Commentary: Taiwan: Why the conflict is becoming increasingly dangerous

A war of words over Taiwan is igniting between China and the US that could provoke a military incident.

As if the world didn’t have enough to do with containing the Ukraine war. of Russia president Wladimir Putin has just launched a new naval doctrine labeling the US and NATO the “top threat”. The risks of a potential escalation in Europe are not yet foreseeable, since another dangerous field of tension is building up. A war of words over Taiwan is igniting between China and America, which could at least provoke a military incident between the XXL powers.

The trigger is the possible visit of the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, in Taiwan. The government in Beijing regards the democratically governed island republic as a “breakaway province” which they People’s Republic want to reunite – if necessary by force. It is debatable whether it is politically wise for a high-ranking American politician to have to travel to Taiwan now of all times. International politics is more agitated than it has been for a long time – nobody can have an interest in new areas of friction.

Taiwan conflict: risk of escalation between China and the USA

But the fuss surrounding the Pelosi visit is just a scratch on the surface, with a much larger conflict beneath. America has been eyeing China’s rapid rise with suspicion for years. Economists expect that the People’s Republic will overtake the USA in terms of economic power by 2030. Politically, Beijing is trying to expand its influence worldwide.

China is also growing significantly in terms of the military. The country has more than doubled its defense budget since 2011. With a budget of more than $800 billion, the US military still has a huge lead – but it is melting away. The real challenge for America is not Russia, which is well-armed but doesn’t have much to offer in the economy apart from oil and gas. An authoritarian Beijing that is flexing its foreign policy and military muscles is causing much greater concern in Washington.

US President Barack Obama has already tried to curb the influence of the future competitor in the Far East. Starting in 2011, under the banner of the “pivot to Asia”, he issued the motto to strengthen regional security partnerships. South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in particular saw themselves threatened by Beijing’s military pinpricks, such as the creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea. Under donald trump the conflict intensified. The Obama successor threw himself into a comprehensive trade war with the People’s Republic. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, predicted back in 2017: “There will be war with China.”

Taiwan: Direct confrontation unlikely

The rhetoric in Washington is not that martial at the moment. But both Democrats and Republicans are charged with the prospect of Beijing. There is strong support for Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. It fits into the US President’s narrative Joe Bidenwho made the alliance of Western democracies against autocratic regimes such as the People’s Republic the central theme of his term of office.

A direct military confrontation between America and China is unlikely. But in a heated atmosphere, the risk of misjudgements or misunderstandings increases. One can only hope that everyone keeps a cool head. The world already has enough to deal with the supply chain chaos caused by Corona and the energy price explosion in the wake of the Ukraine war

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