Could Escalation On Taiwan Bring About A Ukraine In The Pacific?

Could Escalation On Taiwan Bring About A Ukraine In The Pacific?
The recent visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi—speaker of the US house of representatives—has angered China. China had made repeated warnings that the US official should not be making a visit to Taiwan which, if done, will be followed by consequences that would be gruesome and reactionary.

There was quite an atmosphere of anxiety in the US capitol about whether Nancy Pelosi should undertake the fateful move. Many officials were against it, fearing the prospects of an escalation with China. All the warnings, both from China and the officials in the US, fell on deaf ears. The much-feared visit was at last made on 02 August. This reckless move by a top US official has deepened the already yawning schism that existed between the US and China. From the past few years, the two powerful countries have been at loggerheads with each other on many accounts, ranging from technology, Hong Kong, Xinjiang concentration camps, to the South China sea and many other international fault lines between the two global powers. As if there were less thorns in the US-China relations that the visit was also made.

Unsurprisingly, as Beijing hurled warnings continuously, the visit could be predicted to infuriate China. The one-China policy, espoused by the US, now stands on a shaky ground. Pelosi didn't make a secret of what US intentions are. She assured the Taiwanese of the US support, in case China used force. She also preached 'democracy' and liberal values.

One question crops up when a visit in such turbulent times is made. Wasn't the Ukraine front enough, that attempts are now being made to open another one – and that too with a powerful rival? This concern was also shared by US officials who didn't agree with Pelosi's move. They couldn't afford opening a new chapter of violence, as the one between Ukraine and Russia has already sent shockwaves across the globe.

The world knows well at what cost the Russia-Ukraine war is waged. Global inflation has weighed heavily down on many nations, and supply chains have also been disrupted. There is worry about the supply of energy in winter, as the largest supplier of natural gas is Russia and fears abound that Russia would exploit this excellent opportunity, by using it as a coercive card against its rivals. This is the cost of the Russia-Ukraine war. Also, the support of the US to Ukraine won't last long, which means there is no need to spend enormous amounts of funds on a failed cause. If this is how Ukraine's sovereignty is maintained, it is not wise to open another conflict theatre—in the far east.

Just when the United States House of Representatives Speaker was making a controversial visit to the Island, Chinese military drills were conducted: sending a message of the escalation that would follow in the aftermath of such a visit. Now that she has left, and an angry China is shuffling among the options to react, things have grown bad for Taiwan. There is a worrisome development in the region: China has extended its military exercises. For its part, Taiwan is in a state of fear, now that its foreign minister has said that China is using military exercises to "prepare for invasion." The foreign minister also said that China was seeking a pretext for military drills, and the Pelosi visit was a good one.

As the events are unfolding, there is a need to dissuade China, if it indeed has a plan for invading Taiwan. In case a war erupted, the world would have a hard time dealing with its consequences. China has been the largest exporter of goods in the world since 2009. Official estimates suggest the country’s total exports amounted to $2.641 trillion in 2019. Already in 2013, China became the largest trading nation in the world. The United States previously held that position. Now, imagine that a country on whose export of goods the world depends so much, suddenly goes to war. The global consequences will be far more devastating than those of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Not only will an economic disaster overtake the world, but there is a possibility of nuclear proliferation if China were to use force. A catastrophe needs to be averted.

The world is still reeling from the repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine war, and a new war involving major powers will undoubtedly make life unbearable for a large portion of the world population.

Perhaps it would be wise for China to show restraint, if it considers Taiwan its former territory and wants it incorporated back into mainland China. An approach of peace and diplomacy will work, rather than the use of brute force. There should be a referendum in Taiwan about whether the local population are willing to join mainland China or not. Such soft approaches can ensure a peaceful resolution to the Taiwan problem.

Furthermore, the US should approach China carefully. Visits like the recent one made by Nancy Pelosi, that worsen rather than improve bilateral relations between China and the US, should be avoided. The world powers need to be the leaders of the world community in advancements and progress, rather than leading the way in creating wars and chaos.

More importantly, bodies like the UN should understand the gravity of the situation. The UN must rise up to the occasion, and step up its peacebuilding activities. It should call on both the powers not to be carried away by their interests to such a dangerous extent that the whole world is set aflame. There is an urgent need also for the world community to help both the global powers in ending their mutual antagonism, so that an all-engulfing war is avoided.

The writer is an Islamabad based researcher.