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Liz Truss backs Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan row as officials in Taipei brace for China blockade

Liz Truss has backed Nancy Pelosi in a row over her visit to Taiwan row, as officials in Taipei brace for China blockade ahead of four days of military manoeuvres in the region. 

Taiwan scrambled a squadron of fighter jets last night to ward off a Chinese incursion as Beijing began its threatened intimidation of the island earlier than anticipated.

It comes as House Speaker Pelosi departed the country following a three-day visit, as she heads to meet her South Korean counterpart, National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo and other ruling party members today.

Her visit was seen by China as an affront because it regards Taiwan, an island of more than 23million people, as a breakaway nation and wants to reunify it with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Last night, Foreign Secretary and leadership hopeful Ms Truss said Pelosi, 82, was ‘well within her rights as speaker of congress’ to visit the island’s capital Taipei — a visit which sparked an international incident.

Speaking at the Tory hustings in Cardiff, Ms Truss added that the real issue was the retaliatory action from China and she demanded ‘de-escalation’ by Beijing.

Today Taipei is bracing itself for a blockade by China, with warships and planes set to surround Taiwan at the start of four days of aggressive military drills that will come within ten miles of its coast – and inside its territorial waters.

The six exercises will encircle the island, cutting it off by air and sea. They will heighten fears that China is practising for a possible future invasion, a scenario that has already been brought into focus by the war in Ukraine.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said it would ‘resolutely defend national sovereignty’, but warned commercial planes and ships to avoid the area as the drills, set to begin at noon today local time, would involve ‘long-range live firing’ and missile launches.

Beijing yesterday sent 27 of its aircraft, including 16 Russian-made Su-30 fighters, into Taipei’s air defence zone in an early act of menace, with 22 jets crossing the Taiwan Strait separating the two countries.

Foreign Secretary and leadership hopeful Ms Truss said Pelosi, 82, was ¿well within her rights as speaker of congress¿ to visit the island's capital Taipei ¿ a visit which sparked an international incident. Pictured at the Cardiff hustings

Foreign Secretary and leadership hopeful Ms Truss said Pelosi, 82, was ‘well within her rights as speaker of congress’ to visit the island’s capital Taipei — a visit which sparked an international incident. Pictured at the Cardiff hustings

China considers Pelosi's visit an affront because it regards Taiwan, an island of more than 23million people, as a breakaway nation and wants to reunify it with the mainland, by force if necessary

China considers Pelosi’s visit an affront because it regards Taiwan, an island of more than 23million people, as a breakaway nation and wants to reunify it with the mainland, by force if necessary

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China has announced military drills that will take place in these locations around Taiwan between midday Thursday and midday Sunday with the sea and airspace closed - effectively blockading the island. Three of the drills will breach Taiwanese territorial waters, in what Taipei has called a serious breach of international norms. Dozens of Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan's air defence zone today (demonstrated by purple, blue and green arrows on the above map)

China has announced military drills that will take place in these locations around Taiwan between midday Thursday and midday Sunday with the sea and airspace closed – effectively blockading the island. Three of the drills will breach Taiwanese territorial waters, in what Taipei has called a serious breach of international norms. Dozens of Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan’s air defence zone today (demonstrated by purple, blue and green arrows on the above map)

The drills were announced in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting the island, becoming the most-senior US politician to do so since 1997

The drills were announced in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting the island, becoming the most-senior US politician to do so since 1997

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her 5-member congress delegation depart Taipei Songshan Airport to South Korea after Pelosi's visit within her Pacific tour in Taipei, Taiwan on August 3, 2022. The tensions over her visit are following her on her next leg, to South Korea

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her 5-member congress delegation depart Taipei Songshan Airport to South Korea after Pelosi’s visit within her Pacific tour in Taipei, Taiwan on August 3, 2022. The tensions over her visit are following her on her next leg, to South Korea

China warns of ‘criminal punishment’ over Pelosi’s ‘brazen’ Taiwan visit

China has reacted with fury to US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial trip to Taiwan that has inflamed tensions between the two superpowers.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, branded the trip a ‘complete farce’ and repeated the much-used phrase by Chinese diplomacy that ‘those who play with fire will perish by it.’

Last week Chinese premier Xi Jinping had used the same expression in a phone call to US President Joe Biden.

Early on Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry slammed Pelosi for ‘brazenly’ going ahead with the trip that was still unconfirmed as late as Monday, claiming it ‘maliciously infringes on China’s sovereignty and blatantly engages in political provocations.’

‘It proves once again that some US politicians have become ‘troublemakers’ of China-US relations,’ the statement said.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office weighed in, threatening ‘criminal punishment measures’ targeted at ‘die hard’ Taiwanese supporters of independence.

And late Tuesday night, after Pelosi’s arrival, the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister summoned the US Ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, to protest the visit.

Taipei’s generals have defied the threats, saying yesterday that they are not looking for a fight with China but ‘won’t shy away from one’ either. 

‘We are resolved to uphold our sovereignty, liberty and democracy’ they said in a statement posted alongside a video of fighter jets, submarines, attack helicopters and warships on manoeuvres.

‘We fear no threat or challenges. We are not eager for a fight, nor will we shy away from one. We have the capacity and the will to uphold our valued liberty and democracy, and maintain our region’s stability,’ the generals added.

The Chinese war games are a response to the controversial whistle-stop visit to Taipei by Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, the most prominent US politician on Taiwanese soil in 25 years.

To Beijing’s fury, she met with the president and human rights leaders yesterday after landing in Taipei on Tuesday night. 

China considers the visit an affront because it regards Taiwan, an island of more than 23million people, as a breakaway nation and wants to reunify it with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Xi Jinping has reacted furiously to Pelosi’s visit, which comes weeks before he is due to assume an historic third term as China’s leader at the Party Congress.

Matthew Henderson, associate fellow at the Council on Geostrategy, told MailOnline: ‘Xi has made so-called ‘re-unification’ with Taiwan his chosen cause and hoped-for legacy as China’s greatest leader since Mao.

‘It would be as well to assume that in the run-up to the Party Congress, when he intends to secure permanent autocracy, Xi will be willing to take significantly greater risks than [Chinese governments of the past.]’

While the risk of immediate conflict around Taiwan is low, Mr Henderson added that ‘it would be an error to assume that the Xi regime is able to hold back from disastrous adventurism when it has painted itself into such a corner over the right to ‘reunite’ with Taiwan, whose people want nothing of the kind and which the liberal world must not allow.’

Nancy Pelosi speaks alongside Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on Wednesday, during which she said America's commitment to preserving democracy on the island is 'ironclad'

Nancy Pelosi speaks alongside Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on Wednesday, during which she said America’s commitment to preserving democracy on the island is ‘ironclad’

Pelosi departs Taiwan on Wednesday following her flying visit, and will now visit fellow allies Japan and South Korea

Pelosi departs Taiwan on Wednesday following her flying visit, and will now visit fellow allies Japan and South Korea

Pelosi waves to crowds at Taiwan's main airport as she departs the country Wednesday, following a meeting with the island's president Tsai Ing-wen

Pelosi waves to crowds at Taiwan’s main airport as she departs the country Wednesday, following a meeting with the island’s president Tsai Ing-wen 

Beijing says the drills are being conducted in response to Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, which is the first by a House Speaker since Newt Gingrich travelled there in 1997

Beijing says the drills are being conducted in response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which is the first by a House Speaker since Newt Gingrich travelled there in 1997

A Chinese Type 052C destroyer is pictured taking part in military drills around Taiwan today, that will continue until Sunday and effectively blockade the island

A Chinese Type 052C destroyer is pictured taking part in military drills around Taiwan today, that will continue until Sunday and effectively blockade the island

Pelosi stokes China’s fury as she slams country for ‘standing in the way of Taiwan’

Nancy Pelosi has accused China of ‘standing in the way’ of Taiwan’s participation in international affairs and cautioned that America’s commitment to preserving democracy ‘remains ironclad’.

Pelosi also met with Taiwan’s female president Tsai Ing-wen – telling her that the controversial visit shows the US ‘will not abandon its commitment’ to the island.

The Democrat specifically called out China, whose leaders warned the trip was pushing Taiwan into a ‘disastrous abyss,’ by telling reporters: ‘They didn’t say anything when the men came.’

Her remark referred to the surprise one-day visit made by bipartisan congressional delegation in April 2021. The group included Senators Lindsey Graham, Bob Menendez, Richard Burr, Ben Sasse and Rob Portman, as well as Rep. Ronny Jackson.

Pelosi criticized Beijing for preventing Taiwan from ‘participating and going to certain meetings’ but noted the government would ‘not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan.’

China furiously condemned the visit as Pelosi hailed self-ruled Taiwan as ‘one of the freest societies in the world’ in her speech to the parliament in Taipei.

He continued: ‘Xi is already using the whole gamut of coercive state powers- including hostile military activity, to try to erode Taiwanese resolve and that of Taiwan’s supporters.

‘Xi could bring down the Taiwanese government by blockading the island which depends heavily on imported food and other staples. But confidence and resilience is growing, and Xi will not welcome this. 

‘We should not rule out the possibility of sudden, devastating missile attacks on the central government that would bring a rapid collapse of resistance. Then the rest of the world could protest and sanction to no avail.

‘Xi could, if he felt compelled to do so by threats to his personal authority, authorise such an assault at very little notice indeed. He may be counting in this as an element in his current campaign of bluff and coercive pressures on a global front.

‘There is still time for the concerted energies of the free world to make it clear to Xi that his agenda to annexe Taiwan and impose unaccountable totalitarian rule on 23 million citizens of a vibrant democracy will never be allowed to succeed.’

During a press conference yesterday, Mrs Pelosi said: ‘Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy. America’s determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and around the world remains ironclad.’

In a rebuke to Beijing, the speaker, a longtime China critic who defied US President Joe Biden to make the trip, added that ‘China has stood in the way of Taiwan’.

She even suggested her sex could be the reason why there was such an angry reaction, saying: ‘They didn’t say anything when the men came,’ in reference to previous US delegations. 

In a statement released after the Democrat, 82, had left for South Korea to continue a tour of Asia, she said that China ‘cannot prevent world leaders or anyone from travelling to Taiwan to pay respect to its flourishing democracy’. 

Foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations said in a joint statement: ‘There is no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.’

A Xian H-6 Chinese bomber jet takes part in military drills in the skies near Taiwan yesterday, as Beijing puts on an unprecedented show of force after Nancy Pelosi visited the island

A Xian H-6 Chinese bomber jet takes part in military drills in the skies near Taiwan yesterday, as Beijing puts on an unprecedented show of force after Nancy Pelosi visited the island

The view from the deck of a Chinese missile destroyer taking part in military drills in the Taiwan Strait yesterday, as Beijing menaces its democratic neighbour

The view from the deck of a Chinese missile destroyer taking part in military drills in the Taiwan Strait yesterday, as Beijing menaces its democratic neighbour

Chinese anti-aircraft forces in its Eastern Theatre - which covers the Taiwan Strait - take part in live-fire exercises last night in an effort to intimidate Taipei and the US

Chinese anti-aircraft forces in its Eastern Theatre – which covers the Taiwan Strait – take part in live-fire exercises last night in an effort to intimidate Taipei and the US

Anti-aircraft fire streaks into the skies over Fujian, the Chinese province closest to Taiwan, last night in a show-of-strength intended to intimidate America and the democratic government in Taipei

Anti-aircraft fire streaks into the skies over Fujian, the Chinese province closest to Taiwan, last night in a show-of-strength intended to intimidate America and the democratic government in Taipei

A Chinese anti-aircraft crew open fire with a mobile gun during live-fire drills that began on Tuesday and will last until Thursday, when even larger sea and air drills begin

A Chinese anti-aircraft crew open fire with a mobile gun during live-fire drills that began on Tuesday and will last until Thursday, when even larger sea and air drills begin

A Chinese anti-aircraft battery lines up for live-fire drills taking place in Fujian province - the closest region to Taiwan - as Beijing rattles its sabres over Pelosi's visit to the island

A Chinese anti-aircraft battery lines up for live-fire drills taking place in Fujian province – the closest region to Taiwan – as Beijing rattles its sabres over Pelosi’s visit to the island

Putin ‘will help China if it goes to war over Taiwan’, Russian senator says

A leading Russian senator has vowed that Vladimir Putin will come to China’s aid if it goes to war over Taiwan.

But Vladimir Dzhabarov also pleaded for more support from Beijing for the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

‘I see no grounds to refuse to help China,’ said the politician who is first deputy chairman of the international committee in Russia’s Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.

‘But I would like to see a two-way movement with China.

‘It means that we should have some benefits from this cooperation.’

There is concern in Moscow that Putin’s wooing of China has failed to produce better results in support for his war in Ukraine.

Close Putin ally Dzhabarov made clear that Russia will ready back China in any conflict over disputed island Taiwan, revelling in an anti-Western alliance.

‘I am convinced that in this case China hopes for a certain assistance from Russia,’ he said.

This was the case ‘because it will be difficult for China to confront the United States without Russia’s support.’

They added that China’s ‘escalatory response risks increasing tensions and destabilising the region’. Among those calling for calm was Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. She added of Mrs Pelosi’s visit: ‘It’s perfectly reasonable what is taking place and I urge China to de-escalate.’

The Chinese exercises will lead to a standoff not seen since the mid-1990s, when they were much further away from Taiwan. In 1996, the US navy dispatched two aircraft carriers close to the strait to effectively end the crisis.

Such a move would be more challenging now given China’s military growth, including vastly more capable missiles. Beijing sought to further punish Taiwan yesterday by curbing imports of fruit and fish and halting exports of sand, though it avoided disrupting the flow of microchips, which would send shockwaves through the global economy. 

Pelosi met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei yesterday, where she pledged continued US support for the island’s democracy.

‘Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy’ she said in a short speech during a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.

‘America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad.’

Ms Ing-wen added that the island of 23 million would not be cowed.

‘Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down. We will… continue to hold the line of defence for democracy,’ Tsai said at an event with Pelosi in Taipei.

She also thanked the 82-year-old US lawmaker for ‘taking concrete actions to show your staunch support for Taiwan at this critical moment’.

Pelosi has now departed Taiwan, and will head to US allies Japan and South Korea next. 

China tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries having official exchanges with Taipei.

Chinese troops fire shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft launchers as part of military drills announced by Beijing on Monday

Chinese troops fire shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft launchers as part of military drills announced by Beijing on Monday

Chinese troops carry ammunition containers to their positions for live-fire exercises taking place on the mainland, in areas close to the self-governing island of Taiwan

Chinese troops carry ammunition containers to their positions for live-fire exercises taking place on the mainland, in areas close to the self-governing island of Taiwan

Chinese troops fire anti-aircraft missiles during drills aimed at intimidating Taiwan and its US allies during Pelosi's visit to the island, which began on Monday

Chinese troops fire anti-aircraft missiles during drills aimed at intimidating Taiwan and its US allies during Pelosi’s visit to the island, which began on Monday

Chinese radar operators take part in live-fire drills by anti-aircraft forces in the eastern province of Fujian on Monday

Chinese radar operators take part in live-fire drills by anti-aircraft forces in the eastern province of Fujian on Monday

‘Today, our delegation… came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan,’ Pelosi said at the event with Tsai.

Earlier, Pelosi said her group had come ‘in friendship to Taiwan’ and ‘in peace to the region’.

Taiwan views itself as an independent nation separate from mainland China, but Beijing views it as a breakaway province that it has vowed to ‘reunify’.

The island is home to the remnants of the Nationalist Party which fought against, and lost, a war to China’s Communist Party after the Second World War.

America officially recognised the Communists as legitimate rulers of China in 1979 when they established diplomatic relations with Beijing, which also involved acknowledging that there is only ‘one China’ and Taiwan is part of it.

However, Congress passed a bill shortly afterwards that compels the US to supply arms to Taiwan to allow it to defend itself in the event it is attacked.

An uneasy truce has held around the island ever since, but tensions have been ramping up since President Xi Jinping said in 2019 that he reserves the right to ‘reunify’ Taiwan by force, if it is deemed necessary.

Pelosi’s visit has prompted the Chinese to raise those tensions even further with military drills, going far beyond the last Taiwan Strait crisis in 1996.

A Chinese warship takes part in military exercises around the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, the second in six days of drills that will effectively blockade the self-governing island in the most-serious threat to its independence in decades

A Chinese warship takes part in military exercises around the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, the second in six days of drills that will effectively blockade the self-governing island in the most-serious threat to its independence in decades

Chinese jets from its Eastern Theatre, which borders Taiwan, are pictured taking off in early-morning drills on Wednesday as Beijing attempts to intimidate its democratic neighbour

Chinese jets from its Eastern Theatre, which borders Taiwan, are pictured taking off in early-morning drills on Wednesday as Beijing attempts to intimidate its democratic neighbour

Chinese sailors rush to battle stations on board a warship as drills take place in and around the Taiwan Strait as Beijing ramps up tensions over Nancy Pelosi's visit

Chinese sailors rush to battle stations on board a warship as drills take place in and around the Taiwan Strait as Beijing ramps up tensions over Nancy Pelosi’s visit

Dawn breaks over the Taiwan Strait as seen from the side of a Chinese military plane circling above the island as massive exercises take place in a fresh threat to the self-governing territory

Dawn breaks over the Taiwan Strait as seen from the side of a Chinese military plane circling above the island as massive exercises take place in a fresh threat to the self-governing territory

Chilling footage shared on Chinese social network Weibo appears to show amphibious tanks on the coast of Fujian along the Taiwan Strait

Chilling footage shared on Chinese social network Weibo appears to show amphibious tanks on the coast of Fujian along the Taiwan Strait

On that occasion, China also held military drills around the strait – but much further from the island than its exercises planned for this week.

None of the drills in ’96 crossed Taiwan’s territorial waters, and none took place on the eastern side of the island.

This time, three of the planned zones intrude into Taiwan’s waters and three are positioned to the island’s east – effectively cutting it off from the Pacific. 

Taiwan officials said the live fire drills violate United Nations rules, invade Taiwan’s territorial space and are a direct challenge to free air and sea navigation. 

China’s Eastern Theatre Command said a multi-force exercise involving the Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force and Joint Logistics Support Force, took place in the air and sea to the north, southwest and southeast of Taiwan on Wednesday.

Chinese military practiced operations including seal and control, assault at sea and strike on land.

Analysts spoken to by Reuters say it remains unclear if China will fire cruise or ballistic missiles directly over the island, or attempt a blockade for the first time.

Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator, said it appeared the People’s Liberation Army wanted to practise blockading the island if it had to in a later war.

‘The goal of these exercises, to put it bluntly, is to prepare for the military fight with Taiwan.’

Further footage shows military equipment on the move in the city of Xiamen.

Further footage shows military equipment on the move in the city of Xiamen.

Further footage shows military equipment on the move in the Chinese city of Xiamen

Pro-China demonstrators slam Pelosi during a march in Hong Kong, another autonomous territory where Beijing has begun exerting control thanks to a sweeping anti-democratic security law put in place in 2020

Pro-China demonstrators slam Pelosi during a march in Hong Kong, another autonomous territory where Beijing has begun exerting control thanks to a sweeping anti-democratic security law put in place in 2020

A police officer watches as pro-China demonstrators gather in Hong Kong to oppose Pelosi's visit to Taiwan

A police officer watches as pro-China demonstrators gather in Hong Kong to oppose Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan

Unusually, the drills were announced with a locator map circulated by the official Xinhua news agency – a factor that for some analysts and scholars shows the need to play to both domestic and foreign audiences.

‘We can see China’s ambition: to make the Taiwan Strait non-international waters, as well as making the entire area west of the first island chain in the western pacific its sphere of influence,’ said a Taiwanese official familiar with its security planning. 

If China got what it wanted, the official said, the impact would ‘be fatal for the safety and stability of regional countries, as well as for the regional economy.’

Singapore-based security scholar Collin Koh said the Pelosi visit had trapped China between having to show a resolute and sweeping response while avoiding a full-blown conflict.

‘Even if they want to avoid that outcome, there are still significant possibilities for an accidental escalation,’ said Koh, of the of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The administration of President Joe Biden said in the run-up to the visit that US policy towards Taiwan remained unchanged.

This means support for its government while diplomatically recognising Beijing over Taipei, and opposing a formal independence declaration by Taiwan or a forceful takeover by China.

While the White House is understood to be opposed to Pelosi’s Taiwan stop, its National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said she was entitled to go where she pleased.

After Pelosi touched down Tuesday night in a military aircraft following days of feverish speculation about her plans, Beijing summoned US Ambassador Nicholas Burns.

The Chinese military declared it was on ‘high alert’ and would ‘launch a series of targeted military actions in response’ to the visit.

The drills will include ‘long-range live ammunition shooting’ in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China and straddles vital shipping lanes.

The zone of Chinese exercises will be within 20 kilometres (12 miles) of Taiwan’s shoreline at some points, according to coordinates released by the Chinese military.

‘Some of the areas of China’s drills breach into… (Taiwan’s) territorial waters,’ defence ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang said at a press conference Wednesday.

‘This is an irrational move to challenge the international order.’

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which sets the government’s China policies, accused Beijing of ‘vicious intimidation’ that would ‘seriously impact the peace and prosperity of the entire East Asia’.

It added that democratic countries should ‘unite and take a solemn stand to punish and deter’ Beijing.

Japan, a key US ally in the region, said Wednesday it had expressed concern to China over the exercises, while South Korea called for dialogue to maintain regional peace and stability.

Both countries are on Pelosi’s Asia itinerary, following stops in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Maps of the drills produced by China show they go far beyond the missile firings in the straits in 1996 when Beijing protested the island’s first direct presidential election in what became known as the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis.

Significantly, in the north, east and south, the proposed exercise areas bisect Taiwan’s claimed 12 nautical miles of territorial waters – something Taiwanese officials say challenges the international order and amount to a blockade of its sea and air space.

In 1996, the United States navy dispatched two aircraft carriers close to the straits to effectively end the crisis – a move many analysts consider more challenging now given China’s military growth, including a vastly more capable missile inventory.

A U.S. Navy official confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday that the 7th Fleet had deployed the USS Ronald Reagan carrier and four other warships, including a guided missile cruiser, in the Philippine Sea east of Taiwan as part of a ‘routine deployment’.

The Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii did not immediately respond to Reuters’ questions on the Chinese drills on Wednesday.

Koh said advanced U.S. and Taiwanese reconnaissance aircraft would see the drills as an opportunity to probe Chinese military systems and communications, potentially adding to risks if Chinese planes responded.

While war with Taiwan would be a global catastrophe greater than the Ukraine crisis, China has the most to risk as untold millions in the country could face unemployment, poverty and worse

ByCharles Parton For The Daily Mail

The eruption of war between China and Taiwan would be a global catastrophe on a scale far greater than the Ukraine crisis.

Yet again Chinese military jets invaded Taiwanese airspace this week, this time following American politician Nancy Pelosi’s provocative visit to the sovereign island off the Communist mainland.

Beijing staged live-fire exercises close to Taiwan, effectively blocking those regions to traffic. Meanwhile, the secretary general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, warned that the world was ‘just one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation’.

Charles Parton OBE is a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, who spent 22 years as a senior diplomat in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan

Charles Parton OBE is a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, who spent 22 years as a senior diplomat in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan

No one is more aware of the dangers of that miscalculation than the Chinese leadership. President Xi Jinping knows that if he takes a gamble and loses, the repercussions could destroy China’s economy or might even bring down the Communist Party that has ruled since 1949.

We should not doubt the level of Chinese anger at the actions of Mrs Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives and a figure so senior that she is third in line to the Oval Office, after the president and vice president. But neither should we kowtow to their anger.

Her high-profile visit is a declaration that the West regards this island north of the Philippines, with its 23.5 million inhabitants, as a sovereign state – the last thing that China wishes to admit.

We also must not underestimate Beijing’s international ambitions. President Xi has stated that he wants his nation to be the world’s greatest superpower by 2049 – though of course this was dressed up in party-speak about a ‘strong, democratic, civilised, harmonious, and modern socialist’ country.

But all that could be derailed if a military assault on Taiwan fails. And a seaborne invasion is an exceptionally risky business.

The sea between the mainland and the island is 100 nautical miles of rough water and unpredictable weather for most of the year. There are only 14 beaches that make feasible landing sites and the topography is much more easy to defend than to attack.

In the past, Taiwan’s defence strategies have been questioned by analysts. It could never match its superpower neighbour for ships, tanks or aircraft. But now it is switching to a ‘porcupine defence’, bristling with drones, high-speed boats and missiles of all sizes. These weapons are harder to take out in a pre-emptive strike.

Taiwan has also taken strides to safeguard its communication systems. It’s possible that the island could hold off an invasion force indefinitely, though at a terrible cost to its own population. Defeat is unthinkable for Beijing. But the economic repercussions could be even more seismic. If China attacks, the West will surely impose onerous sanctions, just as we saw when Russia invaded Ukraine six months ago.

The loss of imported Taiwanese semi-conductors, the basis of all computer devices and mobile phones, would devastate China’s economy on its own. About half the semi-conductors manufactured anywhere in the world – and two-thirds of the high-quality ones – come from the island.

China has flown 27 fighters including six J-11 jets into Taiwan's air defence zone as Beijing continues to threaten Taipei over its ties with the US

China has flown 27 fighters including six J-11 jets into Taiwan’s air defence zone as Beijing continues to threaten Taipei over its ties with the US

Without those components, China’s electronics sector is frozen. And that is the most profitable sector of its exports market.

Taiwan’s trade with China’s businesses amounts to about £165billion. Much of that consists of components which go into China’s own exports. Disrupting the Taiwan trade could thus affect ten times the amount of China’s exports. The net effect of that could be to shrink the entire economy by trillions.

We would see a worldwide recession, on a scale not seen in our lifetime. But the epicentre would be China. And with a social security network hopelessly ill-equipped to support its 1.4billion people, if the Chinese economy collapses, untold millions would face unemployment, poverty and worse.

Already in the cities, youth unemployment is running at nearly 20 per cent. There is no way of knowing how much worse it is in the rural areas, because those figures are not available. Recent weeks have seen protests and riots. When people are angry in a one-party state, the government takes all the blame. The Communist Party will be held responsible – and this is an existential threat to its survival.

When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, it was the act of a desperate man. President Xi is not desperate. He has much better options and a long-term plan.

But China cannot afford to let the Pelosi visit go unchallenged. There will be much sabre-rattling to keep the pressure on Taiwan and deter the Americans from doing anything so flagrantly insulting again – and to ensure that other countries, including Britain, do not think of doing so either.

That’s bullying on a global scale. There are more ways to fight a war than all-out invasion, and the Chinese are experts at it.

Charles Parton OBE is a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, who spent 22 years as a senior diplomat in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan

China and Taiwan: What is their history, and why are relations at crisis-point? 

Ever since Communist China and Taiwan broke away from each other at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 the waterway separating them has been a tense geopolitical flashpoint.

Just 81 miles wide at its narrowest point, the Taiwan Strait is a major international shipping channel and all that lies between now democratic, self-ruled Taiwan and its giant authoritarian neighbour.

Beijing has responded furiously to this week’s visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, issuing increasingly bellicose threats and announcing a series of military drills in the waters surrounding the island.

Historians pinpoint three previous moments when tensions within the Taiwan Strait boiled over into an acute crisis.

First Taiwan Strait Crisis

At the end of the Chinese Civil War, Mao Zedong’s communist forces had successfully pushed out Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists, who relocated to Taiwan.

Two rivals stood on each side of the strait – the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland and the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan.

The First Taiwan Strait Crisis broke out in August 1954 when the Nationalists placed thousands of troops on Taiwan-ruled Kinmen and Matsu, two small islands just a few miles from the mainland.

Communist China responded with artillery bombardments of the islands and the successful capture of the Yijiangshan Islands, about 400 kilometres north of Taipei.

The crisis was eventually defused but nearly brought China and the United States to the brink of direct conflict.

Second Taiwan Strait Crisis

Fighting broke out again in 1958 as Mao’s forces conducted an intense bombardment of Kinmen and Matsu in a bid to once again dislodge Nationalist troops there.

Concerned that the loss of those islands might lead to the collapse of the Nationalists and Beijing’s eventual takeover of Taiwan, US President Dwight D Eisenhower ordered his military to escort and resupply their Taiwanese allies.

At one point, the US even briefly considered deploying nuclear weapons against China.

Unable to take the offshore islands or bombard the Nationalists into submission, Beijing announced a ceasefire.

Mao’s forces would still intermittently shell Kinmen up to 1979 but an otherwise tense stalemate set in.

Third Taiwan Strait Crisis

It would be another 37 years before the next crisis. In those intervening decades, both China and Taiwan changed considerably.

Following the death of Mao, China remained Communist Party-controlled but began a period of reform and opening up to the world.

Taiwan, meanwhile, began shaking off the authoritarian years of Chiang Kai-shek and evolving into a progressive democracy, with many embracing a distinctly Taiwanese – and not Chinese – identity.

Tensions exploded again in 1995 when China began test-firing missiles in the waters around Taiwan to protest a visit by Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to his alma mater university in the United States.

Beijing particularly loathed Lee because he favoured Taiwan declaring itself an independent state.

Further missile tests were carried out a year later as Taiwan held its first direct presidential election.

The display backfired.

The US dispatched two aircraft carrier groups to push China into backing down and Lee won the election by a large margin.

A year later, Newt Gingrich became the first US House Speaker to visit Taiwan, a precedent Pelosi is now following 25 years later.

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