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China to Pelosi: You Will ‘Perish’ Over Taiwan

J-20
J-20 Stealth Fighter. Image Credit: Chinese Military.

“The position of the Chinese government and people on the Taiwan question is consistent, and resolutely safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the firm will of the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Chinese ruler Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden during their phone call on July 28, according to the Chinese foreign ministry. “The public opinion cannot be defied. Those who play with fire will perish by it.”

“Perish”?

Xi’s dire-sounding warning, issued in connection with reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to go to Taiwan, suggests either that Xi Jinping perceives Biden to be so weak that he can push him around or that China’s internal problems are so severe that the Communist Party must create an external crisis to distract the Chinese people. In the worst case, both are true.

For about a decade, Chinese leaders have believed the United States has been in terminal decline, and their regime will soon ascend to global dominance.

Biden, at least in their minds, has confirmed this view. His calamitous withdrawal from Afghanistan and his failure to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine left Beijing thinking that it can now do what it wants to Taiwan.

At the same time, Xi’s threat could be the result of regime insecurity. He needs an external crisis so that the Chinese people won’t think too much about the internal ones. Inside China, coronavirus continues to infect the population, and Xi’s “dynamic zero-COVID” policy is causing widespread resentment as well as undermining the ailing economy.

China’s economy, despite the report of 0.4% year-to-year growth in the second quarter, is almost certainly contracting.

At the same time, the debt crisis, delayed for more than a decade, has been hitting the country. Evergrande Group and other large property developers are defaulting on bond and other obligations, apartment projects remain unfinished, buyers of flats are participating in a nationwide “mortgage boycott” by not paying banks, the boycott has spread to suppliers of the developers, and financial institutions across the country are tight on cash. There are bank runs, especially in Henan province, but banks in the financial capital of Shanghai are also in poor condition.

Because property sales have plunged—the sales of the top 100 developers fell 50.3% in the first half of this year—local governments, dependent on property revenue, cannot meet obligations.

A Chinese entrepreneur this month told me that local cadres are trying to extort tens of millions of dollars from his firm. The fiscal problems at lower levels mirror those at the central government. Xi, under the banner of his “Common Prosperity” program, has been extracting tens of billions of dollars from tech giants such as Tencent and Alibaba.

Xi is also leading a nationwide mobilization effort, something signaled by the amendment of China’s National Defense Law, effective the beginning of last year, to transfer power from civilian to military officials, specifically from the central government’s State Council to the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission. The State Council will no longer supervise the mobilization of the People’s Liberation Army, which reports to the Party.

Although the Party has always been in control, the amendment contemplates the mass mobilization of society for war. Owners of private businesses are now being told to manufacture what the Party dictates, a move seen as building up stockpiles for conflict.

Many American analysts say that Speaker Pelosi is provoking a crisis with her reported plans to visit self-governing and democratic Taiwan, which Beijing claims is sovereign Chinese territory. That view is incorrect.

Xi Jinping needs no “provocation” from the Speaker to lash out. Currently, Chinese forces, already below the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, are preparing to take more Indian territory in the Himalayas. In June, Beijing renewed attempts to block resupply of a Philippine outpost at Second Thomas Shoal, in the South China Sea. In the East China Sea on July 29, four Chinese warships entered Japanese sovereign water around the disputed but Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands.

Furthermore, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley pointed out while in Sydney, “Chinese military activity is noticeably and statistically more aggressive than in previous years.” On May 26, for instance, a high-performance Chinese fighter jet accelerated and flew close to an Australian Royal Air Force P-8 reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace in the South China Sea region and released chaff, which was ingested into one of the P-8’s two engines. The Chinese jet also fired flares. This is believed to be the first time any military has used chaff and flares in this manner.

The Chinese defense ministry on July 28, in connection with Pelosi’s reported trip to Taiwan, stated “action is the most powerful language.” Chinese journalist Hu Xijin, who is often used to signal regime positions, on July 29 detailed the circumstances in which China’s military is prepared to bring down the Speaker’s plane.

There are no longer any safe options. The most dangerous, at least in the long run, is for Speaker Pelosi to back down. By backing down, she will legitimize the most belligerent elements in the Chinese capital by showing everyone else that threats work.

This is now more than just a test of will.

A 1945 Contributing Editor, Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China. Follow him on Twitter @GordonGChang.

Written By

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Great U.S.-China Tech War and Losing South Korea, booklets released by Encounter Books. His previous books are Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World and The Coming Collapse of China, both from Random House. Chang lived and worked in China and Hong Kong for almost two decades, most recently in Shanghai, as Counsel to the American law firm Paul Weiss and earlier in Hong Kong as Partner in the international law firm Baker & McKenzie.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Scottfs

    July 29, 2022 at 4:02 pm

    The answer is to deny China the West’s money. Now. Official USA policy MUST be to slowly, methodically, strip China of its favorable trade status with the West and freedom-living Allies. (India will have to chose. Friend or foe?)

    Individuals must choose as well. One way to help this is to emblazon the flag of the country of origin on the face of rhe packaging…the CCP flag, vrs. other countries.

    We must stop subsidizing the monstrosity that is China. Cut off its food supply. Undo the damage Clinton, Bush, Obama and Biden have done to America.

    All without firing a shot. Tariff and consumer choices, not bullets.

  2. Steven

    July 29, 2022 at 4:05 pm

    Good piece. Yeah, China is getting more and more hysterical. The CCP needs to grow up and stop drinking their own Kool-Aid.

  3. Vladolph Putler

    July 29, 2022 at 4:10 pm

    Compare this to America, where the Wikipedia definition of a recession was changed so that American technically isn’t in a recession. In Q1 2022, America’s economy contracted by 1.6%, in Q2 2022 it contracted by 0.9%. That was the agreed criteria of a recession. I’m not making any of this up, just Google it. China does have its difficulties, but if China is “collapsing” because of that, then America should have collapsed 20 years ago. But then again, its not really a “recession” until King Biden says it is, so…

  4. Yrral

    July 29, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    This guy used to work for Moonies,China are not that crazy

  5. jarshal

    July 29, 2022 at 5:45 pm

    What a piece of s*** journalism. You know that US has entered recession and Chinese economy is in much better shape than the US economy. Why are you people always trying to believe that we the readers are stupid? What if the PLA shoots down her plane? Why don’t you ask to fly with her to Taiwan? You want Crimea to go back to Ukraine, but you don’t want Taiwan to remain as Chinese territory?

  6. Jim Higgins

    July 29, 2022 at 6:17 pm

    The CCP shoots down American aircraft and World War III starts at that point.

  7. Ben Leucking

    July 29, 2022 at 6:44 pm

    From the Washington Free Beacon today:
    “I’m not in the habit of saying that Nancy Pelosi is right. But if she wants to visit Taiwan next month as part of a congressional delegation to several countries in the Indo-Pacific, she really ought to go. Canceling the trip now would be a capitulation to tyranny.”

    “Canceling now would mean that Congress buckled in the face of Chinese threats and the Biden administration wavering. It would establish the principle that Beijing has veto power over the travel plans of senior U.S. officials. It would tell the world that America is more interested in mollifying Xi Jinping than in supporting the democratically elected Tsai Ing-wen. It would be another example of self-deterrence, Biden-style. And America would be weakened.”

    The issue isn’t whether you like Pelosi or despise her (which I do). The issue is whether communist China can control who and when our government can conduct diplomacy and business with whomever we choose.

  8. pagar

    July 29, 2022 at 7:35 pm

    Pelosi needs to PAY MORE ATTENTION to haiti, a place of chaos and a literal hell on earth right under the belly of the great grand united states.

    After jetting to taipei, pelosi needs to visit port-au-prince!

    Otherwise, pelosi is nothing more than biden’s female version of joachim von ribbentrop.

    Heil biden, heil pelosi !

  9. Joe Comment

    July 29, 2022 at 10:41 pm

    If China would offer a positive gesture, for example by being less supportive of the Russian line on Ukraine, that would improve the atmosphere and Pelosi would then be able to cancel the trip.

  10. Jim

    July 29, 2022 at 11:32 pm

    The One China Policy.

    That needs to be discussed.

    The History, the acknowledgement by succeeding presidents, the strategic ambiguity, a peaceful modus operandi of cooperation between the Chinese mainland & Taiwan.

    This is the War Threatening issue between the U. S. and China… everything else is negotiable.

    The U. S. government & political class have been talking with two Voices:

    Yes, we respect the One China Policy & No, We don’t respect the One China Policy.

    Which is it?

    We have to decide, we can’t keep talking in two Voices.

    And, yes, it must involve the Sovereign, the American People, for too long a small group have decided our foreign policy, this is too important.

    A vigorous debate is needed among the American People.

    A full explanation of the One China Policy and it’s history is a must as a starting point for this most important discussion.

  11. Arash p

    July 30, 2022 at 1:53 am

    So many words, so little substance.
    What is the position of US toward Taiwan exactly?
    Is Taiwan part of China yea or no?
    If yes then what are all these games about. Just take care of your own country.

  12. Commentar

    July 30, 2022 at 2:49 am

    Biden a big piece of crap. Just like carter, clinton, obama, hillary. Crap.

    Biden, if his mind or brain hasn’t been afflicted with hellishly dreaded hitlerian diseases/illness like wanting to take over the world, should have issued arrest warrant for xi jinping way way back in jan 2021.

    Instead, biden, badly afflicted by dementia, alzheimer, cancer, covid, omicron ba4 and deltacron ba5 and whatelseitis, is breathlessly sending warships, warplanes, spyplanes, nuclear subs, aircraft carriers and pelosi-type characters to china and taiwan to kickstart ww3 in asia against the chinese peoples there who very undeniably suffered so unspeakably during ww2.

    Pieces of crap. Biden and all the manure pile democrats.

  13. David Chang

    July 30, 2022 at 4:00 am

    God bless people in the world.

    But Xi, Pelosi, Biden, Zelensky, Putin, and Tsai believes socialism and evolution.

    Most people in China-Taiwan-Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Philippines believe socialism and evolution.

    More and more people in America believe socialism and evolution.

    They sing of murder, of humanistic thought, of equality and social justice.

    And they’re leading U.S. Navy and Marine Corps into a trap.

    So U.S. military shall pray to God and obey Ten Commandments, don’t lose faith after arguing about the budget.

    God bless America.

  14. exnavynuke

    July 30, 2022 at 6:15 am

    Nobody cares about Haiti. It’s just another third world hellhole. Interestingly, the Dominican Republic shares the island and its doing rather decently.

    Taiwan is different because their government made it a policy goal to be integral to modern technology. Without their infrastructure, probably very few people would care.

    Human lives are human lives, and perhaps we should care about all equally; but I for one have a hard time caring about a kleptocracy my tax dollars have spent decades supporting.

  15. Joe Comment

    July 30, 2022 at 11:33 am

    Arash p: Are North Korea and South Korea parts of Korea yea or no? Yes they are, but the problem is that different political groups rule the two parts of it. That doesn’t mean the rest of the world just goes away and lets one part try to destroy the other part.

  16. Jim

    July 30, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    Joe Comment, “That doesn’t mean the rest of the world just goes away and lets one part try to destroy the other part.”

    Yes, your statement has merit, and it’s part of the One China Policy; no forcible action against Taiwan to incorporate it into mainland China.

    But the corner stone of the One China Policy recognizes & acknowledges Taiwan is part of China, not just geographically, but politically, too:

    In other words, two systems, one country.

    Ideally, over time, a peaceful modus operandi of cooperation which allows Taiwan & China to work out their differences and get alone peacefully with an agreed system for Taiwan… that’s the hope, anyway.

    China is reacting to voices in the U. S. who want to declare the One China Policy is dead and should be changed to a policy of recognizing Taiwan as a independent nation-state and protecting Taiwan with a formal military alliance.

    Such a declaration means war with China.

    (Or do you want to bet the farm that it doesn’t?)

    Let’s say it now, Taiwan is not a vital national security interest of the American People (I’m sorry but chip factories, “sophisticated sand” doesn’t constitute a vital national security interest.”

    Whether Ford F150 pickup trucks have the latest “chip” doesn’t matter. (although, let’s work hard to get that chip technology up & running in America.)

    What matters is whether we get into a war with China because we have repudiated the One China Policy.

    That’s where the Rubber Meets the Road.

  17. Joe Comment

    July 30, 2022 at 6:40 pm

    Jim: Both the Mainland and Taiwan are part of a potential One China that doesn’t exist yet. The whole point of the One China Policy is that this potential should be realized peacefully, not through war. Taiwan is located in an important location in a sensitive part of the world. Should the US not care if China falls into war? That was what we thought until 1941. It turns out that feeding a hungry tiger is no way to keep peace in the jungle.

  18. Eric-ji

    July 31, 2022 at 4:26 am

    What happened with Hong Kong repudiated the one China policy.

  19. abraham lincoln

    July 31, 2022 at 10:07 am

    We need to be ready to go to war with China at a moments notice. China is now irrational, hysterical and most likely will provoke a war to distract its public from the failing Chinese economy. We will need a strong submarine force to blockade the straits of Malacca, and other outlets China uses for trade. In reality, the Chinese government can be defeated fairly handily if the US really wants to defeat them. The only question is whether we have the will to do so, and can stand any economic pain that will result.

  20. Jim

    July 31, 2022 at 11:54 am

    Joe Comment stated, “Both [China & Taiwan] are part of a potential One China that doesn’t exist yet.”

    Joe, in my opinion, your statement reflects the general impression many Americans have about the China/Taiwan issue (“One China…doesn’t exist yet.”)

    But that impression is definitely not how the Chinese view the situation or what the U. S. agreed to with China.

    Per the One China Policy, Taiwan is part of China, now, at this very moment. It’s not a “potential” One China that May or May Not develop over time depending on what happens.

    Part of the U. S. problem is most Americans don’t know what the One China Policy entails. When has an American President (Secretary of State) given a detailed policy statement (or address) to the American People on the One China Policy?

    The U. S. agreed with China that there is One China, now, and has been.

    To view the One China Policy the way you do (and many other commenters, I might add) is false, and the Chinese see that view as a Repudiation of the One China Policy.

    The Chinese see that view as the U. S. government is a pack of liars that can never be trusted… only war can resolve issues with a pack of lying sociopaths.

    Repudiation of the One China Policy means War against China. Full period, stop.

    Joe, do you want war with China?

    Joe Comment stated, “Should the US not care if China falls into war?”

    (The above quote is a classic logical or rhetorical fallacy, it’s a “strawman argument, I don’t want to see a war between the U. S. and China, that’s why I want to continue & respect the One China Policy, that’s the best path to stay out of a war with China.)

    Of course, not, that’s part of the strategic ambiguity about our military plans regarding Taiwan. It’s an attempt to keep the China/Taiwan relationship peaceful without openly committing to defending Taiwan militarily.

    About “hungry tigers”…; don’t fall into a “tiger pit with a hungry tiger” is the first rule.

  21. Joe Comment

    July 31, 2022 at 4:02 pm

    Jim: Here is the exact statement from the Shanghai Communique: “All Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” This does not contradict Taiwan’s existence as another country that also calls itself China, and indeed the US continued to diplomatically recognize Taiwan and not the Mainland for several years after the communique. Nor does this commit the US, because it mentions only Chinese. You say you don’t want to see a war “between the US and China,” but I was talking about a war between the Mainland and Taiwan. You think that is or is not a thing the US should care about?

  22. Jim

    July 31, 2022 at 5:35 pm

    You know, what you or I believe isn’t dispositive, in terms of War with China… it’s what China perceives.

    What is China willing to go to war for.

    Joe, I asked you a direct question: “do you want war with China?”

    You didn’t answer, I want an answer from you, or are you too intellectually dishonest to answer a simple question?

    Shanghai Communique: “All Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.”

    What part of it don’t you understand?

    There is but One China and Taiwan is part of China.

    It couldn’t be more clear.

    After awhile, you realize who doesn’t argue in good faith… you’re one of them.

  23. Joe Comment

    July 31, 2022 at 8:56 pm

    Jim: “All Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait maintain.” Which part of that don’t you understand? It describes an aspiration of people in the Mainland and people in Taiwan. The moment after it was signed, the US President was on the Mainland and the US ambassador to China (the Republic of China, not the People’s Republic) was in Taipei. This shows there was certainly no US commitment that US officials could only visit one of the places that calls itself China, nor that the Mainland’s government was the China referred to in the statement, quite the contrary given the fact the US continued recognizing Taiwan and not the Mainland for years after. I don’t wish for war. If we let the Mainland perceive that Taiwan is up for grabs, it will guarantee war rather than avoid it. If the Mainland invades Taiwan, just as if any country invades any other country, yes the US might have to go to war to turn back the aggression, and depending on the circumstances, I would support that.

  24. Jim

    August 1, 2022 at 9:58 am

    Joe, thank you for answering my question, “I don’t wish for war.”

    That a starting point.

    However, your qualifiers afterward tend to contradict it.

    Your word salad about two countries is unpersuasive.

    If you don’t want war between Taiwan and China or more important between the U. S. and China then I suggest “tub thumping” for Taiwanese independence is wrong and amped up agitation for American intervention is also wrong.

    Part of the problem of interventionists is they have only one solution for any situation: Military action.

    All problems are a “nail” and they got the “hammer”.

    How many more screwed up military interventions will they promote?

    All of them as long as they have their finger on the trigger.

    Joe, go to the beach, cool off, and drink a Mai Tie, the rest of us are sick of military disasters imposed by power drunk neocons.

  25. Joe Comment

    August 1, 2022 at 10:59 am

    Jim: I’m trying to keep civil about this, but for several replies in a row you’ve been making it about me: I’m fighting a straw man, I’m not arguing in good faith, I’m posting word salad, I need a drink, and a few other things. At this point the readers can judge for themselves, so I suggest you keep to the topic, which is how to have peace between the Mainland and Taiwan. The Cold War split country scenario is not unique to China. It happened also in Germany and Korea. Yes, the US was prepared to go to war to defend West Germany and yes the US is prepared to go to war to defend South Korea, and that stance has kept the peace for 70 years. You and I both would like to see a non-military solution to this problem. Now someone needs to explain that the leaders of the Mainland. For a long time, their actions have been showing no sensitivity to the requirement of winning over public opinion in Taiwan. If they desire a political solution, they need to show it by reversing some of those actions. I’ll be happy to list some examples if needed. Until they do so, it’s hard to see a realistic path toward a peaceful solution, and it remains necessary to be prepared in case they choose a military attempt.

  26. Jim

    August 1, 2022 at 1:19 pm

    Joe, I call it the way I see it.

    And, I’m glad your’re expressing a desire for a “non-military solution”.

    That provides a basis for productive discussion.

    As I stated the last time, U. S. voices calling for Taiwanese independence & military intervention are counter-productive to peace.

    (What has brought the tension up? Not so much Taiwanese actions, although there are some, but primarily U. S. voices which sound similar to your own.)

    Unless you want World War III, you need to honor the commitment the U. S. government, its leaders, and all successive Presidents have made: There is but One China and Taiwan is part of China.

    You just can’t make stuff up, it doesn’t wash.

    (As in how there really has been two countries all along, in spite of the clear words themselves, and the meaning attached to those words by the parties, themselves.)

    Your interpretation of the One China Policy is worse than wrong, it’s dangerous and leads to war with China.

    (It’s an outlier opinion which only just a few other interventionists share.)

    I’m sorry you don’t like being called a Neocon, but you sure sound like it to me.

    Maybe we’re making progress, being a “neocon” should be politically radioactive… goodness knows they’ve screwed up our foreign policy enough with failure after failure… it’s time to stop it.

    Don’t you agree?

  27. Roger Bacon

    August 1, 2022 at 1:28 pm

    The Ming dynasty gave Formosa (Taiwan) to Japan as part of war reparations after losing a war at the end ofthe 19th century. Japan kept it until 1945 when they gave it to the nationalist government of China. The nationalist government of China retreated to Taiwan in 1945 after losing a civil war with the communists and they still have it as their capital today. The communist party of China has never had any legitimate claim to Taiwan and they never will.

  28. Joe Comment

    August 1, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    Jim: Here again with the name-calling, so now I too will call it as I see it. You are repeating the Mainland’s talking points. Just as there is the One China Policy, there are also many political declarations promising to bring about Korean unification. If South Korea announced it would shoot down a plane carrying foreign officials on a visit to the North, how would the world respond? If North Korea made moves to change its name to something that doesn’t include the word “Korea,” and South Korea responded by threatening military action, how would the world respond? Is the Republic of China on Taiwan not a country? Then please explain to me in what way North Korea is more worthy of being treated as a country.

  29. Jim

    August 2, 2022 at 11:00 am

    Joe Comment stated: “You are repeating the Mainland’s talking points.”

    No, I’m stating the official position of the U. S. government.

    As I stated above, “the U. S. government, its leaders, and all successive Presidents have made: There is but One China and Taiwan is part of China.”

    This is the Official U. S. Position.

    For you to say otherwise is disingenuous.

    (Please provide an Official statement from the U. S. government which contradicts the above statement… not just your empty words.)

    I get it, you don’t like it (the U. S. position), but you can’t create your own reality.

    It makes you look unprincipled and disconnected from reality, willing to say anything for your imagined reality.

    Sorry, Joe, but the Koreas have a different history.

    Your problem is you keep trying to force a square peg down a round hole and it doesn’t fit, end of story.

    A piece of advice: respond to arguments made by your debate opponent, rather than making arguments nobody else believes… you’re alone on your island.

    When you don’t respond to arguments it shows you don’t have answers and lays bare the weakness of your case.

  30. Joe Comment

    August 2, 2022 at 11:50 am

    Jim: You keep on leaving out the part that says, “All Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait maintain.” Since I already pointed it out above, I have to suspect this is deliberate. It does not say “The US government maintains.” It says “All Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait maintain.” It does not say the people on both sides of the Strait share the same vision of what One China means. So no, what you are claiming is a distortion, not the actual US policy. You disagree? Then what is your explanation of “All Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait maintain”?

  31. SSS

    August 2, 2022 at 11:52 am

    Jim, please respond to Roger and knock off the Xi propaganda and try a different tact that shows you are capable of rational thought.

    This is interesting.

  32. Jim

    August 2, 2022 at 3:07 pm

    $$$, regarding Roger, he misstates some essential facts:

    Washington And China participated in the Cairo Conference in 1943 where it was decided Formosa would go to China.

    In 1949 the Communists won and Nationalists went to Taiwan, There was a further peace conference in 1951 that settled the war between the U. S. and Japan, where again Taiwan was discussed, this was during the Korean War, not surprisingly China (one way or the other) wasn’t invited (because of the competing claims to be the one true government of all of China including Taiwan).

    War is not the answer regarding China.

  33. Jim

    August 2, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    Joe, you stated you wanted a “non-military solution”.

    And, you stated, “I don’t wish for war.”

    Good, let’s leave it there.

    I share your sentiment.

    We obviously have different ideas about how to achieve Peace between China and Taiwan… cheers.

  34. Greg Gibbons

    August 2, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    Gold is down 12 bucks today and has been declining for months. All of these head lines about war and fighting with China over Taiwan are just noise. The smart money on Wall St say….editors making up stories.

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