The Great Taiwan Gaslight

The Great Taiwan Gaslight

Since Nancy Pelosi’s purposeless diplomatic visit to Taipei on August 2, cross-strait tensions have soared between China and Taiwan. Pelosi’s envoy has effectively lowered US-China relations to its most dismal point since at least 1995–when diplomatic efforts between Washington and Taipei instigated a tit-for-tat military standoff between Washington and Beijing.

In response to Pelosi’s visit, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) launched an unprecedented series of military drills in six marine sectors around Taiwan. The drills included anti-submarine and sea assault operations and a simulated blockade of the island. Chinese fighters and warships crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line, every day that the drills took place.

The high point of Beijing’s response occurred immediately after Pelosi’s departure from Taiwan, when it launched a rocket barrage over the island.

After the trip, US officials and pundits redoubled their attempts to cast Beijing’s response as an unprovoked overreaction, as they had done in the days preceding it. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s August 1 pre-visit statement is emblematic of the war party’s post-trip spin:

What I can say is this: this is very much precedent in the sense that a previous speaker has visited Taiwan, many members of congress go to Taiwan, including this year and so if the speaker does decide to visit and china decides to create some kind of crisis or otherwise escalate tensions, that would be entirely on Beijing. We are looking for them, in the event she decides to visit, to act responsibly and not to engage in any escalation going forward.