, Japan, India, and USA), in addition to Aukus (with Australia and the United Kingdom).

In this sense, the US maintains close relations and military agreements with a large part of the countries that surround China in the Pacific (Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam, among others), in addition to Taiwan, and competes for markets and economic positions in other areas where China acts strongly, such as Latin America and Africa.

In addition, the alignment “across the Atlantic”, building the alliance with the European Union and the revitalization of NATO, is a key pillar of US foreign policy.

The commercial component of the containment policy

In 2021, the US exported $151.442 million worth of goods to China and imported $504.935 million worth of goods from that country.

By total volume of exports and imports, the US is China’s main trading partner, and vice versa: China is the US’s main partner.

China is also the third destination for US exports (9.1% of the total), behind Canada (16.2%) and Mexico (14.6%), according to 2020 data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity.

That source points out that 19.5% of US imports come from China, its main supplier. The products that the US sells the most to the Asian country are electrical machinery, soybeans, fuel and precision instruments.

On the other hand, the US is the main destination of China’s exports, with 16.5% of the total, and the third largest origin of its imports with 7.91%, behind Japan (8.57%) and South Korea ( 8.5%). The products that China sells to the US are mainly electrical machinery, machinery in general, toys, sporting goods, furniture and textiles.

However, the notable intertwining of both economies is not without tensions either.

Washington has repeatedly accused Beijing of currency manipulation; that is, to maintain an artificially low exchange rate to favor exports and discourage imports.

During a G20 meeting in South Korea in 2010, then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called for strong measures to get emerging markets, especially China, to appreciate their currency.

China, for its part, responded by accusing the US in 2012 of keeping the dollar weak through the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy.

Former President Donald Trump accused China of currency manipulation again in 2019, in the context of his policy of “decoupling” the two economies (the progressive reduction of dependence on the US for goods, services and supply chains linked to China).

Republican Trump maintained a strategy of confrontation with China during his presidency, which was exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

According to experts, this decoupling attempt is part of the “trade war” that the US and China have faced in recent years, which has had an unquestionable impact on the global economy.

The truth is that the political and economic confrontation between the two countries will keep the world on edge from now on.

In a recent interview published in The Wall Street Journal, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger expressed concern about a possible crisis between the world’s two largest economies.

To avoid such a scenario, the 99-year-old, who played a key role in bringing the two countries closer decades ago, recommended that Washington choose a path consistent with its long-standing policy on China’s Taiwan region, which he said “has preserved the peace between China and the US for 50 years”.

He considered that the US is on the brink of war with Moscow and Beijing for reasons he co-authored.

“We are on the verge of war with Russia and China over issues that we partly created, with no idea how this is going to end or what it is supposed to lead to,” Kissinger said.

“Now it cannot be said that we are going to separate and confront (Russia and China). The only thing that can be done is not to accelerate tensions and create options, and for that you have to have some purpose, “added the former senior official.

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