In Vienna, China’s permanent mission to the United Nations has been rather exercised of late. Members of the mission have been particularly irate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and its Director General, Rafael Grossi, who addressed the IAEA’s Board of Governors on September 12. Grossi was building on a confidential report by the IAEA which had been circulated the previous week concerning the role of nuclear propulsion technology for submarines to be supplied to Australia under the AUKUS security pact. When the AUKUS announcement was made in September last year, its significance shook security establishments in the Indo-Pacific. It was also no less remarkable, and troubling, for signalling the transfer of otherwise rationed nuclear technology to a third country.
New Cold War
Two former US diplomats have acknowledged that the vast majority of the global population does not support the West’s new cold war on Russia. In a Newsweek op-ed titled “Nearly 90 Percent of the World Isn’t Following Us on Ukraine,” ex diplomats Michael Gfoeller and David H. Rundell wrote: While the United States and its closest allies in Europe and Asia have imposed tough economic sanctions on Moscow, 87 percent of the world’s population has declined to follow us. Economic sanctions have united our adversaries in shared resistance. Less predictably, the outbreak of Cold War II, has also led countries that were once partners or non-aligned to become increasingly multi-aligned. They acknowledged that new multilateral institutions like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS are growing, and offer new opportunities for countries in the Global South.
Grave news comes to us from the United Nations (UN). The latest Human Development Report (2021–22) records that for the first time in thirty-two years, the Human Development Index has registered a second consecutive year of decline. The previous five years of gains in areas such as health and education have been negated by this reversal. ‘Billions of people face the greatest cost-of-living crisis in a generation’, says the report. ‘Billions already grapple with food insecurity, owing largely to inequalities in wealth and power that determine entitlements to food. A global food crisis will hit them hardest’. While the UN report points to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine as the immediate sources of this distress, an earlier report on human security notes that ‘more than 6 in 7 people worldwide perceived feeling moderately or very insecure just before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic’.
The recent visit of the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan has sharply increased the prospect of war in the region. The Chinese government and people strongly believe Taiwan to be their territory; and the no. 3 official in the US government visiting Taiwan is a clear provocation. Taiwan was invaded by Dutch colonists in 1624, only to be repulsed in 1662 by the Chinese national hero Zheng Chenggong. Taiwan became a full province in Qing Dynasty China in 1885. Ten years later the then Qing government lost Taiwan in a war with imperialist Japan. The Japanese were sold weapons by the United States with which to do this.
The latest report from the China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS), entitled “U.S. commits serious crimes of violating human rights in the Middle East and beyond,” provides a detailed assessment of the United States’ human rights record, particularly in relation to its wars and regime change operations in the Middle East. Noting that U.S. imperialism has caused “permanent damage and irreparable losses to countries and people in the region,” the report highlights a valuable lesson to be learned by the peoples of the world: that the pervasive Western narrative of democracy and human rights is nothing but a façade, behind which lies hegemony, inequality, cruelty and violence.
Most articles briefly explained that China claims Taiwan as its own territory, and then moved on without any further explanation. Some added that Taiwan will “be annexed by force if necessary,” that China opposes visits by foreign governments and/or that China considers relations with Taiwan as an internal matter of sovereignty. Certain articles also briefly and selectively quoted Chinese officials to bolster the above points. Meanwhile, many articles uncritically included claims that Taiwan is a sovereign country. When discussing China’s response to Pelosi’s visit, an Associated Press (AP) article published at the CBC wrote simply that “Taiwan decried the actions, saying they violate the island’s sovereignty.”
Much of the world held its breath as Nancy Pelosi circled around the Philippines to sneak into Taiwan late in the evening on August 2nd, 2022. The fear was that Pelosi’s trip would initiate a broader war between China and the United States. Taiwan is China’s “red line.” This was no secret to Pelosi or the Biden administration. China had sent numerous warnings from a variety of channels in the days leading up the trip. While Pelosi entered and left Taiwan unscathed, her stunt placed already fragile U.S.-China relations in their worst condition yet. As expected, China took decisive measures in response to the U.S.’s latest and perhaps most provocative violation of the One-China policy to date. The People’s Liberation Army conducted three days of military exercises surrounding Taiwan island beginning August 4th, 2022.
Nancy Pelosi is a member of the United States Congress. She isn’t just any member either, she is Speaker of the House of Representatives, an important leadership position in U.S. politics. She is also third in line to the presidency. If something should happen to the President and Vice President she would lead the Executive Branch of government. Her position makes her statement about digging a hole to China all the more disgraceful. It is an old trope which gives expression to China’s perceived otherness, that it isn’t just far away, it is actually the very opposite of how Americans see themselves in all their racist and exceptionalist glory. It wasn’t bad enough that Pelosi visited Taiwan in direct contradiction to what the Chinese government asked.
As the US legislative leader Nancy Pelosi swept into Taipei, people around the world held their breath. Her visit was an act of provocation. In December 1978, the US government – following a United Nations General Assembly decision in 1971 – recognised the People’s Republic of China, setting aside its previous treaty obligations to Taiwan. Despite this, US President Jimmy Carter signed the Taiwan Relations Act (1979), which allowed US officials to maintain intimate contact with Taiwan, including through the sale of weapons. This decision is noteworthy as Taiwan was under martial law from 1949 to 1987, requiring a regular weapons supplier. Pelosi’s journey to Taipei was part of the US’s ongoing provocation of China. This campaign includes former President Barack Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’, former President Donald Trump’s ‘trade war’, the creation of security partnerships, the Quad and AUKUS, and the gradual transformation of NATO into an instrument against China.
The island of Taiwan is part of China. One-China means exactly what it says: that there is only one country called China, including Taiwan. It is a principle agreed upon by the UN and 181 countries in the world, including the USA, UK, Europe, Japan and Australia. Only fourteen countries have given Taiwan diplomatic recognition – down from fifteen after the Solomon Islands established closer ties with China this year. After Japan was defeated in WW2, all Chinese territory it had occupied was returned to China under treaties signed by the victorious Allied powers. It is these treaties the US is seeking to tear up. So the visit to Taiwan, a renegade province of China, by Nancy Pelosi – Speaker of the US Congress, and a hugely influential politician, third in line to the presidency after Vice-President Kamala Harris – was designed to provoke.
When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of August 6, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, then I walked down to the river where the survivors still lived in shanties. I met a man called Yukio, whose chest was etched with the pattern of the shirt he was wearing when the atomic bomb was dropped. He described a huge flash over the city, “a bluish light, something like an electrical short”, after which wind blew like a tornado and black rain fell.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby condemned Chinese military drills in the area and said the Pentagon had ordered the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and her escorts to remain near Taiwan to “monitor the situation.” The USS Reagan and her accompanying ships are based in Japan and were deployed to the East China Sea in recent days, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid a visit to Taipei against Chinese objections. China has responded to Pelosi’s visit by launching extensive drills around Taiwan and firing a dozen missiles across the island. According to Kirby, amid heightened tensions, U.S. President Joe Biden decided it would be “prudent” to order the U.S. aircraft carrier strike group to stay in the area “for a little bit longer than they were originally planned.”
On 9 July 2022, remarkable images floated across social media from Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. Thousands of people rushed into the presidential palace and chased out former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, forcing him to flee to Singapore. In early May, Gotabaya’s brother Mahinda, also a former president, resigned from his post as prime minister and fled with his family to the Trincomalee naval base. The public’s raw anger toward the Rajapaksa family could no longer be contained, and the tentacles of Rajapaksas, which had ensnared the state for years, were withdrawn. Now, almost a month later, residual feelings from the protests remain but have not made any significant impact. Sri Lanka’s new caretaker, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, extended the state of emergency and ordered security forces to dismantle the Galle Face Green Park protest site (known as Gotagogama). Wickremesinghe’s ascension to the presidency reveals a great deal about both the weakness of the protest movement in this nation of 22 million people and the strength of the Sri Lankan ruling class.
America’s Taiwan policy hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years. For many experts, that’s a good thing. They argue that Washington’s careful balancing act between Beijing and Taipei, enshrined in part in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, has kept tensions low and allowed Taiwan to transform from a notorious dictatorship into a full-fledged democracy. But Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) aren’t satisfied with the status quo. The pair recently introduced a bill, known as the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, that they touted as “the most comprehensive restructuring of U.S. policy towards Taiwan” since 1979. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Menendez chairs, is set to take up the proposal on Wednesday.
The Biden administration is turning up the heat against China yet again, as news leaks that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is traveling to Taiwan in August—another in a series of majorly escalatory acts. Brian is joined by Dr. Ken Hammond, professor of East Asian and Global History at New Mexico State University, founding director of the Confucius Institute at New Mexico State University, and activist with Pivot to Peace.