Pomeranian Coast

OPINION | China must not be lured into a war with the US

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The Chinese government must not take the bait of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan to go to war against the US and Taiwan, lessons of history show. History teaches that China risks humiliating defeat if it goes to war over Pelosi’s visit, and the US could also potentially be the loser.

Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, landed in Taiwan on August 2nd. The next day, she received the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Pelosi’s Taiwan trip has cast dark clouds over Sino-US relations and the Asia-Pacific region. On August 3, Taiwanese troops on Jinmen Island (Quemoy) fired warning flares at a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drone flying near them.

This confrontation on Jinmen brings back memories of the first cross-strait crisis in 1954 and the second cross-strait crisis in 1958, when PLA artillery shelled the islands of Jinmen and Mazu on both occasions.

On August 4, Chinese missiles landed in waters off the Taiwan coast. Chinese state media said the PLA will conduct live fire drills in several stretches of water around Taiwan from Aug. 4 to 7.

On Aug. 3, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the US would inevitably be punished for Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of China. In a phone call lasting two hours and 20 minutes on July 28, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned US President Joseph Biden against allowing Pelosi to visit Taiwan, saying, “Those who play with fire will perish.” walk.”

When Chinese leaders repeatedly issue dire threats, they usually mean it. During the Korean War in 1950, the Chinese government repeatedly warned that U.N. troops led by the United States were moving north of the 38thth at the same time, China would intervene. Washington refused to heed the warnings. In November 1950, Chinese troops crossed the border into Korea and routed the UN army.

When Pelosi was in Singapore on Aug. 1 as part of her Asia tour, Singapore Premier Lee Hsien Loong stressed the importance of stable US-China relations for peace and security in the region, the Singapore Foreign Ministry said. This was a hint from Lee to Pelosi that she should not visit Taiwan as it would endanger peace and security in the region. Nonetheless, Pelosi visited Taiwan.

Pelosi also met with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Aug. 1. In a Facebook post on Aug. 3, Singapore’s foreign minister said, “ASEAN is also watching developments in the Taiwan Strait with concern.

Stable US-China relations are vital to peace and prosperity in the region. Singapore hopes the US and China can find a modus vivendi, exercise self-restraint and refrain from taking measures that further escalate tensions.

Why did Pelosi continue her trip to Taiwan despite repeated warnings? One can be forgiven for suspecting that this was part of a deliberate conspiracy by Washington to trick Beijing into taking action against China. I don’t know Biden’s opinion, so I can’t say for sure if Pelosi’s visit was part of a US strategy to lure China via Taiwan.

history class

The Franco-Prussian War and the Sino-French War, both late 19th centuryth Century provide lessons relevant to the current Taiwan crisis.

The Franco-Prussian War was sparked by Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck issuing a press release to the press and foreign embassies on July 13, 1870. Bismarck’s statement gave the impression that King Wilhelm I of Prussia was rudely rejecting a request made by the French ambassador to Prussia, Vinzenz Benedetti. Bismarck said his press release “would have the effect of a red flag on the Gallic bull”.

In fact, France, furious at the perceived insult, declared war on Prussia. In response, the other German states joined Prussia against France. The combined German forces defeated France in 1871. Prussia’s victory led to the unification of Germany, which had been divided into separate states for centuries. The humiliation of France’s defeat prompted France to swear revenge, leading to World War I in which millions of soldiers from France, Germany and other European powers died.

Just as other German states have allied with Prussia against France, several nations are rallying behind the US against China over Taiwan. In a statement on August 3, G7 foreign ministers and the EU High Representative said Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan did not justify China’s “aggressive military action” and accused China of risking an “unnecessary escalation”.

In response to the statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying quoted Singaporean scholar Kishore Mahbubani at an Aug. 4 news conference as accusing the G7 of being dictatorial around the world.

If US forces defeat China, it would leave a long-lasting sting in China, bringing back painful memories of its humiliating defeats at the hands of foreign powers in the 19th centuryth Century. Like France after the Franco-Prussian War, China would seek revenge, potentially leading to a larger and more disastrous war later.

A US-China war could affect other countries like Singapore. US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan departed Singapore on July 26, according to the US Embassy Singapore Facebook page. According to media reports, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is currently cruising near Taiwan.

The Battle of Fuzhou in August 1884 offers a parallel of what might happen if war broke out between the US and China. Fuzhou, currently the capital of Fujian province across the Taiwan Strait, was a naval base where China built a modern naval force in the late 19th centuryth Century.

Due to their superior warships, a French naval fleet destroyed the Chinese fleet at Fuzhou in a lopsided victory. One advantage the French took from their victory was the destruction of the Chinese fleet at Fuzhou before advanced warships could be added.

If the US goes to war with China at this point, the US will have an opportunity to damage the Chinese Navy before it becomes more powerful. China currently has three aircraft carriers and is expected to have several more in the coming years. For this reason, China should not be provoked into a war with the US over Taiwan, lest it risk losing aircraft carriers.

Despite its superior weaponry, Washington should not assume that it will inevitably win a war with China, as the Sino-French war demonstrates. The French victory at Fuzhou marked the beginning of the Sino-French War in 1884 and 1885. A French expeditionary force captured the city of Keelung (Jilong) in Taiwan in October 1884. French force failed to overcome stiff resistance from a Chinese army Evacuated from Keelung in June 1885.

In Vietnam, Chinese forces scored a victory over French forces at the Battle of Bang Bo on March 24, 1885, which led to the French retreating a few days later. This withdrawal led to Jules Ferry’s resignation as Prime Minister of France on March 30, 1885, amid denunciations from his political opponents.

If the US suffers defeat in a battle with China, it could shorten its Biden presidency. Even if Biden serves his full term, he’s unlikely to be re-elected in 2024. It doesn’t take a military defeat to stop Biden from winning a second term.

A war between the world’s two largest economies would hurt the US and world economy, so disgruntled Americans would not grant him a second term in the 2024 election.

During the televised debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon on October 13, 1960, when both candidates were campaigning for election as US President in November of that year, Kennedy quoted a former US Admiral of the US Asia Fleet, Harry Yarnell, who visited the islands of said Jinmen and Mazu are “not worth the bones of a single American.”

The late admiral probably took the words of Bismarck, who said the Balkans were “not worth the sound bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier”. Tragically, World War I was started by assassinations in the Balkans.

The islands of Jinmen, Mazu, and Taiwan are not worth the bones of a single American soldier, or a single Chinese soldier from mainland China or Taiwan. Let’s hope this Taiwan crisis will not trigger a war like the Balkans caused World War I.


Toh Han Shih is Principal Analyst at Headland Intelligence, a Hong Kong-based risk consulting firm. The opinions expressed in this column are his own.

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